With influences from The Beatles and Carole King, Shayna Leigh is ready to take on the world with the release of her debut EP, Hey Shayna Leigh. Her EP tells the story of facing heartbreak and rising above it, but that’s not all she has to say. We sat down with this New York-based singer to peek into the little cracks and crevices of her life. BY HENA ARORA
Cliché: How long have you been involved in music? Do you have any influences?
Shayna Leigh: I’ve been singing for an incredibly long time. I started taking lessons when I was 10 years old… and I really haven’t stopped since. I dabbled in songwriting in high school, but struggled to find my own voice. It wasn’t until a few years later that I was able to acknowledge this nagging feeling that I had something to say to the world as an artist. That’s when I really started my life as a musician. I was lucky to grow up with very different musical influences. My dad loves the guitar and bottle-fed me to the soundtrack of The Beatles. He loves melody. My mom loves storytelling, like the Carole Kings and Carly Simons of the world. So between the two of them, I really did have a lesson in the greats. The first artists I fell in love with independently were Pat Benatar, Queen, and later Laura Nyro. They’re very different, but they each have this organically unique mastery of imbibing their work with drama and power. I was very much in awe of that. I like to hope I’ve been influenced by such incredible artists.
What has been the most exciting moment of your career thus far?
I would have to say the most exciting moment of my career thus far was probably releasing this EP, Hey Shayna Leigh. I had previously written and recorded other material that I decided not to release for one reason or another, so finally releasing this project felt like the culmination of years of work. I think when you create something, there’s an impulse to strive for perfection, an obviously impossible task, so my goal has become to create music that feels like a demonstration of what I believe, who I am, and most importantly, what I want to put out into the world at that moment in time. Hey Shayna Leigh makes me really proud because I feel like it does some of those things. I am also pretty excited to be heading out on tour with Sister Hazel! It is the biggest tour I’ve been a part of thus far, and they are just an incredible band playing these amazing venues.
What do you like most about your career, and what do you like the least?
The uncertainty is both the thing I like the most and like the least about my career. Uncertainty is stressful, to say the least, because there is really no way of knowing how this will all play out. Pursuing a career in the arts can feel a bit like a gamble, which makes the type-A planner in me crazy. At the same time, another word for uncertainty is ‘possibility,’ so anything is possible and I get to live that out on a daily basis. I love the idea that every day is different and full of unexpected surprises. I like the fact that I am constantly creatively challenged and inspired. I love that I design my life. Of course, I can’t forget what it feels like to physically sing. It is the thing I love most in the world, and learning how to fully use my voice as a singer and artist has been the greatest joy of my life so far.
What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Listen to your gut when making decisions. YOU know what is the right thing for you to do. Don’t waste your time figuring out if other people think you’re “good enough.” That’s wasted energy you could be using to get better at what you do. Work hard, but remember to live your life at the same time. No moment is career- or life-defining. Don’t make any opportunity feel too precious; instead, do your best all the time. And most importantly, be yourself. You are worthy of a career and a voice. Try to create work that you are proud of that says something you believe in. It will make the tougher times so much easier to get through.
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Shayna Leigh Interview: Photographed by ©Ben Helmer