With a strong soul influence and a unique jazz sensibility, and peddling an important message, Under One Sun (her latest single release) is a catchy soul pop number that will leave you singing the heartfelt lyrics long after song’s end. Touching on how humanity has a common root, the chorus sees Shameem sing, ‘everyone’s dreaming under one sun’.
What does it mean to you to be a ‘socially conscious’ artist?
It means to use music and lyrics to raise people’s awareness of social issues, and to encourage them to engage in meaningful actions that can improve the state of their community.
What are the issues that you are most passionate about?
I’m very passionate about unity and the overcoming of prejudice, as I feel that disunity is the root cause behind most of the problems that we face in the world today. I’m also quite passionate about the education of children and young people, as they hold the keys to the future of the world; they will shape what the world will become.
How did you first cut your teeth as a musician?
How far back are we talking here?
I started piano lessons at the age of seven; that was definitely the beginning of this whole journey. But gig-wise, apart from the various performances I did in high school with the school’s bands, I cut my teeth working in clubs fronting R&B cover bands and performing at corporate functions in jazz combos.
How do you see people as being connected – you sing about it in Under One Sun?
You can look at it from both a scientific and a spiritual perspective. Science tells us that every human being on Earth is descended from a common ancestor who lived in the horn of Africa, many thousands of years ago. Religion tells us that we were all created by the same creator of the universe… some call that God, others Allah, or Great Spirit, etc. From both perspectives, we are all members of one human family, related by blood and joined in our origin.
Do you have a jazz/soul background?
I’ve always loved soul music; I was brought up listening to Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind and Fire, and when I became serious about songwriting I was listening a lot to neo-soul artists such as Alicia Keys, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu. I also got stuck into jazz during high school, and when I studied music at WAAPA (the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts), I majored in jazz singing and composing.
Tell me about the inspiration for the clip using white paper?
I was actually a bit inspired by Gotye and Kimbra’s video clip for Somebody That I Used To Know, which utilises paint and body painting. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could create a unique music video that uses some kind of art? Then I came across the work of an old friend, who makes very intricate pieces of art by cutting and folding white paper.
I approached her about the idea of making a video where everything – the buildings, trees, people, animals, and even the clothes that I wear – are all made of paper. She embraced the idea and so the producer came up with a narrative to fit the concept, and we shot the whole video in front of a green screen.
What was your inspiration for recording this album?
I’m always writing music, and thinking about when I will record the music that I’ve written. I was keen to record this album because I felt that over the last couple of years my song writing has developed and matured a bit, and I was keen to capture that. I had also been thinking about the production aspect and how I would like to evolve my sound in the studio, and this album gave me the chance to realise those ideas. Every song has its own inspiration, so I’ll leave it there, otherwise I could be talking for hours…
How does it translate to stage?
We do our songs a bit differently when performing live from how they sound when in the recordings. We like to stretch out some of the arrangements and allow for some spontaneity and improvisation. My band members are all incredible musicians, so I like to let them take solos and shine a bit. And on stage I really love engaging with the audience so I’ll often chat to the audience and tell them some of the stories behind my songs.
What should we expect for your Byron show at the Treehouse?
My whole band will be with me, so there will be six of us onstage. I’m told that it’s quite a chilled-out venue, which suits us perfectly. We’ll serve up two sets of our groovy tunes, mostly songs from the new album but also some songs from my previous album and EP, and a couple of tasty covers. And we’ll be chatting to and engaging with the audience, because that’s what we like to do!
At the Treehouse in Belongil on Thursday.