The Many Colors of Indie-Pop Artist Shenna (Interview)
Indie-pop singer and songwriter Shenna released a video on November 12 for her latest single Try Another Taste. The song is pure, vibrant fun. It delightfully showcases Shenna’s music style, which is characterized by contagious energy and sparkly electronic beats. The accompanying video is like letting rainbow candy melt on your tongue.
Shenna made her music industry debut in 2014 with her EP Dream in Color, which was a DIY process. She didn’t have much experience with making an album, so she moved to New York City and learned as she went along, hanging around music colleges to find band members and successfully doing her own public relations. She ended up getting featured on quite a few blogs, and from there momentum picked up.
When her album Made of Gold was released on Spotify in 2016 it racked up half a million streams, and she went on tour for her subsequent EP Blue Memories, which focused on mental health.
After Try Another Taste came out, I had a conversation with Shenna to find out more about her background, motivation, and the stories behind some of her songs. See the interview below for the inside scoop on this pink-haired pop artist.
(1) When did you first discover your love for music?
I know everyone always says the generic answer “I’ve always loved music,” but really I don’t remember a time not doing music. It’s just always been in me. I started performing at 7 so I used to do talent shows— I’m from Virginia so there’s not a lot of music opportunities there, but my cousins would sneak me into their high school talent show when I was just in elementary school and put makeup on me to sing background in their shows.
(2) Tell me about your journey to get to where you are at this point in your career.
I’ve always been very driven my whole life. I knew what I wanted to do, and it was very rare for someone to say they wanted to be a singer, especially where I grew up. They train you: “you must go to college, you must get your masters degree and doctorate.” And I remember I always got good grades in school but I was just like, “I don’t want to do these things, I want to go to music school.”
Actually, my sophomore year of college I had very bad vocal damage and one of my professors pulled me aside and said “hey you might not be able to do the music program because your voice is shot.” But instead of being discouraged I actually un-enrolled from college and I looked for a producer.
I went on Craigslist, crazy, and I found my producer who’s still my producer today (Austin Bello) and we’re like this now (crosses her fingers). He’d just moved to Virginia and it was like fate, we were both like “this is fishy, are you real?” and I found out he’s in a famous band (Forever The Sickest Kids) and he’s a producer. Anyways long story short as I started writing my voice started getting stronger and it was like a miracle.
(3) I read that struggles with depression inspired you to create your EP Blue Memories. What led you to share such a vulnerable, personal part of yourself with the world?
Each of my projects are after a color theme and I don’t even know what color it’s going to be until I’m halfway through the project. It’s all about what stage I’m at in life and every color represents different moods…
So Blue Memories was my way of saying “hey it’s not as easy as you think it is” and I just had to tell people “I suffer from this.” Everybody is always asking me for advice as the indie artist but I’m just winging this thing. I get lucky at times and it’s very rewarding but when I have my lows it’s really low. And I feel like it’s important to let people know I’m not, you know, always happy.
(4) Can the music industry create a lot of pressure and contribute to those lows in any way?
Oh yeah a 100 percent. You’re trying not to compare yourself to everybody on Instagram. Especially during quarantine, that’s all we have is our followers.
(5) I know this year has been tough on a lot of people, from the coronavirus to natural disasters and politics. What would be your advice to people in terms of staying positive and feeling good?
The thing that has helped me the most in quarantine is finding other things to challenge myself. For example finding a new hobby! That you may have never had the chance to pursue but now we have more time. I’ve always loved photography and videography so I bought a video camera at the beginning of quarantine and I started watching a whole bunch of stuff. And it makes me happy to learn something else. It’s almost like that thrill of “wow I made this.” So that’s my advice. Find something you’ve never had the chance to do and try to sharpen your skills on it.
(6) What do you hope people feel when they listen to Blue Memories?
I hope one of the songs from the project, or many of them, help people say how they feel. Because you know when you hear a song and it really hits you? Like, oh my god this reminds me of the fall time or whatever. I hope that when they listen to one of those songs they understand that they’re not alone and I also relate to them. The song might be therapeutic to them as well, even though there are so many different moods.
I have a song called Alone on the project where it’s a dance anthem where I’m like “I like to be alone.” Jumping up and down and having a dance party in your house that’s my form of— when I’m depressed and by myself— trying to pump myself up like, hey I can be my own best friend that’s fine! I can love myself.
(7) And now you have a new song out called Try Another Taste. Can you tell me what it is about?
Try Another Taste is all about switching it up with different flavors of yourself.
I feel like especially as women we shouldn’t have to feel always in a box to dress a certain way and be super sophisticated. Why can’t I one day be super sporty and the next day I’m dressed up?
(8) Will Try Another Taste go on a new album, and if so what color are you thinking?
I was gonna put it on a project and now that’s not really how I’m feeling anymore to be honest with you, because the song is so upbeat and happy. So I think my next color theme is red, like this rage, we’re stuck in this quarantine right now, we might feel kind of stuck right now so this is all the feels of this period.
(9) What spurred you to write Try Another Taste?
I worked with my roommate on this song, the producer Malcolm Fong. It was in the beginning of quarantine… I was into that disco vibe, the Dua Lipa vibe. I was like, everybody is on this wave, we got to get on this wave. It felt fun, we made it literally in a day, it felt really natural.
(10) And your video came out yesterday, November 12. Is it true that you shot it in your own apartment?
Literally. My apartment is so small and we shot it here. My friends came over and they were like, how? And I was like, don’t worry I’ll figure it out. So I bought a backdrop and green screen… it was DIY the whole time.
One of my friends is a stylist who came over, her name is Laura, and she brought some clothes. And then I just kept going in my closet, they were like seriously? And I was like, yep just gonna put all of these on. And I had more! But we ran out of time.
(11) If you could describe the song in just a few words, what you would say?
Fun, colorful, and energetic.
(12) And what about yourself?
I would say driven, talkative, and friendly.
(13) What’s your favorite part about being a musician?
Meeting people from all over the world like yourself, definitely… Right before quarantine I was touring in Japan with Shihori for the Blue Memories tour.
(14) And least favorite?
My least favorite part about being an indie artist is not having enough funds. You invest more than you make unless you’re hooked up somehow, it’s definitely a huge sacrifice.
(15) What are your plans or projects moving forward?
I have a Christmas song that I’m going to be releasing soon and an album as well.
(16) Is there a song of yours that stands out as being super fun to make, or particularly dear to your heart?
So there’s a song from my first project called Take Your Time in Dream in Color and this song really stands out. I just remember exactly, it was raining that day. When I first went to my producer I was super R&B and so I was just really confused why he was even showing me this chorus, I was looking at him like “I can’t wait till he’s done showing me this cause I’m gonna say no.” And he was just like, just go with the vibe come on.
So we wrote the verses and it felt really trippy. It just became my song that every time people see me they always say that line because there’s a line that says “take your time when you’re taking mine.” And it got placements on TV and stuff so it’s just that song where I’m happy that I wasn’t in my head and I just went with the flow. I just did it and now it works and it’s my sound