Several months ago, I met Shameem, a neo-soul singer. We had a little chat, and here it is. A huge thanks to her!
Hi Shameem, can you introduce yourself?
Hi, my name is Shameem, I’m a neo-soul singer and songwriter from Perth in Western Australia
You’re releasing an Album very soon, what can you say about it?
It’s a neo-soul style album, but this time (this is her second album), I’ve been more adventurous. I tried to mix a couple of different influences into the music. There’s one track that is quite reggae-ish and there’s a couple of track that have influences from my middle-eastern heritage. It’s really much about the musicality and the story-telling behind the songs.
Talking about your heritage, your father is Chinese/Malaysian and your mother is Iranian. How do they influence your music?
That’s an interesting question. Until a couple of years ago, it didn’t very much. My dad moved from Malaysia as a young man to study in England before moving in Australia and my mother moved from Iran at 15 yo. So I think they were influenced by the music of the west. I guess it only started in sort of a couple of years ago, when I really had this desire to get in touch with my roots. I heard a bit of Iranian music before, especially some religious chanting that I found really interesting and mystical. I tried to incorporate some of these elements in some of my songs. But I think being a mixed raced person has influenced the way I write lyrics more than everything else because I feel like I don’t fit in everywhere but at the same time I belong everywhere.
And what are your other influences?
In term of the stuff that I write, I’m really influenced by a lot of soul artists. When I was a teenager, I used to listen to Alicia Keys because she was the girl who sang and played the piano and I was the girl who sang and played the piano who wanted to be like her. Otherwise, I grew up listening to Michael Jackson a lot, so I think some of that comes out of my music. I also like artists like Jill Scott for example. At the same time, I think I really like the idea of crafting a song beautifully, and that’s why I also love Sting. I really like how he crafts a song lyrically and musically. And I also listen to all sort of stuffs: my parents listened to a lot of music from the 70s and classical music.
How did you decide to become a singer, how did it start?
I think I’ve been singing for as long as I remember. When I was 6 yo I was picked out at my school to sing with the year 7 kids (12 yo). I knew at that time that music was very important for me. I remember writing that I wanted to be a pop star when they asked us what we would like to be when we grow up. At that time, I didn’t really think about what that meant. And then, when I was in High School I had this singing teacher who was really awesome and crazy. She was working as a professional singer, and I said to myself: « well, if she can do it, I can do it ». That’s when I started to be really serious about it.
As a singer, you’re an independent artist, is this a choice?
Initially I was an independent artist because I was just studying out, and writing my own music, so I released my first EP and album independently. But then with this album, I decided to share it around to some people in the industry. And I had some feedback from people saying that they really like the album, but that they don’t want to sign new artists. In a way, I think that this is a bit of a blessing because I get control over my music and I get to make my choices.
Have you been to any specialized schools to take courses?
I started to take piano lessons when I was 7 and then I always played and studied music at school. When I finished high school, I took a year off and I spend that year doing volunteer service in Alice Springs which is right in the middle of Australia and that was amazing. At the end of that year I auditioned for WAAPA (Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts), and I was successful and so I began studying there and I did a 3 year bachelor degree in Jazz Music and I majored in voice and also in composing and arranging.
WAAPA is really great, and from my point of view, Perth has a great musical scene. What do you think of this scene?
I think Perth is a really interesting place because it is really small and isolated but there’s still a lot of talent here. There is a lot of really great music coming out from Perth. Some people have even gone on to take to the world stage and do really well for themselves. I find it very inspiring being in Perth and see people pursuing their dreams, creating music and getting people’s attention. I think it’s a really a small kicking thriving scene.
And what do you think of Soul music in Australia?
I often get told that I’m not doing a really smart thing by making soul music as an Australian artist because « no one in Australia wants to listen to soul music » and « There’s no market for it » or anything like that. I think Soul music has always been a niche thing in Australia because predominantly, there’s a lot of rock and country music. It’s this little underground niche thing. But I think more people are starting to listen to it which is exciting. It possibly is coinciding with the fact that Australia is becoming more of a multicultural place. Maybe that’s the reason.
If you could choose one artist you could sing with, who would it be?
I think it would have to be Sting. I really admire Sting, I really love his music. If he said « would you sing a song and share the stage with me », I would die and go to heaven.
And finally, what is coming next for you?
We released Beautiful Soul and at the end of 2014 / beginning of 2015, we will release the new album and a single at the same time. Then I’ll be touring in Australia and I hope opportunities might open up, especially for festivals elsewhere.