Taking Us Away
by Jay S. Jacobs
Part of the fun of writing about entertainment is that you get to discover exciting new talent before they truly catch on. For example, in fall of 2008 when I did an interview with a new and fairly unknown dance artist who had just released her first single and album, who would have guessed that just over two years later Lady Gaga would be arguably the biggest pop star in the world?
A nineteen year-old British singer named Shirin is in a similar early phase of her career – her first single “Taking You Away” and her quirky, stylish videos have been building a buzz – and the comparisons to Gaga (as well as Rhianna and Amerie) have started on the internet.
“That’s a really big compliment,” Shirin says on the phone from her home in Fareham Hampshire, UK. “What Lady Gaga has done with electro music and really making that a worldwide success has been a big inspiration to a lot of artists over here.”
The question is, can she become as big as those inspirations?
Shirin laughs, “I would absolutely endeavor to do that. That’s what I’m aspiring to. I would love to be as successful as they are. I’m chasing success. Because being successful is what makes you famous. That’s another compliment and I hope that people that listen to my music just enjoy it and that they buy it and continue to support me and hopefully I can get to that stage.”
The young British singer only goes by her first name, also like two of those other artists, as well as Madonna and Cher and any number of other icons.
“It means ‘sweet,’” explains Shirin. “It’s an Iranian name. I’m half Iranian.”
And though this seems like a weird thing to say for a woman who is still in her teens, Shirin has been in training for musical stardom since she was young.
“I come from a musical family,” Shirin says. “It’s been a part of my upbringing. I’m the youngest of three and we all play instruments. I played piano from the age of five. I was always going through my parents’ Motown collection… People like Stevie Wonder and Natalie Cole are what inspired me to become a vocalist. I listened to trends of music going on around me more as a teenager, I think. Definitely some UK artists. But, yeah, I definitely would have to say it would go back to the soul music that inspired me to become a singer.”
She takes her soul roots and mixes them with more modern dance beats to cook up a scrumptious and funky musical deep dish.
“I would describe my music as a fusion of pop, dubstep, electro and R&B,” Shirin explains.
Her first sugar shot is the single “Taking You Away,” a bouncy dance anthem which she put together on a transcontinental trip to work with respected producer Marcus “Bellringer” Bell (Gala, Shakti Thari).
“It’s one of the songs we wrote on the first day of my trip in LA back in 2010,” Shirin recalls. “We went out to do the track. But we went out to Los Angeles actually to start recording the album. The track was a very natural process. I basically had this vision that I want to do a song which is all about a statement. People who have at a 9 to 5 job can put on the track and just have this adventure for three minutes. The response to the track we cut has been very positive. I’ve gotten so much support – not only here in the UK, but worldwide. I’m extremely proud of how well it has done. This has been a positive feedback. I’m really glad that the people enjoy what we are doing.”
That’s just the beginning, Shirin’s debut CD – which is still in the works – is planned to be a piñata of beats and styles, but all from Shirin’s unique musical point of view.
“I’ve got lots of tricks up my sleeve,” Shirin says. “I’m constantly writing with my producer. Obviously, I’m here in the UK, so we do sessions when he comes over or I go to the States. We also do sessions online. I think the sound that is going to be forming my album is something that hasn’t been done before. We really have not referenced other people. These songs are purely what we feel is good, when you write in the morning and you just want to work on something. What I really want to do with this album is change people’s perspective of music and people’s perspective of what it can do for you. It’s not just there to listen to. It’s there to inspire and to change you – in a good way. So, I guess I want to say that there is a sound to come that hasn’t been heard yet.”
The sound isn’t the only aspect to the marketing of Shirin. She is also very involved in giving her work a very visual flair as well. Shirin is also about the style.
“I think it’s completely important,” she says. “I’ve got a photographic memory, so the visual side of things to my music is [a huge part for me]… for example, ‘Take Me Away,’ when I did the video for that, it was my storyboard, the costumes that I put together and all the props. I’d gone out and got everything myself. People thought I was crazy when I was saying I want to be doing a scene where I’m lying in a bath full of bubble gum. They were like, ‘Why? How is that going to fit in?’ I said it’s going to fit in fine. It’s what I envisioned. I definitely think it’s a way to translate what I do into pictures and connect to people on a different level.”
The video, which let Shirin loose in a sweetshop as well as that very colorful bathtub, captures the fun and funky style of Shirin’s music… and Shirin herself. Though she did learn one thing – it’s not easy to be buried in gumballs.
Shirin laughs, “It was funny, in such a good way. That scene we did at about six o’clock in the morning. I had to lie in there for about two and a half hours.” She laughs again. “I had to lie really still, with my arms out above my head. I got really lightheaded and everybody was like, ‘Get her some sugar! Get her some sugar!’ I’m like, I’m lying in a batch of sugar. I can eat some of this. This will get me back together. But it was really good fun. I loved it.”
Shirin has also started doing a series of journals and makeup tutorials on YouTube. It’s just another way to reach out to her fans.
“Social media, we’re in that place now where it’s very different because of how the music industry is changing,” Shirin says. “I’ll be asked many times when I’m doing a performance like, ‘Oh, where did you get your shoes from?’ or ‘How did you make that dress?’ or ‘How do you do your makeup?’ ‘How do you do your hair?’ I thought, well, why not use this tool that I have right in front of me to show people how to create a home version of the looks that I’m doing. It’s affordable. Everyone can do it. Everyone can enjoy it. I’m getting loads of feedback from it, so there could be more tutorials coming up and lots of different things in the next couple of weeks.”
She has also done some live internet feeds with her fans, recently even writing and recording a song online, specifically for the fans.
“That was the song ‘The Other Girl,’” Shirin explains. “Basically, Marcus, my producer, was over and staying at my house back in early January. This was the first song that we did on that trip. I have a studio in my house, it’s in my garage. I do these ‘Sweet Talk Tuesdays’ every week – it’s basically a UStream so I can connect with my fans. I thought it would be really, really cool if we could do a live session where I’m writing the track and he’s producing the track right in front of their eyes. They can see that this is a talent that we have and this is how it happens. A lot of people don’t know how it happens. It was just fun, the feedback, and we were on for about 45 minutes.
“The chat was going crazy. So we thought let’s not be precious with this track, because people are already hearing it on the UStream channel. Why don’t we just give it away? So we finished the track that night and then sent it to the marketing team and they just put it up. We had a really good response to it and quite a few reviews as well. Again, everybody really likes it. It’s just fun, because that was an experience where for once my fans were a part of it as it was being created, so I think they are more excited about that track than any other track.”
Another way that she has been reaching out directly to fans is that she has been doing a tour of schools in the UK, playing her music to students and future fans.
“I absolutely love it,” Shirin says. “I started it back in April of 2010. I’m still on the tour at the moment. I did about 60 shows. It’s probably more than that, I can’t quite remember. I’ve been traveling all over the country. I’ve been to places that I hadn’t been to before and meeting so many wonderful people. I guess I never really realized that my music reached to such young audiences, because here in the UK we start school at age four or five. So, I’m performing to kids that age right up through to sixteen. Every single one of them connects with it. Everyone, by the end of the performance, feels energized and inspired by it.
“The whole message that I’m going into the schools with is to really say when you leave school you need to do something that you love. There’s no point in doing something that you don’t want to get out of bed for in the morning. This is my job and I worked really, really hard to do this, so I want the same thing for you: whether it is music or it’s something academic, you’ve just got to go for it. The response on it from email has just been incredible. I love my fans so much and the fan base is growing so much by doing the school tour. I actually love it when I go out every week and travel. Although it can be tiring, it’s so enjoyable.”
Of course she would also enjoy crossing the pond and doing some shows in the US. And, with her unique outlook to marketing her music, she isn’t looking for the typical shed tour.
“We’re trying to set up some dates and I’m going to be over,” Shirin says. “I’m not sure when that will be yet. The other thing we’re trying to do is actually do them within theme parks. I know they have the Six Flags parks in the States. That’s one area that we’re trying to tap into, same as we’re trying to do the theme parks over here in the UK. So, fingers crossed we’ll get some dates and I shall let you know when we do.”
Fingers are also crossed on the full-length CD release, which is in the works but still a bit up in the air.
“I’ve got enough material for about two albums at the moment, but obviously the way the industry works, you can try and set a timeline for things, but it doesn’t always work that way,” Shirin says. “So I’m just going to keep writing and I’m working for other artists as well at the moment. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we keep getting the buzz on the internet and more and more people pick up on it. I appreciate the support that I’ve gotten from you for spending the time talking today. And just everybody [reading and listening] and I’m hoping that 2011 is the year that more and more people hear my music.”
So, who are some of the other artists she is writing for?
“Umm, I can’t name names at the moment,” Shirin laughs. “I don’t want to jinx anything quite yet, but we are doing quite a few placements at the moment.”
In the meantime, while she builds towards the debut CD, she plans on periodically releasing singles to keep the buzz going.
“At this point that’s the way that is proving to be building my fanbase,” Shirin says. “So I think maybe releasing some of my tunes [online] and as free giveaways and songs for the fans as well. Keeping everyone happy while I’m recording the album and the CD is released. I guess that’s kind of awesome.”
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Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 14, 2011.