Shamir: From Country To Pop

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You may have heard the music of Shamir Bailey - better known by his stage name Shamir - in a recent Google Watch ad, or at South by Southwest. Here & Now featured him in a DJ Session back in December.  Host Jeremy Hobson sat down with the 20-year-old Las Vegas native to talk about his new album "Ratchet," his androgynous voice and his disco-pop sound, and how it's evolved since he started playing country music as a kid.

Interview Highlights: Shamir Bailey

On the beginning of his love for music

Shamir's new album is "Ratchet."
Shamir's new album is "Ratchet."

“It was just something that was always in me. According to my mom, I’ve just been writing little songs and ditties to myself since elementary school. I begged my mom for a guitar at age 9, and I taught myself to how to play, and then I tried to teach myself how to sing. ... At 9, I definitely wasn’t the singer that I am today. That was still a work in progress. I thought I had a really mediocre voice and so that’s why I taught myself how to play guitar and write my own songs, because I was like, I can’t just get by on my voice. I was like, it’s not good enough."

On his start in country music

“I wrote all my songs on my main instruments and the songs I would record in my bedroom were just acoustic guitar, mandolin and sometimes bass. I really like the texture the mandolin added to my music, but my fingers were too big to play it... I could only do little riffs and whatever. I couldn’t really do whole chords because my fingers were so big.”

On his diverse audience

“I just have such a rainbow audience and I love it. I remember at my show in D.C., this lady came up to me, and she was like ‘I came here just to see you.’ She was probably like 40-plus, and she came by herself just to see me and it was really beautiful. That’s what I mean by relatable. I want people to listen to my music and everyone to feel included and I think it’s kind of working because all my audiences are always so colorful.”

On his androgynous voice

"My voice never changed. I’ve had this voice forever. So when I was 12, 13, 14, writing songs, playing guitar and everything, at that point my voice was pretty mediocre. I was prepubescent and waiting for my voice to drop and it never did."

On not feeling like he had a fixed gender or sexuality

"I had always been a really peculiar child. My mom would tell you I grew up roughing it with the boys and playing with action figures and toy cars and stuff but I also had an Easy Bake Oven... I find it amazing that in a really weird way, people are mad that they can’t figure out my gender."

On the importance of positivity in his music and life

“If you listen to most of my songs, the lyrics are pretty kind of dark, but I like to put it behind happy music because then it evens it out... I’m really happy actually. Obviously I have my bad moments but I always challenge myself to not put negativity out there because there’s already enough. I just always try to make anything negative a positive.”


This segment aired on July 28, 2015.


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