Shamir’s new album was inspired by Gwen Stefani, Miranda Lambert and ... Jeffrey Dahmer
The charismatic singer, songwriter and guitarist Shamir has had a busy 2020 despite the circumstances. In March, as the COVID-19 pandemic tore through America, the 25-year-old released the distorted rock album “Cataclysm.” He followed that up with a series of singles — “On My Own” to celebrate Pride Month in June, the exuberant synth-rock anthem “Running” and the just-issued, twang-driven banger “Other Side.” All are featured on his forthcoming eponymous record, his seventh overall, due out Oct. 2. The artist, born Shamir Bailey, spoke from his home in Philadelphia.
Shamir’s new video for “On My Own.”
Describe your album in three words.
Coming of age.
Why should we stream it?
I don’t know — because it’s good? And I would say that if you’ve never listened to any of my stuff before — or if you only listen to this record and nothing else — I think I would be fine with that because this is the first record where I had confidence and everything was intentional. Everything came out truly as I envisioned it.
How did COVID-19 change it?
It’s definitely a COVID record. I was really fortunate, because [Philadelphia recording space] Headroom is a really big studio with a vocal booth and a live room. That really helped out a lot because the studio that I normally go to in South Philly is a very small basement studio. I wouldn’t have known what to do if I was recording there.
What were you listening to for inspiration?
When I’m recording I don’t listen to too much music, except the references I send for each track. “Other Side” has a country vibe, so one of the references for that song — and it doesn’t even sound like it, structurally, but I like really rough vocal procession — was “Ugly [Lights]” by Miranda Lambert.
For “Running,” I wanted to have a very early-2000s alternative punk-type feel, so we referenced Gwen Stefani. Even Kelly Clarkson — “Since You’ve Been Gone.” If I told you everything we were listening to in the studio for influences, it would sound so discombobulated.
Recite the lyric from the album you’re most proud of?
In the last song, “In This Hole,” I say, “Youth is just wasted on the ones who feel immortal.”
I like, “I just want to see his insides and the colors they could be,” from “Diet.”
OK, you want to know where that line came from?
I wrote that song after watching the movie “My Friend Dahmer.” That line was inspired by when young Jeffrey Dahmer was housed with one of his Black classmates, he asked him, “Are your internal organs a different color as well?” That really stuck with me. I was like, that’s a lot. After watching that movie I just had to write that song just to get the energy out because it’s like, this is insane.
What was your vice of choice while making the album?
OK, so that’s another crazy thing about this year and this album. Last fall I decided to quit smoking cigarettes and weed and all drugs in general, cold turkey. When I released “Running” as a single, it was my one-year anniversary since I had a cigarette. There’s a lot more clarity in my voice.
I was smoking a lot of weed last year. Obviously, I didn’t know that all this was going to happen, but I was like, “This is the way my life works, the way the universe tests me. Of course I decide to quit drugs and cigarettes right before the most stressful year in recent history.”
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