[INTERVIEW] Grammy Award Winner, LaShawn “Big Shiz” Daniels Talks Debut EP

BIG Shiz interview
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“There’s nothing like being able to sit in a room and create something that will resonate with the world.” When our words seems to forsake us, music transcends every barrier to convey exactly what it is we are feeling. Credited for being the lyrical mastermind behind some of R&B and Pop’s greatest hits such as “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” by Whitney Houston, “The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy and Monica, “You Rock My World” by Michael Jackson, “Telephone” by Lady Gaga and “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child, Big Shiz is still one of music’s most sought after songwriters.

From the second you encounter Grammy winning songwriter LaShawn “Big Shiz” Daniels, you are met with an ebullient and self-effacing personality, paired with immediate laughter.

Big Shiz recently released “Again Love”, the first track from his highly anticipated EP, The Big Shiz Project. We had a chance to catch-up with the mogul and talk about his discovery of music, working with music’s biggest stars and of course, his latest project.

After exchanging pleasantries, our interview started off with an unusual yet hilarious twist.

Big Shiz: I have a question for you. I know you’re interviewing me, but I have a question for you.
La’Ronneica Maye: [hesitant laughter] Ok, what’s your question.

Big Shiz: Being that it’s Friday, what are you eating tonight? Where are you going for dinner? I get excited about food!
La’Ronneica Maye: See, now we can be best friends, because so do I. I’ve actually been craving mac and cheese all week, so that’s what I’m making.

Big Shiz: Ooooh?!
La’Ronneica Maye:  I don’t know if you are familiar with Darius Williams but he’s a chef and he’s been sharing videos of recipes from his cookbook on his social media. He’s been doing some remixes of some mac and cheeses so I wanted to try it.

Big Shiz:  Wooow. So basically you’re getting ready to have a good time?
La’Ronneica Maye:  Yeah, basically!

Big Shiz: I got to find me something now. I was going to White Castle, but I have to step it up now that you have all this gourmetness happening. (Yes, he made up a word)

Parlé Mag:  First thing first, congratulations on the premiere of your single, “Again Love”.
Big Shiz: Oh wow, I appreciate that. Now, do you like it?

Parlé Mag:  I do! I had a chance to listen to it last night…
Big Shiz: Are you telling me stories or you telling me the truth?

Parlé Mag:  I’m not telling you stories!
Big Shiz: There we go, now we’re getting somewhere!

Parlé Mag:  It’s beautifully written. But that’s obvious, because you are a Grammy winning songwriter.
Big Shiz: I just do what I go to do, that’s it.

Big Shiz Again Love
Parlé Mag:  
What was your inspiration behind the song?
Big Shiz: The inspiration behind “Again Love”, was really, really simple. The message isn’t deep, but I feel like it’s really effective. Through life we go through different things, and if you got any sense, you try to stay somewhat accountable to your spiritual walk. The devil will try to trip you up sometimes and when you get caught slipping he tries to question your love for God. It’s my belief from my experiences that lets me know, that no matter what I do, the Lord is always there to restore his love. It doesn’t matter if I’m on the right path or the wrong path, he’s there to restore his love again and again and again. Now, I also believe that you if you are slipping, you can’t be a repeat offender but we do serve a God of second chances. And he’s there to restore his love again and again.

Parlé Mag:  For sure. He’s full of second chances and continuously extends his grace. Why did you decide that this song in particular should be the first single from you EP?
Big Shiz: Wow. Again, I feel like in trying to keep ourselves accountable in this walk it’s the biggest message. It had to be first because as we get into the meat of the project, we discuss different concepts and things we go through. Before we add [those] conversations, it was important to know where we stood with Him. It’s important to know that no matter what, He is there to love us-no matter what. This was the message we needed to start off this project and set the tone of it. You’re getting ready to hear from a guy that’s not perfect. A guy that does have issues, just trying to live his best life like everyone else. I wanted that message to set the tone.

Parlé Mag:  I’m not sure what the rest of the project entails, but if that was the intent with releasing “Again Love”, that’s the tone that’s in place. What can we expect from The Big Shiz Project, any musical guest or collaborations? Or is this strictly a solo project?
Big Shiz: Well, I have one musical collaboration that I can speak of. That’s my good friend, PJ Morton. He’s the one that pushed us, like, “Yo, you gotta do this! I know you like doing label stuff and stuff for other artists, but this message has to come from you.” And so, with that, he put his thoughts to action and we were able to hop in the studio and do a phenomenal, phenomenal record. There will be a few more features. As this record has been going, a lot of my friends and some of my greatest colleagues wanted to be apart of it. It going crazy. It’s absolutely going crazy, so it’s going to be an exciting time!

Parlé Mag:  I can hardly wait. Do we have a release date yet?
Big Shiz: That’s another thing. We had a plan.

Parlé Mag:  [Laughing] Had a plan?
Big Shiz: Ok. [laughing] It’s all independent of course. This was the plan. We we’re gonna give them “Again Love” and two or three other songs.

Parlé Mag:  Right
Big Shiz: That was the plan. But, thank God that “Again Love” is responding well. It really is responding well. We do music, that’s what we do. So now, I’m like let’s give them the whole project at the end of the month! But with that, my friends are encouraging me to be patient and line things up correctly. Spotify has been a great partnership for us, and we’re making sure we are doing the right roll out. The music is ready. It’s go time!

Parlé Mag:  
Let’s backtrack for a second. When did you realize you had a talent for singing and songwriting?
Big Shiz: Well, I was born and raised in the church. [laughs] My father was a bishop. So in that, my brothers, sisters and I, we were the choir. We were the ushers. We were the cleaning committee, we took up the offering. We scraped the gum off the bottom of the pews. We did everything. At the time, I was young. I didn’t realize that it was a gift and a talent. I just had to do what my mother and father told me to do. I started at a very young age and it became a passion for me when I started realizing how I responded to different songs, how different songs make me feel. I would submerge myself into whatever song or album I was listening to at the time. That’s when I knew I had to be apart of it in some way. My mother and father raised me to sing and write and I was able to recognize that it was a gift and put it to good use.

Parlé Mag:  I can relate. [laughing] When your parents are Pastors and leaders in the church, it comes with the territory!
Big Shiz: [laughing] There’s not a child from that era that proclaimed when they got older, “Man, I ain’t never going to church!”

Parlé Mag:  For real! That’s so true. I had to be in the choir and everything. I can’t even carry a note, so I ask my Mom “Why? Why, did you make me do this?!”
Big Shiz: Well, the bible says make a joyful noise!

Parlé Mag:  It does, I just made noise though. [laughing] So, tell me how you got your start in the music industry and selling your songs to artist?
Big Shiz: Wow. I would say it was in the early 90s when one of my good friends, Rodney Jerkins wanted us to get together and do music. Actually, let me backtrack. When I met Rodney, I was with one of my lifelong friends, a singer by the name of Joe Thomas. We were involved in the same church association. Joe in an incredible, incredible singer. He initially went and got a record deal. When he got his record deal, we were like “Oh, we made it!” But, Joe was the one who spent time with me and nurtured the gift of writing songs and through that relationship, I met Rodney Jerkins. We were doing the song, “I Don’t Wanna Be A Playa No More” for Joe. After that, Rodney wanted me to come to California with him because he thought they we could kill it and make a difference. He started the company Dark Child Entertainment. I was a part of Dark Child Entertainment for the first leg of my career. We went to California, started with a few acts and labels. Then we met Brandy. From there it was the Never Say Never album which progressed to the Full Moon album. After that it was history, we just never looked back and we kept going from that point.

Parlé Mag:  Are you ever starstruck when a certain artist reaches out wanting to work with you? Do you ever have that “Oh, you want to work with me?” kind of moment?
Big Shiz: Let me tell you something. I’m always like that! With any artist, I’m like “Word? Ok, let’s get to it!” I think it has to do with my upbringing and how my dad was. I’m always so humble to be apart and involved with any of it. Whenever I get the call, from anybody I’m ready to get to it. That goes back to my passion for music. There’s nothing like being able to sit in a room and create something that will resonate with the world. That is incredible to me. I don’t take these opportunities lightly, so when I get the call, from anybody I’m always hyped.

Parlé Mag:  And you have to stay humble in life. When you stay humble, that’s how you’re able to reach the levels of success that you’ve been able to reach.
Big Shiz: Now you’re talking right! [laughing]

Parlé Mag:  [laughing] I was raised just a little bit right! I got crazy on my own, but I was raised right! Do you have a particular creative writing process? When artist reach out, do they just tell you the concept they’re going for or do you just write and figure it out from there?
Big Shiz: It varies in that process. I’m always more than happy to sit with an artist from start to finish and get their thoughts on what they think the project should be. And then there are other times when I get the call and it’s someone saying “Shiz! I need you to give me one of those joints! I need a banger!” [laughing] And I just do what I do, send it off and we meet up in the studio to record. When I first got started, I wanted things a certain way, but that puts a hold on you. Now, I welcome any situation to create. I consider a lot of things a challenge, even though it’s not any new challenges I’ve been faced with lately. I try to keep myself open to the artist. So, my process is making sure I’m comfortable in whatever way it has to be done.

Parlé Mag: Your first Grammy win was for “Say My Name”, right?
Big Shiz: Um, yeah? I think so. First of all, all my Grammys are at my mama house. [laughing]

Parlé Mag:  Yes, of course! [laughing] Where else would they be?
Big Shiz: Exactly. So, I see them every once in a while so I really don’t know which one was first because she got them. When I go to the house, I take a picture with one of them. But, I think, “Say My Name” was first. I think so.

Parlé Mag:  Do you remember what that moment felt like when you found out you won?
Big Shiz: Oh my God. What did that moment feel like? [laughs] Let me tell you something, I was just trying not to look like that idiot in the room. [laughing] I get caught looking like an idiot a lot, but when they called my name, or the category, I was concentrating on not looking like an idiot. It’s so many artist, so many executives, so many people, so we don’t want to be on stage screaming “YO! WE OUT HERE!” Of course, that’s how we feel but we are trying to keep ourselves composed. I didn’t know what was going to happen. When you win the Grammy, you don’t take it home with you that night and that was a huge disappointment to me. [laughs]

Parlé Mag:  Oh really? I didn’t know that!
Big Shiz: No, you don’t take them home that night. They give you a trophy and you go in the back to take pictures and all that type of stuff. And then they mail it to you. Now, it’s not a quick mailing process. It takes them two or three months to send your Grammy. My first time winning, I was going back and forth with the lady, telling her, “C’mon, you have all these other ones. Just let me take one home.” However, I was completely grateful, a little disappointed [laughs] and overwhelmed. It was just a rollercoaster of emotions.

Big Shiz
Parlé Mag:  
I can’t even imagine. With that in mind, what has been your proudest moment in your career?
Big Shiz: Wow. Wow. Let me tell you something, you’re a good one!

Parlé Mag:  Thank you, thank you.
Big Shiz: I’ve never been asked these questions. The proudest moment of my career, I think is when newer, notable and successful artist sample some of the work that I’ve done. When I came up, I came in the Bad Boy Era. Puff was sampling these joints and people were going CRAZY! So the newer generation at that time, had no idea that they were coming from prior records. They were just dancing and going crazy, but the prior artist were saying, “Oh wow, that’s great.” I think as a writer, one of my proudest moments are when I hear the newer artist that’s popping, great and respected, sample a song that I worked on. Then when they mention you on Instagram, it becomes “Wow! I didn’t even know y’all dug into credits like that.” Drake used the “Say My Name” hook on one of his records and since then he’s used four more, even with his latest project. The turnaround of music being appreciated in a way that somebody refers to something you’ve done and recognize you and respect it enough to figure out who you are-that’s really a proud moment. People would say to me, “I knew that was you when I heard this line, or that rip”; it’s crazy! But it’s a really, really proud moment for me. You feel like you’ve made a difference and set yourself aside in a world of singers and arrangements. I’m just always in awe and appreciative.

Parlé Mag:  That’s a good example of a proud moment. So, with you growing up in the church as being the leader singer, guitar player and all of that [laughing]
Big Shiz: Don’t forget the cook!

Parlé Mag:  Yes, and the cook. [laughs] And the baptizer-
Big Shiz: I had to baptize them and then mop up the water! [laughs]

Parlé Mag:  [laughing] For sure, for sure. With all of that background and being rooted in the church, is there a reason why you didn’t stick to writing and recording only Gospel music?
Big Shiz: Well it’s so crazy. I was a late bloomer to music because growing up we were not allowed to listen to secular music.

Parlé Mag:  Oh, no sir! Not at all…
Big Shiz: I was a late bloomer, at the age of 16 or 17 I came across my first records and it was such an overload of information. One record lead to the next record. One artist lead to the next artist. It was like being in a frenzy, trying to listen to this, or listen to that! The sounds for me, in that time, weren’t genre driven. It wasn’t R&B. It wasn’t Pop. It wasn’t Gospel. It was just the dopest music that I had found that made me feel good. As we started going and doing this, I feel like I have always kept a church sound. One song that I’ll use for example is on Brandy’s “Full Moon”album, a song called, “I Thought”. Have you listened to “I Thought” on the “Full Moon” album?! “I Thought” is a gospel quartet track with an urban sound from Rodney Jerkins. What’s crazy to me is that I have never played into genres. It just so happened that like the discovery of music, for me, the discovery of my talent came from working with different artist. We got calls from Kirk Franklin and Karen Clark but at the same time would be in the studio with Whitney or Michael. We just kept music going. I was just so excited to do music that the genres never crossed. Our standpoint, and position of favor, which Christ gave us allowed the records to be so successful like they were. It wasn’t a pinpoint of genre. Just like now, with The Big Shiz Project, I want to give a message of inspiration way more than I want to do Gospel music. That’s a weird type of question for me, I’m telling you, you’re really good.

Parlé Mag:  [laughing] Thank you. I have to ask the type of questions that keep interested, if all your interviewers ask the same questions, everybody will feel like they already know all about you.
Big Shiz: You learned that lesson. That is a lesson, you learned, you hear me? Cause you are leading the class.

Parlé Mag:  Thank you, I appreciate it. Anything else you want to share with us?
Big Shiz: I’m just happy that anybody wants to know anything. I want to share that I love everybody [laughs] and thank you, for sure! I’m blown away. Of course, people can follow me on Instagram and all that type of stuff to watch the foolishness and keep up with the stuff that we are doing.

Parlé Mag:  Foolishness is the proper word! Your social media is hilariously, entertaining.
Big Shiz: [laughs] You have to have a balance of foolishness.

Parlé Mag:  I hope you get something good to eat, soon, too.
Big Shiz: I won’t have any gourmet mac and cheese like you’re about to have but I will find something.

Parlé Mag:  Thank you again, for talking with me.
Big Shiz: Thank you so much for wanting to talk to me. And we’re here! If you forget something or you want to do something in the future, we’re here. If you see a piece of foolishness on the ‘Gram that I’m fooling with and you gotta talk about it, let’s get to it. I’m waiting on you.

Parlé Mag:  Let’s get to it, I’m always on go.

Congratulations on all the success from the release of “Again Love” the record and the video. And we’re all eagerly awaiting the release of The Big Shiz Project.

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Ronny Maye
LaRonnieca is a North Carolina native where she attended NC A&T State University. Aggie Pride! She's a former educator and currently resides in Florida with a focus on volunteerism and community service. Her writing career began several years ago with the launch of a blog and publishing a collection of poems on WattPad in addition to writing for several other online magazines. In her spare time, she enjoys travel, cooking and beaches.