INTERVIEW: Shura

With a couple of years in-between releases, British singer-songwriter Shura has returned with a vibrant new sound. Recent single ‘Religion (U Can Lay Your Hands On Me)’ highlights a confident new side to her artistry as she sings about being happy in love and explores a lighter but more vulnerable concept. Her sophomore record ‘Forevher’ will be released on August 16 and hears her continuing this brighter sound with her future live show in mind. Her debut record ‘Nothing’s Real’ still stands out as an emotionally driven introduction and is a heavy reflection on her darker thoughts. 

I recently chatted to Shura about writing her new material with a new found inspiration and with a vibrant new live show in mind, explored the album title’s meaning and found out who she looked up to in the queer world growing up. Check it out HERE;

TB: ’Religion (U Can Lay Your Hands On Me)’ is a romantic song with a unique groove that instantly catches the listeners ear. With it’s romantic storyline, what do you find harder to write; love songs or heartbreak and self reflection songs? 

S: I think I actually feel more vulnerable writing about love. Writing about heartbreak or self reflection is easier for me because I feel like my sense of humour is quite self deprecating. So I’m quite comfortable operating in a sphere where I’m basically writing about people not fancying me or about having a panic attack and thinking I’m going to die.

I think that’s been the exciting thing about this record. I feel like even though my first album is incredibly personal, somehow there is more of me on this record. I think my personality comes across more because I’m no longer hiding behind a veil of my own insecurities. Well, as much anyway *laughs*.

TB: There is definitely a shift in sonical direction on this track. What was inspiring you sonically when you were working on this new record? And did you find playing shows and interacting with your fans had an impact on wanting to deliver a groovier feel? 

S: I was listening to a lot of classic records from the 70s, so I guess I delved a little further back in time as my first record was heavily inspired by records from the 80s. I think having been able to tour a record once changed how I wanted to approach recording the second record. 

A lot of the stuff on my first album was done so religiously to a grid, it felt so perfect and quantised. I wanted this record to have a different groove and to feel more human. We recorded the drums and the bass together, which I’d never done before, so there’s a completely different feel. It’s super slinky and sexy. 

I also wanted to be able to feel more like a musician when playing live and less like a robot pressing buttons in the right and occasionally wrong order *laughs*. I wanted to playing the songs themselves to feel as free as they sound.

TB: Your sophomore studio album ‘forevher’ will be released on August 16. So reflecting on the creative process what is one of your favourite memories from the studio and writing sessions?

S: One of my favourite memories is the day we spent laying all the drum and bass tracks to tape at RAK Studios. It’s something I really wanted to do on my first record but I never had the time to and I’m not sure whether it would have been right for that record either. But this time round it made complete sense because it’s a more soulful and confident record, and I really wanted to explore the warmth that tape offers. 

It was so exciting to hear the difference. The way that tape sort of glues everything together! I also love the hiss you get from tape. Maybe it’s because I suffer from tinnitus so it’s comforting to have a bit of background noise.

TB: What inspired the title and spelling of this new record?

S: It was a mix of the words forever, for her and forever her. There’s a song on the album called ‘forever; and it felt like a good title or at least a good word and something that summed up so many of the albums themes. But obviously there’s other albums called that or have the word forever in them so I began playing around with other song titles and lyrics and nothing felt right. Then one day I began playing with spellings and from the moment I wrote this down I just knew that it was the title of the album.

TB: Your debut album was an intimate and vulnerable affair but this album promises to dive even deeper. So what would you say is the most vulnerable moment on the record for you as a songwriter?  

S: I definitely feel more vulnerable on this record, emotionally and musically. I’m playing around a lot more with how to use and layer my voice. I was always double tracking everything on ‘Nothing’s Real’ and whilst I still do that on ‘forevher’, there are places where I’m much more exposed and there’s a lot less to hide behind. In that sense it’s more confident, even though it’s also more vulnerable. *Laughs*. I think this record is probably a lot more adventurous than my debut.

TB: You’re very open about your sexuality through your lyrics and I think that’s such a powerful and important thing especially for younger people who are listening to music and are searching for something to listen to that normalises their feelings. It’s something I wish I had growing up to help me feel comfortable in my body. And we are seeing so many artists now open up and identify themselves and even ally’s using gender neutral pronouns in their songs to show their support. So when you were growing up who did you look up to as someone that was making a difference? 

S: I googled “lesbian musician” in the attic of my Dad’s house when I was a kid and remember discovering Tegan and Sara. I immediately became a huge fan and bought all of their records which I’d then force my family to listen to on long car journeys. I even saw them 2 or 3 times live when they came to the UK. I once got the train to London to see them play when I was living in Manchester. I was so excited to see them and it also meant that I always held the belief that you could be openly queer and have a successful career in music, although I’m sure it wasn’t always easy for them.

TB: With some massive shows ahead, including a recent performance at Glastonbury, how do you plan to elevate your live show further and highlight this new energy?

S: During the writing process of ‘forevher’ I was often thinking about how it would feel to play the songs live. I tried to bring that energy to the recordings. When I wrote ‘Nothing’s Real’ I wasn’t thinking about the live element so there’s definitely a different energy to the new tracks and we’re really enjoying beginning to play them live. I brought some friends onstage for Glastonbury who very kindly agreed to dress up as nuns with very little notice, so I’m definitely trying to find ways of switching things up. But it’s also nice to keep those things secret!

TB: After touring quite extensively with ‘Nothing’s Real’ and playing a mix of festival and headline shows, what would you say is the biggest thing you learnt about yourself as an artist? 

S: I learned a lot over the three years that we toured the first record. Firstly that practice really does make perfect. I wish I could watch a video of the first gig and the last gig of that tour. Often when you’re on the road the changes are so so incremental that it’s hard to be objective about how far you’ve come. 

I also grew to learn that sometimes the most powerful thing you can do on stage is to be still.

TB: You came to Australia for the first time at the end of 2016 for Falls Festival and some headline shows. Looking back at that whirlwind trip, what was your favourite memory of your time in Australia?

S: My favourite memory is the time my drummer Ally and I woke up at 5am because we were jet lagged and decided to go for a walk down by the beach. We were laughing because we must have looked like a couple taking a romantic stroll. We watched the sunrise over the ocean but unfortunately there were about 5 million flies buzzing around us. It was so bad I had to tie a sweater around my head to stop them flying into my ears *laughs*. 

TB: And I have to ask.. any plans for you to come back down under?

S: No plans as yet but I would LOVE to because last time I got the flu about 3 days before I left so had to hide in my hotel and the only food they could serve me was pizza.

 Also the 2 days off we had in Byron Bay it rained the entire time and it was supposed to be summer. So I feel like Australia owes me some good weather *laughs*.

TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind.

S: Okay!

TB: My pre show pump up song is… 

S: ‘Think Twice’ by Celine Dion, sung at the top of my lungs

TB: Pineapple on pizza is… 

S: One sure fire way of stopping me from stealing a slice

TB: The emoji that best describes my new single ‘Religion (U Can Lay Your Hands On Me)’ is…

S: The emoji with the smiling face and hands 

TB: When I think of Australia I think of… 

S: Golden Gaytimes

TB: My go to snack on tour is… 

S: Babybel and tiny tomatoes

‘Forevher’ is out on August 16 through Secretly Canadian/Inertia Music