No one is ever truly ready to say goodbye to the flowers when the weather gets colder. It’s the loss of something beautiful; beautiful to look at, beautiful to hold, beautiful to know is simply there. Still, like clockwork, it’s one of the things that need to happen and does every year. We find ourselves experiencing this personally as well: we grow our flowers and we lose them too. But it’s always important to remember that they will grow again and if they don’t, other flowers will take their place.
Indie pop singer-songwriter Shania deserves her flowers. Stemming from London, she grew up listening to a multitude of genres, sharing in her interview on the Fashionably Late podcast that while her mom introduced her to R&B, her dad introduced her to garage music, and she found herself entranced with the world of pop princesses.
“When I was younger, I admired so many artists of all genres, but a person that stands out would be Lily Allen,” Shania says about how the UK artist resonated with her enough to pursue music. Both as a child and as a music artist currently in her own right, she has a love and appreciation for Lily’s music. “When I was like 7, I used to sing her songs in the mirror all the time and wanted to be just like her as an artist.”
Carving her own path to making music has been about a six-year journey. A journey, that as her debut EP Bloom acknowledges, shows the ways in which she’s blooming and continuing to bloom. “I’m realising I’m growing into the artist I’ve always wanted to be. 13-year-old me would be so proud of all I’ve achieved from then to now,” she says. “I’ve been on radio stations I dreamed of, played live songs I never thought I’d play, and all, yet, remained true to my authentic self.”
One of the ways in which she’s been prioritizing herself and the artist that she wants to be has been by refusing to let others box her in when it comes to music and taking space inside the indie music genre. “I think when it comes to being less bothered about the expectations placed on Black women who do indie, I’ve literally decided not to care. So, I’m releasing music I want to put out without considering the expectations,” Shania starts when I ask her about a moment in her interview The Blacklist where she discusses being a Black woman in the indie scene. “I’ve also surrounded myself with other Black female indie musicians who think the same way as I do and we encourage each other to push past the boundaries and false ideas other people in the industry may have about us.”
She also has aspirations of one day hopefully collaborating with indie singer-songwriter and rising South London artist Arlo Parks. “Her songwriting style and vocals are amazing and I’d love to create something with her,” she says.
I’m releasing music I want to put out without considering the expectations.
That sense of community, uplifting, and looking out for one another while also protecting your spirit/energy has been a significant part of Shania’s life and it’s completely embedded in her music. For starters, 10% of her proceeds for her EP go towards Black Minds Matter UK. “Black mental health is so important as there’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental health within the Black community. Although, as of recently, Black people are openly talking about mental health in our communities and I believe the stigma is lessening amongst the younger generation. Though it is still something that exists and UK studies show that rates of depression are higher among Black people than those of white ethnicities. So, there’s definitely a problem there and the more our communities address the fact mental health exists in everyone, we can work on reducing the stigma and getting individuals the help they need without feeling levels of judgment,” Shania explains.
It’s impossible though to discuss Black mental health and what’s required for helping Black communities heal from trauma and lessen the stigma around mental health without also discussing the need for Black liberation and as such, how anti-Blackness is embedded into everyday life–something that finds itself globally taking the attention of mainstream media. “The many Black injustices in the world fall heavy on my heart and I always find myself wanting to do more for our community. Sometimes this becomes overwhelming and I feel an overflow of emotions, thankfully, I’m surrounded by my Black friends who feel the same way and we uplift and motivate each other,” Shania shares when I ask her how she has been checking in with her mind and heart right now. “It’s also just reminding myself not to put too much pressure on me to want to do everything to help. I can only do what I can.”
Bloom as an EP explores the importance of extending this kind of grace to yourself. Going back to her interview with The Blacklist, she explains that the intention of Bloom was to tell a story and that story was, “falling from happiness and being willing to grow again.” A concept that found its way into Shania’s life exactly a year ago and yet proved to be exactly what we needed in this moment now.
While the interludes were created early September 2019 out of boredom in her university room, Bloom as a body came into development the following month in October. The interludes found themselves on the EP and then “Pear” followed by “Lilac” and closing with “Bby Blue.”
The song “Bby Blue” I specifically note to her feels like it addresses the grief involved with realizing the way the world and our surroundings impact our mental states. “‘Bby Blue’ specifically was written at a time when I was feeling the exact opposite of the vibes in the lyrics. So, I’d say I was pretty happy and in a good place, it’s only so miserable because I wanted the song to be a miserable song, not because I, myself, was miserable.” She shares while admitting the difference between the time when she was writing the songs and now had changed the way she looks and thinks about Bloom.
“When it came to the stage of promoting the song, it was during the height of coronavirus and that was a very hard time for a lot of people. The whole world was thrown into the midst of the unknown and people were dying at high numbers each day. Extremely worrying,” Shania explains. “‘Bby Blue’ really encapsulated that new feeling many people and myself were feeling at that specific time.”
Usually to get out of that feeling, I have to allow myself to feel a bit first. There, I recognise I’m in a low place, but also acknowledge I’ll soon be out of it.
One of the lyrics in the song goes, “Why is this so fucking exhausting? I lack stimulation and I don’t feel like creating.” A lyric that speaks from the very buried rock bottom feeling that can often be hard to talk about, it’s both vulnerable and blunt. And yet, it’s not uncharted territory for Shania to express said feeling publicly. She was also featured previously this year on We Do Wellness, a community-based wellness project, where she talked about balancing highs and lows. “Yeah, so usually to get out from that feeling, I have to allow myself to feel a bit first. There, I recognise I’m in a low place, but also acknowledge I’ll soon be out of it,” she starts. “That’s when I turn to music, whether that’s listening to a bunch of sad songs to make me feel less alone in my feelings. Or I’ll create new music.” She admits that there are moments, however, that she doesn’t feel a connection to the music. “I’ll look to other avenues to help myself get better, like taking long walks to help my mind and going to see friends.”
“Though, with the coronavirus, many restrictions have been enforced and being at home alone for hours on end can have a negative impact on one’s mental health. So I recognise that now it isn’t as easy to do the things you used to do that would help ease the struggles we face,” she adds.
“‘Pear’ was definitely the easiest to write, it sort of naturally flowed quite well,” she says about the ethereal, violin-laced tune that doubles almost as a manifesto or declaration. “Whereas ‘Bby Blue’ was definitely the hardest to write, there was actually another song I wrote at the time that could have been ‘Bby Blue’ but I stuck by this version instead. Even producing ‘Bby Blue’ was tricky because there was a specific vibe and sound we wanted and finding it took some time.” While the song is what she describes to be a ‘miserable song’ and the lyrics reach into your deepest moments of pessimism, the production–while not necessarily positive–reminds you that you won’t be there forever as it picks up and builds just to come back down and do it all over again. With that, she acknowledges the song as a fan favorite which makes the work that went into getting it right worth it.
Another thing that the EP does such a strong job of capturing is the dream-like, vivid state the kinds of emotions she covers can carry. “I always knew I wanted a dreamy space kind of vibe,” Shania starts when I ask how she and producer Koloto developed the sound. “When I first started drafting ideas for Bloom, I envisioned being in space/sky with clouds and falling down, hence the airy-like vibe. She also credits the talents of Koloto. “Koloto is an extremely talented experimental producer so she was easily able to fully encapsulate how I wanted Bloom to sound from discussions we’ve had,” one of the things, Shania notes, is the specific detail to instruments–something that, as someone that usually creates the instrumentation first and follows up with lyrics and melodies, proves to be very important.
The UK has definitely influenced me in many ways. Particularly London as I was born and bred in London town and that city has a culture of its own.
An EP that delivers as much dreamy and space-like energy as this one, would of course come with the cover that it has. Bursting with purples, blues, and greens the cover is as grounded and up in the air as the music itself. “So, the cover for Bloom was designed and created by an amazing artist called Ellie. Bloom is a very dreamy project and I really wanted the cover to reflect that as well. That’s why it looks as though I’m sleeping on the cover and there are clouds in the background. Ellie completely brought Bloom to life in the EP cover,” she muses. “From the colours to encapsulating the themes. One of those themes is nature as one of the tracks is called ‘Lilac’ hence the flowers on the cover. Also, the colour themes for the project are pastel blue, purple, and green, which is why those colours are presented within the artwork also.”
Since our interview, Shania has recently released a collab with producer Martin Badder on a house track called ‘UR Type.’ “The whole process of making music is amazing and I love it! My keyboard and guitar are my best friends,” she responds when I ask her about what’s been the most exciting part about creating new music. “I have a few things planned for the rest of the year which I have to keep secret, but it’s looking good!”
While we wait to see what else is up her sleeve, Shania continues going to uni, working on uni, and finding inspiration. “The UK has definitely influenced me in many ways. Particularly London as I was born and bred in London town and that city has a culture of its own,” she starts when I ask her if the UK has influenced her in any way. “From the people, music, lingo–everything! It’s crazy and the music scene has so many incredible, talented musicians that I love and I’m completely inspired by in so many ways.”
Shania’s Mini-Playlist for Readers:
Bloom EP is available wherever you stream music.
(photo cred: Robyn Wilton)