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.