Shannah Spry reflects on how lockdown has harnessed her creativity
Shannah is a Northern, self-proclaimed bedroom artist who most people know as a professional dancer. She has written and released music reflective of her lockdown experience that many can relate to. By taking the leap from dancer-singer during this time, Shannah has had an amazing response to her tunes after keeping her voice quiet for (too!) long. We look forward to hearing what Shannah continues to make in lockdown and beyond’
Both of your songs have been released during lockdown, was that intentional?
I wrote and recorded a couple of songs last year, but out of fear I just never released them so I think now having so much time think, I ended up thinking I should invest time in doing it properly. Lockdown inspired me to write the songs. Both the songs are inspired by feelings that were going on in this time because the only way to contact people is through calling and I just felt like ‘how are we going to get out of this?’ It was a message for people that I care about. Sometimes you need that reassurance that someone is on the other end of the phone, especially right now when you can’t connect with people physically. I wrote this song to almost remind myself of this period as well, to remember that we had the ability to connect through the phone and how privileged we are.
‘Call Me’ and ‘Show Me the Way’ seem to almost be in a conversation with each other, it feels like a journey when I listen to them. Was that intentional?
I think it’s been the two versions of lockdown for me. ‘Show Me the Way’ is like, show me how we’re going to get out of this, because I couldn’t see it ending at any time soon and I was worrying and I needed some guidance. ‘Call Me’ came from my music so it was kind of an ‘in-my-feelings’ song. ‘Call Me’ is more positive in the sense that I wanted to say to so many people that you can call me whenever and like, I will be there. It’s almost like the two sides of me as well. So, there’s one side of me that’s very calm and collected but then half the time I’m like ‘I don’t know what’s happening, I don’t know how to resolve this.’
You say there’s two sides of you… you’re also a professional dancer so what impact has that had on creating music?
Firstly, it definitely impacts the way that I hear music. It also made me want to create music that I’d like to see people dance to or that myself would like to dance to. With being a dancer, you’re listening to music all the time, like every day, so it helps you understand rhythm and timing. I feel like we have a different connection to music in that way as we have to be so on point with musicality.
How would you personally describe your music?
I think everything I write has a different feeling or scenario that comes with it. I seem to always have a visual when I hear a song. So, ‘call me’ for example is, to me, like a cup of tea on a rainy day. I would say a lot of my music is just, calm and low breathing. Just finding peace within whatever I’m feeling because I think the sounds provoke me to just, breathe and I hope it does the same for others. I created music that I could like to listen to because I really enjoy chill stuff.
You say you like chilled music, who would you say your main influences are?
I’m definitely influenced by the music I listen to. I really love Summer Walker, she’s a new age artist but I love the music she makes. Definitely female artists like SZA, Sade and Stevie
Nicks. Also Steve Lacy and Frank Ocean are a couple of my favourite artists. In terms of my voice, I sing the way that I feel but I don’t focus on whether there’s an influence or not. I think whatever you’re listening to, you can often sound like that without intending to. It seems to come out however way that I’m feeling.
You say your voice is influenced by your feeling, is that the same in the writing process?
If I could use one word to describe my writing process, it would be spontaneous. I don’t write when I think I should, writing always comes very out of the blue for me. If the beat isn’t right then I cant force myself to write to it. It has to be the right one and then all the ideas start coming and I’m like ‘aaaah’, I start writing like mad!
Do you prefer hand-writing your lyrics or do you document them in another way?
You know what, I used to do it on paper but I found that I can get my thoughts down quicker by typing on my laptop because my hands work faster to keep up with my brain. I do sometimes go back to paper though because having a physical copy feels more meaningful.
Have you ever shared lyrics with someone before putting them to a beat?
I’ve been writing for a long time but never really songs. It was always poetry and I’ve shared some of those with people close to me or if someone had inspired me to write it, I would show them. I do find it very personal to share something like that, especially if it’s come from a very vulnerable place. It was even scary sharing them with the producer for the first time, but you have to let go of that fear and be proud of what you’ve wrote so it’s like ‘here you go, you can read it.’
‘Call Me’ has a slow and almost, sexy vibe to it. What kind of effect does this have on the style of dance that could be seen?
It’s very R&B influenced so I think it would form in a kind of experimental movement. I would never put a genre on it. I haven’t danced to it myself because I find it hard to listen to songs once I’ve made them. One of my friends posted a video dancing to it and another friend created a concept video. It was crazy to see that! It was definitely a goal to have people want to move to it, I’d love people to dance to it and create anything to it.
Putting your music out there is vulnerable, would you say that the lyrics themselves come from a vulnerable place?
One hundred percent! I can’t sing or write from a place that’s not true to myself and I couldn’t write about things I’ve not experienced myself. It’s really scary because I’ve used my body for such a long time to demonstrate how I’m feeling so switching to using vocal cords is a lot. It’s really freeing at the same time. It’s so empowering to do something you enjoy.
What has the response been like?
The one thing I love about dancers, is that they get so excited about anything to do with music so to see me singing, they’re really supportive and they want to share it and tell me they love it. That’s been lovely because it makes you feel like it reaches people and how they’re feeling. I even had a few famous producers reach out to me and it’s like ‘wow how did you even hear my song?’ I was trying to be cool inside but it’s all a bit crazy! Some conversations didn’t go forward more than asking if I had more music coming but even the fact they reached out is cool because they now know my name! My family are really supportive and they make suggestions such as telling me I should make music videos and they’ll send it to my Grandma, they just support in any way they can if they see me doing what makes me happy.
I agree with your family that you should make a music video… can we expect this from you soon? And what can we expect post-lockdown?
Yeah, I’m working on some visuals, just executing them can be difficult! Maybe one day I will dance to them. I’m not secretive at all so I think I can tell you that I’m trying to piece together a little EP. Just figuring out what will work nicely together. I want to keep making music, it’s fun and it’s a nice way to stay creative. I’m down for everything! I don’t necessarily have a
genre that I’ll stick to, I want to try everything because there’s no limit to what you’re able to do. I think that I like to write in a way that’s digestible so I’ll definitely continue that. Everything happens when you are ready for it so I hope I’ll be working somewhere other than my bedroom eventually!