We picked recording artist Shayna Leigh’s brain on the story behind her musical journey and her plans for the future.
Growing up in Orlando, she found musical theatre through commercial work, finding music to be the most instinctual form of experience she had ever experienced. In July 2015, Shayna’s debut album “Drive” debuted; she collaborated on that album with award-winning record producers Michael Mangini and Peter Zizzo, who have worked with the likes of Joss Stone and Avril Lavigne. She is signed to Universal Music Group and is currently working on her new EP.
I know that commercial work as a child actor led you to musical theatre where you discovered singing, but how did you first get into commercial work?
Honestly, it actually began somewhat accidentally. After trying (and mostly failing at) pretty much every available after school activity, from basketball to ballet, I got it in my head that I wanted to try acting classes. My mother was not particularly enthused about this new interest of mine as I was a fairly fearful child and it seemed an unlikely fit. And then one day my grandma happened to find an ad in the newspaper (seriously… the newspaper) for an open call audition for a commercial that was being held at the mall. My mom made a deal with me- if I wrote a speech, practiced it and was able to get myself to audition, she would sign me up for classes. I did all this and by some stroke of fate or luck or whatever you want to call it, I booked the commercial! And the prize for winning was… free acting classes! And then I was hooked!
What is your creative process like when you make music?
I do a lot of a co-writing, so a big part of my creative process is about getting in a room with another writer (or other writers) and figuring out how to create something together. I love the energy of collaboration, of working with other people. With co-writing, however, every process is very different, depending on who is in the room and what everyone’s individual processes and strengths are. The idea for a song can come from anywhere. Sometimes I start with an event in my life, sometimes with a lyric or even a word or with an instrumental riff or a melody. The most exciting and also most intimidating part about creating anything is that there are no rules, no limits. Everything is a possibility.
Do you feel like your music has evolved drastically throughout the years?
Absolutely! It took a very long time for me to figure out who I wanted to be as an artist and how I wanted to fit in the world of music. I made a lot of those decisions consciously (I think it’s important for artists in this day and age to actively think about what kind of artist they want to be) and a lot of my evolution occurred, I think, organically. As you grow as a person, your music changes. I think that’s an inevitability.
What was it like releasing “Drive,” your debut album?—What’s your favorite song off the album?
Releasing “Drive” was the culmination of so many years of work- not on this album necessarily, but I had previously recorded and ultimately decided not to release two other full-length albums. All of that work got me to where I am now and helped me figure out who I am artistically, so I don’t have any regrets. And it made the release of “Drive” all the sweeter. My favorite song from the album will probably always be the song “Drive.” It was the first one we wrote, and it was for me the first glimpse of where I wanted to go.
Who is your chief inspiration/chief inspirations, both musically and personally?
I am most inspired by people, both musically and personally. I am inspired by kindness and sacrifice and bravery, by the way we overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and bounce back from the most incredible heartbreaks. I consider myself a realist, but I am also very much an optimist. I hope that’s a part of my music.
Is there anyone in the industry with whom you’d like to collaborate?
I am very into collaboration. I think the better question for me is who wouldn’t I like to collaborate with!
What has your favorite project been so far?
I would say “Drive” as a whole has been my single most rewarding creative project so far. I loved creating the songs and I love even more performing them live. I’m also very into making music videos, and each one has been an incredible creative experience in it’s own right. I am, however, VERY excited about the music I am working on right now, so in a few months, I hope to have a different answer to this question!
Are you working on anything new right now?—How are your current projects going?
I am in the finishing stages of my next EP as we speak! The past few months have been spent primarily writing and recording new songs that are even more personal than anything I’ve previously written! I am working with the same writers and producers from “Drive” (the amazing Michael Mangini and Peter Zizzo), and I think we’ve gotten into a great groove and really taken the music to the next level! We should be ready to release in the fall and I CANNOT WAIT for fans to hear it! Also of course, I expect to be performing a lot more in the coming months and also making more music videos. I am so ready for what’s next!
Photo Credit: Joshua Shelton
Shayna’s EP Drive is available for listening on Spotify and Apple Music.