As music lovers we seek what’s under the hood of an artists’ music-making process. We can’t simply receive the music, digest it, and wait for more music. While none of us deny the work-ethic, sacrifices, and enjoyment put into the process from their end, we also pursue an artist for the light they shine on their creative process. Shebani pulls the curtains back on her half-decade music-making journey and its evolution. Our zoom meeting encased the singer’s previous outlook, perception, attitude, and habits that led her to adopt a timely shift in mindset and approach towards her creative output.
“Higher will be the last single I’m releasing this year…”
It seems this evolution brought it all to a halt, for now. So what are the catalysts that shape an artist and encourage a shift from working on their next release to specifically not making music? The singer walks us through the earlier days to contextualize the otherwise poignant here and now.
Talk to us about your approach towards making music up until now.
I was very comfortable and that’s fine. It’s difficult to talk about my old approach because I only worked with one person before I released Be Me and Pink Lemonade. I realised the minute you’re comfortable somewhere, that’s when you stop growing. Yes we all have our goals of playing abroad and winning Grammy’s or working with big artists and touring, and those are goals but I don’t want to feel like I am somewhere and I felt comfortable. Changing the people you work with like producers or collaborators, or reaching out and introducing yourself to new people makes you realise how difficult it is to make music. Now that I’m not feeling that comfortable I know I’m in the right place.
When you’re constantly doing the same workout for three months your body grows used to it. I was working with the same person for three years, so I felt like I needed to change it up. You’re never done, and you have to keep trying. You want your audience to grow with you. I don’t want to say age plays a role in music, but I’m 29 right now and I can’t cater to the 16yr olds for ever. I want to be an inspiration for everyone. I’ve grown since playing covers just five years ago and people I’ve spoken to have noticed the evolution of Shebani. I’m looking at different things now and my priorities have shifted.
Does life experience shape what you’re making art about?
It’s important to explore and talk about my thoughts that are changing. I still sing about love but I use different language now. 23yr old Sarah wouldn’t have been strong enough to speak her mind or maybe even support any kind of movement, but now my priorities are just to create art and leave something behind. It’s not all about age but more of the timeline. I use age more as a time stamp
It’s your truth, I mean who else are you going to be? If I’m writing about the most human thing about me, then another human is going to relate. Everybody goes through the same thing but they have a different language. This new approach helped me as a person, as a songwriter, and as an artist.
I used to struggle so much with all this music that I write but couldn’t find someone to work with. These days I calm myself down and I’m able to find the right person. They may be in the States or Europe, in Berlin etc. I will eventually find them. The anxiety that used to come with this pressure of a rat race to then find out I don’t even want to be a part of it. Basically, I’ve developed tunnel vision and don’t distracted by how people on Instagram might start forgetting me if I don’t put out content.
Is there anything you miss about your old approach?
No not at all. I’ve always wanted to do something different but I literally had to tear my way out of this first impression I had of being an artist, where you’re learning and picking up on things and it might not be for you. What I learned in the beginning is not working for me anymore, so I don’t miss it. I’m slowly and gradually finding my own pace and progression. I can’t to do ‘all work no play’ I need to take care of myself. We’re not machines who are going to be writing a hit every single day. You might even be giving yourself an opportunity to write a better song if you step away and come back to it with a clear head.
What about younger artists who still worki with your old approach? What are the pro’s and con’s of a more routined and comfortable approach?
Usually I would have an answer to somebody who is just starting out, and my advice is that I can’t influence someone’s lifestyle. I can help if I approach a specific case, but overall I would always ask “are you happy?” Celebrate everything that comes your way, small or big. But I try not to be intrusive because other people need to go what they go through too.
I’m not saying I’m not hungry or I don’t like how I used to do things. I love the approach and everything and I am still hungry, but I’ve been practicing to not cause myself anxiety, it’s counterintuitive and counter productive. If I have work anxiety then I’m technically not believing in myself. If I’m crying about why am I not doing festivals abroad, then realistically I could be redirecting this energy towards something that will get me to do festivals abroad.
Do you feel liberated? How receptive have your peers been to your new approach?
I think people in general are very kind, or at least the majority of them. I’m making sure that I don’t release music right now and that Higher is my last release this year. Its not because I don’t want to do more content but because I’m trying to find this balance. I asked myself through the pandemic if I’m making music that is temporary or timeless? A song like Girl Talk was really rushed from my side, and I did it for all the wrong reasons, and that’s okay. It has been liberating, but maybe three years from today I’ll be telling you I feel better doing something else.
So everything felt right at the time?
Yes it felt okay but something happens when you grow, you outgrow your skin. You have to take a step back and make sure this growth is looked at. I can’t just ignore it and be doing the same thing I was doing when I released Break Me. There’s always a transitional phase somehow when you’re ready for something new. My earlier work is still some of my favourite to perform and people sing along to it. It was real and the message behind it was cool - it’s a good song.
Would you say to grow, you can only do what feels right at the time?
There it is. Even before the pandemic, I wasn’t thinking about a new album, I was already in the midst of Girl Talk and then I, as we all did, started reflecting at home. I stayed away from working and got in touch with my artistic side and not the hey-I-have-a-new-single side. I was against ‘no album, only singles’ game, but I’m a 90’s kid, I grew up listening to albums. I want to celebrate everything I’ve been doing in the last four years into one body of art.
I liked this last song Higher, it felt like you were floating after a decluttering.
The more you fight against the current the more you’ll sink! My mentality was pretty harsh [towards myself] because writing a song is very euphoric, and I stopped seeing the joy in writing because I was rushing it. It happened with two songs and I wasn’t okay with it. I made quick content and I’m not a quick content person so that’s when it hit me, and I stayed away from writing for three months. I realised I had nothing to say. If I don’t release a song it’s ok, if I wait a year it’s ok, but when you’re in it you’re in it, you won’t see anything wrong at the time.
I want to talk about features. How have you found features with this nw approach and mentality?
Features are the only thing I took positivity away from. The reason why I love features is because you jump on a song and you have a different song writing approach, and maybe you didn’t think you could have that approach if you had approached that song alone. I’ve always enjoyed them and I love collaborating with people because you learn form them and it’s fun. They’re the only time where I’ve been writing purely because I’m enjoying it and there was no anxiety over it. I don’t have a process really, if the song is good it’s good and I’ll jump on it. If I can’t give it 100% then I won’t jump on it.
“It wasn’t an overall change in my approach, it was a change in mentality”
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