Having grown up in Orlando, Florida with parents who were big music fans in their own right, Shayna Leigh first found her love of performing through acting, but it was singing and song-writing that would ultimately prove to be the career path she’d walk down and today, it's a journey with no end in sight. The release of her album Drive last year helped introduce her to music lovers everywhere and she’s since gone on to earn herself the support of Nylon and Vulture.
Currently finishing off her new EP, Shayna kindly agreed to this interview to talk dream show line-ups, ultimate ambitions and favorite songs.
PW: Please introduce yourself.
Shayna Leigh: Hi! I’m Shayna Leigh. I am a singer songwriter from New York City.
PW: How would you describe yourself and your music in a few words?
SL: I think my music is honest, optimistic and direct, which is kind of how I view myself actually! It is pop music that addresses real life issues that are hopefully universal - I like to believe that the human experience is a shared one. My dream is for my music to be woven in the threads of people’s lives. I guess I’m a people person.
PW: When did you realize you wanted to make music a career? Was there an album you bought or concert you attended that inspired you?
SL: There was no watershed moment f
or me. I decided I wanted to have a career in music one decision at a time. I still go about it that way. I work on one project, which takes me to the next one and then the next. I find this to be less stressful, less daunting. I believe progress is made this way. That being said, music has always been part of the foundation of my identity. I’ve always used music as not only a tool for self-expression but as a way of coping during times of trouble, and I can’t think of a better mode of communication. So I think it makes a lot of sense that I’ve dedicated so much of my life to it.
PW: Which bands or artists influenced you growing up and have those influences changed over the years?
SL: My parents raised me on the Beatles - my dad is a self-proclaimed disciple – and musical story-tellers a la Carole King who is a preference of my mom’s. Through the both of them, I received a very well rounded musical education early on! I came of age in the era of boy bands and girl groups, which was also a very specific influence. It’s incredible the type of stamina you need for that! As I got older, I began to discover music on my own - I had a Pat Benatar phase, and then I got into Queen, Simon and Garfunkel, Heart, Laura Nyro and many more! I’ve always been particularly drawn to strong female singers and dynamic performers.
PW: Is there a band or artist you might say you're similar to?
SL: People often tell me that my voice reminds them of Alanis Morissette, among others, which I obviously take as a huge compliment! I don’t know that our music is similar, but I was definitely very influenced by her. More than having an overall stylistic influences, certain songs of mine have definitely been influenced by other songs and artists.
PW: Tell me about your recent single "Goodbye July". Is there a story behind it?
SL: “Goodbye July” is a song about a relationship that ends and what happens after. It is technically about the end of a romance, but I like to think it can apply to any type of relationship, need it be with family, friends, or even your career etc. Endings are devastating, but sometimes in the wake of that heartbreak, you learn something about yourself. You learn how strong you are, how resilient, and how much joy continues to exist in the world. “Goodbye July” is a song about that. I didn’t write the song about a specific relationship in my personal life, so to me, it is about learning who I am and finding happiness in the aftermath of loss, disappointment and grief. I can very much relate to that.
PW: Who or what most inspires your song-writing?
SL: I am most inspired by people, by how brave we can be, how resilient we are in the face of adversity. I’m inspired by kindness, by love and by sacrifice. Much of my music is inspired by my own life and the people in it, but I also believe so much of the human experience is pretty universal and I try to focus on that in my writing.
PW: In your opinion, which is the greatest song ever written and why?
SL: I honestly can’t even begin to answer this question! What makes music so incredible, in my opinion, is that it’s so subjective. There is no right and wrong or good and bad, at least for the most part, so all we can do as consumers of music is identify our favorite songs, the songs that reach us, that find a way of telling our own stories.
PW: What are your upcoming performance plans and is there an album/EP in the works?
SL: I am actually just finishing up my next EP. All that’s left is the mastering, which is the final step in the process. The plan is to release it in the fall, and I cannot wait! These are my most personal songs to date and I think musically we have really taken things to the next level. I am so excited to share them with everyone! There will definitely also be some live shows and music videos to accompany the new songs though I don’t have any specific dates to announce just yet…stay tuned!
PW: You recently toured with American Idol winner Lee DeWyze & Wakey Wakey, but if you could share a stage with three other bands or artists who can be living or dead, who would they be and where would you play?
SL: I don’t know that we would be the greatest fit, but I would give ANYTHING to see Freddie Mercury play with Queen, so I guess I that would have to be my choice! My favorite place to play is New York… so I guess we’d play there!
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and would you agree it's a vital tool for bands and artists today? Do you think you'd have the support you do without it?
SL: I think social media is amazing. On the one hand, it allows artists to have immediate and consistent interaction with their fans, which gives them a lot of power. On the other hand, it can be incredibly stressful and you have to do a lot more of the artistic developmental work on your own; without the help of a record label for example. I think it’s obviously incredibly important for artists to use social media to their advantage, but I also think it’s really good to disconnect from time to time and live in the moment. Finding that balance between work and life, between being online and off, is one of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn.
PW: What else does the rest of the year have in store for you?
SL: Releasing the new EP is the first order of business and then I plan to be making videos and playing shows. I’m also actually going to do a bit of travelling. I have a feeling it’s going to be a pretty good fall.
PW: Finally then, what's your ultimate ambition as an artist and, with that in mind, whose career would you most like to emulate and why?
SL: In the perfect world I would have the kind of career where I get to make music and continue to stretch myself as an artist in all kinds of creative directions. I would love to do some acting as I have a background in it and maybe some writing as well! I would love to be a Bette Midler or a Barbra Streisand. I would love to be able to do it all!