Contemporary left-field pop artist Shura does it all, from performing to producing, remixing, to writing and to editing. Shura’s hushed vocal, lyrical openness and alternative-spirit makes her one of the more authentic artists on today’s music scene.
We caught up with Shura backstage at Bestival‘s summer of love to talk women in music, happiness at festivals, and the arrival of her highly anticipated debut album…
How would you describe Bestival to someone who’s never been here before?
It’s super camp this year, which I’m really enjoying. I guess the theme ‘summer of love’ is getting people to dress up in really colourful clothing. I think that makes people happy, and extra friendly! People are generally always extra friendly at festivals anyway. Bestival is beautiful, there’s tons of cool shit to see, and the weather here is lush right now!
What music did you grow up listening to and has that influenced the music you’re putting out today?
It’s definitely started to influence me now. I grew up listening to a lot of Madonna, Tina Turner and Elton John. But for many years, I didn’t make music that was anything like that. As you get older, you become more nostalgic for the past. But in the beginning, I just wanted to make music as obscure as possible, really left-field and noodle-y music that no one would listen to. My Dad was like, ‘Are you ever going to write a chorus!?’… I’m finally OK with writing choruses now.
Would you say you’re a traditional songwriter in the sense that you write emotionally from your own experiences?
Yeah. It might not be directly literal, but it’s something that I’ve experienced, or a thought that’s occurred to me. I’d find it very difficult to sing something that wasn’t personal. Surely the whole point of performing live, is that you connect emotionally, and the crowd can feed off that. It can be exhausting, but it has to come from somewhere inside you.
What’s the story behind latest single, White Light?
It started off being about my twin brother. We were always thought of as odd growing up at school. We were like, the weird twins. So the song’s about how awesome and OK it is to be different. And then, I was playing this video game called Mass Effect, where there’s this crazy alien race, that are really weird and cool. That’s why the video has a science fiction element to it.
If you were organising your own festival, who would you choose to headline and why?
I want to say Tame Impala, because they played here yesterday and I missed them. I keep missing them. I’m really into Courtney Barnett, I think she’s fucking brilliant. I kind of want to put on a festival with a load of awesome women. First, modern stuff from the likes of Grimes and Courtney Barnett. Then throw in a bit of Madonna, and some Patti Smith!
Good idea! Especially in response to the first Reading and Leeds announcement early this year…
Yeah, that’s what made me want an all girls festival! In the end, they pulled through and got some really good girls in. But when they first announced the line-up, it was so obvious! And there’s so many amazing women around from up and coming, to women who should be headlining.
What’s your opinion on the news of Radio X, the radio station “for men”?
I thought it was a joke at first! It’s sad, because women can like that kind of music too. It’s the same as the advertising for Yorkie bars. Do we really need a radio station just for men in this day and age? I mean, we used to have Zoo and Nuts magazines just for men and they slowly died a death because, well… who really gives a shit in the end?
What’s next for you album wise?
We’ll be road testing some new songs from the album today ahead of our big show in Brixton next week (17th September – sold out). Fingers crossed it all goes well. The plan is for the album to come out at the beginning of next year, we’re about 80% done I’d say.
What advice do you have for anyone trying to break into the music industry?
Even when everything is telling you to give up, just ignore it. Keep going. Also – you can teach yourself so much stuff! You don’t need the money to pay for lessons, or go to a certain school. I can’t read music, but I’ve got ears. If you want to make it happen, you can.