Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, Shel Bee is a singer, songwriter, and producer living in Los Angeles, California. She moved there at age 19, and since then has been the front woman of an Indie Rock band, collaborated with dozens of writers and producers, worked as a demo singer, worked as a songwriter, made a couple of music videos, and learned how to produce her own songs.
Lately, she spends most of her days working out of her home studio with EDM producers from all over the world, working with her main collaborator, Vud, or having sessions in different studios across LA. Below, she tells us about her deeply personal approach to songwriting and how inspired she is by other artists.
Tell us about your singing journey. How did you get into singing?
I’ve loved singing my whole life. When I was little, I would sing in school and in choir. I always liked harmonizing with my sisters because we had that sister-telepathic thing going on. I’ve always played a bit of piano, then later on I taught myself enough ukulele and guitar to start writing songs of my own. I’m not exactly sure how and when I got into singing. It’s always been a part of me and something I love.
What’s your singing dream? Any major goals?
I want to make something that’s timeless and that moves people. I feel like the best artists go down in history because they affect a wide range of people, across genres and demographics, on a deep level. And that is my singing and writing dream. Writing is what moves me and motivates me most as a musician, and the singing is the cherry on top because I love doing it.
What are your upcoming releases?
I’m in the process of releasing an EP but as five singles instead of all at once. I recently released the first of those five, a song called Deep End. I wrote it with my main collaborator, Vud, and producer Martin W. The next release is going to be a song called White Roses. All of the songs I get to release as a main artist are quite personal and meaningful to me, and this one is especially that way. I was inspired by my sadness the day Chris Cornell committed suicide, and I felt it hard because I’ve had someone close to me pass in a similar way. I wanted to write a song about the process of grief and what it meant to me, and Chris Cornell was someone I listened to growing up, so it hit me at the right time to open up and write a song.
What’s your biggest success to date?
Probably when Vud and I released our song, Mamma. We wrote it for his Mom’s birthday and I wrote the lyrics out so she could see them while she listened. She was crying and so happy and grateful. That was a really good feeling. We released it right around the time of the US elections and the Women’s March, and feminine strength was my biggest inspirations. That song was really rewarding because we got a lot of people telling us they were inspired by the love and positivity, and a lot of people sent it to their Moms too. It gives me such a warm, fuzzy feeling when I see the love music can bring.
Who would you most like to work with, and why?
Oh, man. So many people. Vocalists/Top Liners would be Stevie Nicks, Lorde, and K.Flay. All of them are so unique in the way they do things, and they’ve never been anything but purely, unapologetically themselves. Producers/Songwriters would be Cashmere Cat, Max Martin, Mura Masa and Jack Antonoff. They are all very different from each other but they all are geniuses in their own way.
Which artists do you find inspiring? Why?
First off, Vud inspires me every day. His ears are magic and he can take my ideas and bring them to a level I didn’t know existed. I’m lucky to be working with such talent all the time. The guitar player that was in the band I used to be in was also my writing partner for a few years, and he inspired me with the way he understood music and his constant need to tune a guitar in a different way to find a new sound. I’m inspired by all of my mentors, one of them being Ned, who used to write for The Monkees and The Archies back in the day. He’s helped me develop my writing skills and encouraged me on my musical endeavors. He taught me not to take myself so seriously and let the songs be what they want to be, which has been a very important lesson.
Who is your favourite singer? Why?
Stevie. Her voice is one of a kind and her soul comes out in every line she sings. Also her vibrato is amazing and when I see her sing live, I cry like a baby.
What are your top 5 favourite records of all time?
Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
Neon Bible by Arcade Fire
Melodrama by Lorde
The Velvet Underground & Nico by The Velvet Underground
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank by Modest Mouse
What’s your guilty pleasure song?
Anything by Taylor Swift.
Do you have a home studio? If so, tell us about your setup?
I’ve got Genelec M030 monitors, a UAD Apollo twin, a PreSonus monitor station and a few different microphones. The one I use the most is a Mojave MA-300. I’ve also got a reflection filter to isolate the sound a bit more. Then there are just a whole bunch of instruments. Some of my favorites are Vud’s baby blue colored Violin, a Mandolin, and a mini xylophone from Daiso (a Japanese dollar store).
Do you have a favourite microphone? If so, why?
I like the Mojave for my voice. I used to use a Bluebird condenser mic that I liked a lot as well. I’ve had a chance to use more expensive mics, but it honestly didn’t sound as good. Every voice is going to match with a mic differently and I can’t tell you why.
How did you find singing jobs before Vocalizr?
I found jobs through friends and other industry people I know, and through Youtube and Soundcloud. It was never as frequent and consistent as it has been with Vocalizr, though.
Have you made new connections through Vocalizr? Has it opened any doors for you?
Yeah, I’ve definitely made a lot of new connections through Vocalizr. It’s really cool to see how many passionate music makers are out there looking to collaborate. Everyone I’ve worked with has been super talented and professional. It’s definitely widening my audience and giving me a chance to be a part of some really cool collaborations.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what are 3 things you couldn’t live without?
1) My dog Batman, and Vud. 2) Our home studio. 3) Trader Joe’s.
Listen to more of Shel Bee’s music on Spotify