Shayna is a singer, songwriter, pianist and producer from Chicago-‘ish’, Illinois. Singing since a young age, her peers knew her as Shayna “the Singer” taking requests at lunch tables in elementary school. Now, she’s coming out with 18 years of vocal performance, artist development, music theory, and engineer training under her belt as well as many trying life experiences. She’s newly Indie and calls herself a “Southpaw Singer” playing by her own rules and ready to conquer the world one song at a time while continuing to be a student of Music every day.
Shayna, how did you get into singing and songwriting?
There are videos of me singing as young as 3 years old! My parents allowed me to try every co-curricular from gymnastics to ice skating but I stuck with everything music. I loved piano and violin, but hated lessons so I would learn the theory and then write my own little melodies at home and create shows to perform for my family. My mom thought I had a gift and officially started me in professional vocal lessons at 9 years old. My first vocal teacher heard something in my voice as well and gave me an opportunity when I was 11 to record a 3-song cover demo at Hinge Records in Chicago! It was my first time in a real recording studio and I wanted to live there and create music all day long! I shopped that demo around and was signed to an artist development deal sponsored by G.R.E.E.D. Ent. at the age of 13. I learned how to engineer vocals and write to hip-hop/R&B beats in the studio 5 days a week, as well as going to Columbia College Chicago for private Vocal performance lessons and more theory training with Bobbi Wilsyn, who still mentors me to this day! Now that I’m older, I realize why I’m always singing and it’s because it’s my main coping skill. Singing has always been my way of processing life and all its turns.
Any major goals for your singing career?
My list of goals continues to grow, but I’ve always wanted to sing the National Anthem at a Superbowl! My list also includes experiencing what it is like to live on a tour bus for months on end hearing crowds singing my lyrics all over the world, releasing a Christmas album, earning a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, writing a musical that gets picked up for a movie and then a live TV special, be a guest on TRL on MTV, be a judge on a live singing competition – the list goes on and on! But, my major “so-happy-I-could-die” moment would be to one day win a Grammy for my music! Really, all I want to do is to parallel people’s lives with my words and soothe the soul with my melodies. I just want to help everyone feel less sad and alone in their life’s experiences.
Is there a particular warm up process you have before recording?
Yes! A vocalist must always warm up before singing anything! I like to do my breathing practices first. When I have a big chunk of time before singing, I really like to do a Yoga practice that focuses on Pranayama (breathing) exercises. I’ve been practicing Yoga for 4 years now and have noticed a huge difference in my breath control. Then I warm up to Judy Neimack’s book and CD, Hear it, and Sing it! which includes Modal Jazz Classic Modes (scales) and call-and-response scats. Warm-ups are not just a process, but a daily ritual for me. My awareness of my vocal-health has greatly improved from daily warm-ups.
Tell us about your songwriting process – is there a particular way you tackle the topline?
I must have a notebook or a recording device around always. I have ideas that come at the most unexpected times and inspiration comes from everywhere. I write, record, scribble on whatever is near to get it down then come back to it later to finish and attach the rest of whatever is lacking in the concept, eventually creating a full song. About “tackling the topline”, I honestly did not know what a topline was before I came to Vocalizr! I’m getting familiar with the EDM scene now, so this discovery of a topline has been a new challenge and has grown my songwriting muscles in new ways.
What’s your biggest success to date?
I’ve dealt with a lot of highs and lows, but I must say, this feature for interview for vocalisr is my biggest success to date! It feels good for my hard work to be noticed enough to be asked for an interview. I am truly grateful you all at Vocalizr saw through the computer screen that I have serious passion, a vision, and have given me the chance to reach millions of your talented catalogue of artists and producers!
Who would you most like to work with, and why?
I’ve always envisioned singing on the VHI Diva’s Live Stage belting it out with Christina and Mariah! Why? They’re my first vocal crushes! We don’t even have to sing words, even just vocal improvisation on the same stage to a twinkling piano would be a dream come true.
Christina Aguilera was my first vocal crush. I wanted to know how she could go from soft to belting. When she’d gnarl it sounded like a real electric guitar was in her throat and I’d wonder how she’d still be able to maintain her vocal health! I really connected to her soul inside her lyrics when I was a kid. I discovered Mariah Carey when I was 9 and I was amazed. I would listen to Mariah’s voice every day in awe of her range and tried to figure out how she was hitting those whistle notes! When I compose music I have been heavily inspired by Vanessa Carlton and Seal’s musical arrangements in their songs – they’re so smooth and easy to listen to and they evoke emotion at every instrumental turn.
Do you have a home studio? If so, tell us about your setup.
Yes! I think it is very important for all singers learn how to engineer their own vocals in the new age of the Music Industry and own your masters. Right now, I’ve been loving the ease of my Yeti Pro, but started with my SE Electronics x1 with reflection filter and Alesis io4 interface. My dad engineered my Yamaha portable grand piano to actually be portable and my DAW is Cubase, but I still use Garageband sometimes since it’s what I learned on.
How did you find work as a singer for hire before Vocalizr?
When I was young, my mom and grandma would hear about singing opportunities for kids on the radio or TV. I come from the middle of the US where there weren’t many opportunities so when auditions were near – I made sure to be there! I was just in Memphis auditioning for America’s Got Talent for the third time. I’ve auditioned for The Voice 12 times, American Idol 13 times! I used to be ashamed of all my rejection, but these experiences helped me gain confidence and learn about the process. Singing is my true passion and I kept on and will always sing wherever I can because I do get great feedback in real life and that’s what keeps me going. I never really had many connections in the Industry, but always hustled and worked hard to make what I’ve always dreamed about a reality.
Have you made new connections through Vocalizr? Has it opened any doors for you?
Yes! I’ve made some great connections with genuine, like-minded producers and musicians from all over the world who have been such a pleasure to work with.