Shontelle the Bajan international recording artist took time out of her busy schedule last week, while travelling and promoting the Caterpillar shoe line, to chat with WE Magazine. In this interview she tells of her passions and expectations.
WE: Are you where you want to be in your music career?
A: I’m blessed. I have a music career. That’s exactly where I want to be in my life. It’s very exciting to see my growth and progress and I’ll never feel like I’ve done enough. I will always want to climb higher.
WE: Have your songwriting skills grown?
A: I feel so. I think it’s as simple as this: experience equals knowledge. With time, like an infant to an adult, I continue to grow. With each step I have taken, I’ve been able to expand my network and this has led to many great opportunities. I have worked with a long list of artists and writers from Diane Warren and Tony Kanal of No Doubt, to Rihanna and Bruno Mars . . . the list continues to grow. It was one of the best experiences of my career to be able to work with Ri on Man Down. Sitting with her on the studio bus trying to channel “RiRi”. It was so easy. She’s so great!
WE: Any insights into the music business? Is it harder work than you expected?
A: The best way to understand it is to live it, I guess. I was wrong about a lot of things I believed before coming into this industry. It’s not that it’s harder work than I expected. I always expected it would probably be one of the most challenging feats I would ever face in my life. I expected to have to work at it for much longer than it would take to actually reach any success. I expected the grind. What I never expected was how emotionally and mentally taxing it could be! Through it all I learnt that I am stronger than I knew I was. I have to be.
WE: You studied law at UWI. Any plans to adapt this knowledge to your music career?
A: Well, I already have. I mean if you think about it, what you know affects how you make decisions. So in essence, the more you know, the better you can make more informed decisions. The music industry IS a business. It involves investment, spending, revenue, profit, loss, returns, politics, war . . . .It’s very vicious and competitive. A lot of money is invested and can potentially be made . . . and even more is often lost. That means things like security and protection are very important in order for business not to fail. I inherently use and incorporate all my knowledge from school and from my own research in every aspect of my career.
WE: What are your views on Rihanna – the path her music is taking, her fashion statements, people’s belief that she is not a true cultural ambassador?
A: I love Rihanna . . . everything about her. She has millions of fans and she talks about Barbados all the time on Twitter. She’s so fierce and fabulous. More people should be as bold and fearless. Go RiRi! Go!
WE: Your views on Barbados’ music as an industry or activity. Is it advancing? Are artistes’ expectations too high or too low?
A: There is no such thing as having expectations that are too high. If you don’t have high expectations of yourself, you will always fall short of your full potential. You must dream big. I have always felt a sense of that growing up in Barbados. I hung around the music scene all the time, thanks to my Aunty Kim (Kim Derrick). She pretty much was the first link between myself and the Barbados music scene. Everyone I met; every singer, musician, producer, writer, dancer, choreographer seemed to believe in so much more than the average person. They believed they could do all the things all their idols did.
They always seemed to feel like what they were doing was not enough, but they always felt like no one else believed and so it wouldn’t make any sense to try. But there were a few who were different, who felt the same way I always felt. I just decided what I wanted to do and started moving in that direction, slowly, one step at a time. I never doubted what I could accomplish. Keep going, Barbados! Every one of you. I see the growth in the music industry and I’m so impressed and excited to watch it continue to bloom. If you believe it, you can do it. Nothing is Impossible.
WE: The trend today for music recording artistes is to try their hand at acting. Any likelihood of a film for you? And in the same vein, any plans to delve into a fashion line or put your face to a brand?
A: If either opportunity were to present itself, of course I would jump at it. I’m an artist. I love art in every form: acting, singing, writing, dance, fashion, design, anything that involves being creative.
WE: Did you have any say in your current album?
A: Yes, I did somewhat. I wrote and co-wrote much of the material on No Gravity. I was allowed to move in the direction I wanted to musically. I had much creative freedom.
WE: Is any of your music on your current CD a true story? What inspired you to write the songs Impossible and Perfect Nightmare? What is your favourite song on your album No Gravity, and why that name?
A: I chose the name No Gravity for my album not only because there is a track on it of the same title, but because I approached it with a sense of winning. Refusal to fail. I knew I had already had a successful first album and I had already had a taste of platinum but I knew I needed to take it to the next level, to prove I’m here to stay, to fly higher; like there’s no gravity, no force to hold me back or down. I just adopted that mantra to my life and my project.
I didn’t write Impossible ( Arnthor Birgisson, Ina Wroldsen) or Perfect Nightmare (Rodney Jerkins/Darkchild). But they do reflect my life in some ways. I can sincerely relate to both songs. But I did write No Gravity, Helpless (with SRP) and Say Hello To Goodbye (my latest US release ). But Say Hello To Goodbye is my absolute fave. I can’t explain why but it just moves me in a certain way. The music and the lyrics overpower me.
Most Bajans also know by now about Rihanna’s song Man Down. I feel so proud when I see my name in the song credits on Loud. 246 to the world!
Q: If you were to open for any big act, who would you like it to be and why?
A: Well I’ve already opened for a few major acts: New Kids on the Block, Akon, Beyonce and I just wrapped up a tour with Jason Derulo. Alicia Keys is my idol so I would die if I could tour with her. But I think it would a be a huge deal to tour with Rihanna. I would really feel at home on that tour, I think. De Bajan girls representing Bim together would be epic and so good for Barbados!
Q: Any plans for a tour, or a concert in Barbados?
A: Myself, and management (Sonia Mullins and Robert “Big Jah” Carnes) are currently planning a Shontelle Solo Tour (The No Gravity Tour) to cover the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Asia, Africa and of course the Caribbean and Latin America. Basically the world. How could I not make a stop in good ole Bim? Stay tuned.
Q: We know you are extremely busy…how do you find time for you?
A: Time for me? What is that? I’ve been touring since last year without a break and in between all that time I’ve released an album, done all kinds of festivals, radios shows, tv shows, charity and corporate events and I still have to find time to record and write in all that. I need a vacation bad but I might as well not even think about it. That’s not happening any time soon. My entire life is planned and scheduled by other people. Even my personal stuff like going to the dentist or the salon or the doctor. Even a shopping day or movie day is scheduled. I guess my “me” time is the few minutes that pass between the time get back to my house or suite before I fall asleep.
Q: What is a typical day like for Shontelle?
A: A typical day starts with my alarm startling me, followed shortly by a call from my manager making sure I’m up and running and “gettin’ it done” as it’s often put. “You up girl? Let’s get it! Life is a movie. Star in it!” Well how could I not be ready to conquer the world after that! I say a prayer, give thanks for another day in my life and being able to do what I love for a living and make people happy. I open up my Google Calendar and check my schedule. It’s almost never blank. It usually entails some kind of press or promo, phoners, taped or filmed interviews, travelling, photoshoots, video shoots, a concert or appearance or, believe it or not, all of the above in one day! If I’m not very careful with time planning, I can end up losing much sleep and too many missed meals. I hate dah part nuff ’cause anybody who know me, wunnuh dun know, I love my belly too bad! Ask Nat Burke and TC!
Source: Barbados Nation News