Songtrust Spotlight: Shelita

Award-winning artist Shelita is the archetype of what is possible for artists as she integrates her talents in Data Science into her Pop music career. Raised in Seattle, Shelita made her first appearance in the pop scene when she charted on Billboard’s Next Big Sound Chart at #14 in 2017. Shelita received over 29 million streams with her last EP entitled, “Special.” With a strong technical background, Shelita has adopted innovative techniques including blockchain, presenting a new artist model that puts artists first. Shelita is LA based and her debut Album SHELITA is out now.

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What inspired you to get into music?

I was born to do this. The music I heard in church – at the time it was the only I music I listened to was what inspired me to pursue music. When I was 7 years old, my older sister Melissa heard me singing off-key to one of the songs, so she took pity on me and decided to teach me how to sing. Through her training I eventually became the lead singer in the choir. It wasn’t until later that I branched out and was exposed to different genres of music. As a young child I didn’t know at the time that music was going to take me around the world. So not only does it touch hearts but it’s a means of traveling, going from place to place, country to country. I feel like music is that universal language. I think that’s so existential for humanity. Creating music and participating in music, I think everyone should try to create music. I think everyone has the potential to create music and I just think it’s beautiful.

What influences your songwriting?

My songwriting is inspired by the sounds of the environment and life experiences. During a trip to Ocean Shores, Washington, my uncle Kenneth gave me my first CD player. I was 11 years old and it was the first time I got to choose the music I listened to. I would go to the thrift store in downtown Seattle that had $1 used CDs and buy 20 random ones at a time and listen to one album after another. Some were amazing and some of them I didn’t like so much but that’s how I got exposed to artists I love like Joni Mitchell, Lauren Hill and Nick Drake. This has influenced my songwriting today. I find pitches in everything that my ear is being exposed to: from the sound of tea boiling over to the sound of the Seattle ferry pulling into the dock. To use these sounds with my voice is as natural to me as note matching with a piano or a guitar. When I hear the sound of the metro door closing, my voice is the paint and the people listening are the canvas in which this art lives as I use my voice to match the note and try to create melodies with the sounds I'm hearing.

How would you describe your unique live performance style?

I like to play around with concepts like: What is the divide in sound between music and noise? At what point do we decide that? When people attend live music shows is the artist the performer or is the audience the performer? Both? To really understand what I mean by this you will have to see one of my shows in person and judge for yourself. I am drawn towards the random nature of the sounds around us which is why I incorporate the spontaneous sounds and ideas in my songwriting and live on stage through improvising with the audience where we are both creating.

You’ve spent a lot of your time touring throughout your musical career, what advice do you have for emerging creators thinking about going on tour based on your experiences?

It is important to use your creativity to create new performance opportunities and to think outside the box. For example: libraries, book shops, beautiful beaches, the world is your venue. The type of music I was playing when I first started to play shows was really different to what people were doing at the time, so it was really difficult to get people out to shows. Eventually, I figured it out and expanded my ideas of what a venue was and took that formula to Europe. I've gone all around the world without a big team or label. It's definitely the new model, and you can do it. Most people are told they can't, and I don't believe in the word can't. You can create possibility if you think in terms of possibility. If you think in terms of self-doubt, and everything you can't do, you're never going to get there.

What role does social media play in your brand and ability to connect with your growing fanbase?

Social media is just one way of many to connect to new fans each day online. My intention with social media is to create an actual authentic connection. If I'm not doing that, I need to log off; because it defeats the purpose of the intentions I walk in with. The landscape for how to get to new people online is constantly changing, right now it is social media, tomorrow it could be Virtual Reality, it is important to learn how to adapt.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming songwriters who are trying to make it in the industry?

Collaborate with other songwriters that are doing the things you aspire to do in life.

You may get a lot of people telling you “no” in the beginning, keep going it gets you closer and closer to someone who will say  “yes”. Find your original songwriting voice. The way you write is uniquely yours, amplify what makes it so unique. When I was singing at age 7, I was really off-key. I don't think I was born with an amazing singing voice, but I worked at it. I was told as a young person that Miles Davis locked himself in a room, and he didn't come out until he had an original sound. I took that to heart. That is one of the things I wanted to offer, an original songwriting voice.

Do you prefer creating music as a solo artist or collaborating with other creators? What advice would you give to emerging creators on how to find other peers to collaborate with?

I love collaborating with other people. To find people to collaborate with as a start, you could post a message on social media letting others know you are interested in collaborating.

Your new Album is coming out this year, what can we expect?

The album is self titled SHELITA. 9 songs, 29 minutes of me spilling my heart out song by song. This will touch the neurons in your brain and the heart in your body at the same time.

What drew you to choosing Songtrust as your publishing administrator?

I am a tech nerd and I love that Songtrust is using technology to empower artists. I love how innovative Songtrust is and what Songtrust represents is in complete alignment with my values in the world. I align with what Songtrust represents for artists. I love how they put artist first by example and not just by words, when you look at what Songtrust has done for artists by their actions and not lip service it is amazing.

Lastly - what song should people listen to first from the Album?

I would start with the song, Together!

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