Interview with Shontelle, the Caribbean Diva
“I wrote it from the heart….” echoes in my mind as I reflect on chatting with Shontelle. The 23-year-old Bajan singer is full of life, full of creativity, and above all passionate about her craft. Courted by every executive imaginable, strategy more than anything is what she applied to the decision of which label to let house her project. When it was all said and done, music mogul Steve Rifkin was the choice, along with the Motown/Universal umbrella. You can never go wrong with legends, and that is what Shontelle wants to be. There’s an honesty about her, about her music along with a drive and a willingness to be calculated.
On the heels of highly touted single, “Impossible,” Shontelle is back with another offering, “Say Hello To Goodbye,” an ode to acceptance. In a world of over saturation, it is becoming increasingly hard to believe that there are still those who embody the word authentic. Well let us help you with that as we present to you the chance to know an artist who is just that. So Parlé with us, as we bring to you… Shontelle.
Parlé Magazine: At what age did you realize your musical talents?
Shontelle: It took a long time for me to realize the so-called talent, if you would. It was always something I did for fun. I would re-write little jingles and nursery rhymes, or the hook to Sesame Street as I child. At school the cheerleaders would ask me to write things for them as well. It wasn’t until professionals, people in the industry started asking me to write for them that I took it serious and thought of it as a talent.
Parlé: Your aunt is one of your biggest musical influences correct? How has she impacted your decision to follow your dreams?
Shontelle: Yes, my aunt is Kim Derrick, a very popular artist from Barbados. I grew up watching her and always wanted to emulate. Everything from watching her record, perform, rehearse, the works. I knew it was something I wanted to do. As far as impact she always gave me the advice that I should do what makes me happy and not listen to the non believers. She said I cant go on being unhappy as a result of not pursuing music. While others tried to get me to go other routes she inspired me to be true to my heart.
Parlé: At one point you wanted to be an entertainment lawyer correct, How did legal studies fuel your creativity?
Shontelle: Yes, entertainment law was always a plan B. I figured with this dream you never know so I wanted to be prepared if it didn’t happen, and entertainment law seemed like an opportunity to still be around music and involved in the industry on the business end. Maybe some artist management and things like that. Being in school fueled my creativity because I got a chance to meet so many different people, with different cultures, and listen to all types of music. College helped me blossom, it opened my eyes as I got access to so many elements of culture and different types of music. I grew as an artist.
Parlé: How did you finally decide that music was the way to go?
Shontelle: At that moment I knew it was time to really pursuit this dream and as I say “just go’ The naysayers were going to be proven wrong. It was right before graduation. I went from being in a classroom, to on a flight to LA; at that moment I knew it was meant to be.
Parlé: You are quoted as saying that the process to getting signed was the “defining moment of your life” why is that?
Shontelle: The defining moment….(pause) It definitely was a defining moment because for so long it was just a dream. As I flew around the country from meeting to meeting, I found myself at record labels, the same places that housed artists that I grew up idolizing. As a kid, you always think that artists live at the record label, its their home. I was in awe of the behind the scenes world, and meeting persons who are responsible for careers. I would say to myself “what are you doing here? Im meeting people like Jimmy Iovine, and Steve Rifkin.” It was unreal.
Parlé: Why Universal and SRC?
Shontelle: I had a lot of meetings and out of all of them Steve Rifkin was the most passionate about working with me. He was like “I wanna call my lawyer and have the contract over today” and I’m thinking that I still have to weigh my options. I always wanted to be strategic about who I sign with and I started thinking that this is the person who brought us Wu- Tang, are you serious. So when it was all said and done there were 2 reasons, personal and strategy. I wanted to be the only girl you know, didn’t want to worry about signing to a label and getting shelved or having to worry about them focusing on another act. SRC presented that, and secondly Steve Rifkin was really confident in the direction that I am going with my music and his interest in being apart of it. I remember saying to myself “Im gonna be apart of Motown, the legendary label that is responsible for artists that I grew up listening to because of my parents. it was a dream come true and I can say so far, so good.
Parlé: There’s a funny story about Cadet’s camp with you and another songstress-whats that about?
Shontelle: (Laughs) Everybody asks about that. We should actually do a video re-enacting that right, so everybody can see it…..lol…..but really we had a lot of fun growing up in Barbados, Cadet camp and all that. One particular summer I was the drill sergeant. Rihanna, the glamorous one that she is was late one day to the parade square, guess she wanted to make sure her lip gloss was poppin’. I guess I made her like do some laps or some push-ups that day. But trust me I did my fair share of push ups in the Cadets as well. It was all apart of growing up.
Parlé: The new single “Say Hello to Goodbye,” why that title?
Shontelle: The song “Hello to Goodbye” was a real personal song, and when I wrote it I was writing from the heart. At the time I was literally going through a break-up and wanted to write about it. “Hello to Goodbye” is what came out. Its about the end of the road and accepting when something is over. That’s real life. I was in a great place when i wrote that song–Sweden. In the winter I think you get about 6 hours of sunlight if your lucky, so it was just a real gloomy dark place and i wrote from there.
Parlé: Whats up next for Shontelle?
Shontelle: Right now I’m on the promo tour for the single “Hello to Goodbye.” Its Top 40 right now. Hopefully it will stay that way and maybe do just as well or better than “Impossible.” I’m doing a lot of features and work with some artists that you all know and love so STAY TUNED. I’m working, recording, writing. Im blessed to have 2 songs on the radio, this one and Rihanna’s “Man Down.” I’m also involved with the Earth Mover movement, as well as into clothes working with Caterpillar, you remember them from the boots. Now they have expanded to clothes and women’s footwear. So when you see my with some hot boots they might be Cat, the new women’s line by Caterpillar. Check out the last two commercials we just did they’re online. Overall, Im just working hard.
Images by Donald Lee for Parlé Magazine