|Next Project:||Shontelligence (Out Now)|
|Twitter:||Shontelle on Twitter|
Just a few years ago, the vast majority of American listeners would have been hard-pressed to name even one popular recording artist who hailed from the Island-nation of Barbados. This, of course, changed with the success of Saint Michael native Rihanna, who stepped onto the international stage with 2005’s Music of the Sun and went on to score five Billboard Hot 100 number one singles and sell over 11 million albums worldwide. Today, the time is ripe for another talented Bajan artist to achieve international acclaim, and by all appearances Shontelle is the woman for the job.
The 23-year old singer/songwriter released her debut studio album, Shontelligence, just last month, and the LP is shaping up to be a smashing success; with breakout hit “T-Shirt,” (as well as the record’s Dream-featuring remix) and successful second single “Battle Cry,” making waves in the States and overseas, the Saint James-born beauty looks more than ready to become the next Bajan sensation to take up residence in the hearts, minds, and iPods of listeners everywhere.
In an exclusive interview with our very own DJ “Z,” Shontelle steps into the DJ Booth to discuss her own personal fashion sense, how an education in entertainment law has prepared her to navigate the business side of the music industry, and how Rihanna’s success has emboldened a new generation of Bajan recording artists.
Listen to the Interview
Shontelle Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a singer/songwriter signed to SRC Records whose debut album is out in stores right now. Hailing from the beautiful island of Barbados, please welcome 23-year-old rising star Shontelle – how are you?
Shontelle: Hey, hey, hey!
DJ Booth: Thank you for joining me inside the DJ Booth.
Shontelle: No problem, Z. Big ups to DJBooth.
DJ Booth: I appreciate that. Now, several years ago, when you signed your label deal – so we’re thinking back for a second – what did you imagine that this day, release day, would be like?
Shontelle: Oh, my gosh. You know what? It’s so hard to even imagine what it is, because you see so many different things. I pay a lot of attention to other musicians and artists, obviously, sometimes you see it’s a big deal where they’re on every morning show, and then they’re at Virgin Megastore doing signings and stuff like that, and there’s all that kind of excitement, but then you see other artists and they just do a lot of radio that day, or travel to different markets to promote the album. So I never really knew what to expect, I just knew it was going to be really exciting, which it is for me right now.
DJ Booth: So would you say, then, from the time you woke up this morning until you called my studio right now, this day has lived up to your expectations?
Shontelle: Oh, my gosh, I haven’t even had time, really. Last night was all the action for me; we called it “Shontelle’s Mad Tea Party,” it was presented by Hanes, it was a big party, and I performed, and we basically celebrated my album release last night.
DJ Booth: A tea party sponsored by an underwear company – where was my invitation?
Shontelle: [laughs] They make more than underwear! “Curl up in a ball with something Hanes,” that’s what I say in the song.
DJ Booth: Well, Hanes makes sense because, as we all know, “T-Shirt” is your hot, successful single right now, and it has allowed Shontelle-
Shontelle: That’s a Hanes T-shirt I’m wearin’ in the video!
DJ Booth: Gotta get the plugs in, of course! It has allowed Shontelle to become a household name. Does that bug you out when I put those two together, “Shontelle,” and “household name?”
Shontelle: Yeah, it does bug me out, it freaks me out all the time. It freaks me out when I’m going someplace, and someone goes, “Wait a minute, Shontelle? Is that Shontelle?!” I’m like, “Oh my God…” I have to pinch myself, like, “Is this real?”
DJ Booth: It is. You don’t have to pinch yourself, just ask me. It is one hundred percent real. When it comes to household names, there are not many bigger than Beyoncé, and her album is out in stores right now. Were you and your camp at all hesitant about dropping your debut the same day as Ms. Knowles?
Shontelle: Nah. We had put our date out there before we knew hers, and then her people came out and announced that her date was the same, and we were like, “Okay, cool.” We just decided, “Hey, let’s look at it this way: we’re rollin’ with the big guns.” You know, B’s singles are incredible, her album I’m sure is gonna be fantastic. And then, people like David Cook, his album’s also out today. People are either going to like music or not. It’s not just about the day that it’s released; your album’s gonna be selling for the next week and the week after that. We don’t get scared about stuff like that.
DJ Booth: I absolutely agree with you. Let the music speak for itself; who cares who else is dropping, as long as what you’ve got is good…
DJ Booth: I mentioned “T-Shirt” a second ago, and I’d like to further talk about it. To me, nothing is sexier than when a female wears one of my shirts when I come over to her place. I don’t feel like a woman needs to always get dolled up and cake on the makeup when I come over – it’s just a turn-off sometimes. So, we already know what you wear when you’re without your man, thinking about your man; what do you like to wear, though, when you are in his company?
Shontelle: It depends on where you are, but if I’m with a significant other or something, just home, chillin’, I’ll wear their T-shirt at home. If I’m going out, I like to step it up so whoever the dude is can say, “Yeah, my girl really cares what she looks like,” and I’ll put on the heels and the little dresses. My favorite thing to wear is a little dress, cocktail dresses and heels, and I love skinny jeans and heels.
DJ Booth: So your fashion selection runs the gamut; you could basically just go with anything.
Shontelle: Yeah, why not? [laughs]
DJ Booth: Do you think, at this point in your career, you’re ready to make a fashion statement, and potentially make women across the United States understand that they can still look sexy and go out to the club in just a T-shirt, or is that not gonna work?
Shontelle: Yeah! I do that – there are times when I’ll put on a little T-shirt and a pair of skinny jeans, and it’s all about how you accessorize it. You can be sexy in anything. It’s not really about the clothes, it’s how you carry them. There’s been so many times when I walked into a place and everyone was all dressed up, and I didn’t feel out-of-place just ‘cause I had on jeans or whatever, ‘cause I was like, “I’m fly!” [laughs] So it’s all about how you carry it – that’s what really sells what you’re wearing.
DJ Booth: I agree. If Shontelligence was a class that students could enroll in at their local university or college, what would the curriculum consist of? Let’s say you’re teacher.
Shontelle: The curriculum would consist of definitely music, for sure. You would have to do some math – I mean, you can’t help that. There would definitely be some surfing classes in there, hangin’ out on the beach classes. It would kind of just be a class on life.
DJ Booth: Hey, that’s what classes should be about. And, after all, knowledge is power. Speaking of which, you went to school, and you are an aspiring lawyer. You pursued a degree in entertainment law; how has that helped you get to the point you’re at today?
Shontelle: It’s been incredible. First of all, the amount of studying that you have to do is crazy. That really prepares you for anything. But on top of that, the knowledge, what you learn when you’re studying law – and I also studied philosophy – you learn a lot, in terms of entertainment law, about the industry. For me, things that are important are copyright and intellectual property, because, if I’m gonna be a songwriter, or I’m gonna have publishing, it’s real important to know that stuff. You get to learn about contracts, and when you’re in the business the contracts come your way left, right, and center; almost every day there’s some form of contract that falls into your lap. If you don’t understand the language of contracts, all the fine print and the weird things that can go on, you can get caught in a weird place, so it’s definitely been helpful learning certain things, ‘cause now I can spot things and go, “O-ho, really?”
DJ Booth: [laughs] “You’re not gonna take advantage of me today – I don’t think so!” I know what you mean. When you were growing up, who were you told, in school, is the most famous person to hail from Barbados?
Shontelle: Barbados is a big cricket country; cricket is our national sport – you know, the cricket superstars on the West Indies team. Like this guy named Sir Garfield Sobers, he’s a legend in the cricket world. Then there’s also Nicholas Branker, who’s a Grammy award-winning jazz musician and producer from Barbados. He’s really incredible, very talented, so he’s a big deal in Barbados. I mean, I could go on… You know Rupee? Rupee came out real big.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Do you think that if your new album is a worldwide smash success, that the island would consider allowing all of its residents to take off November 18th of every year from here on out?
Shontelle: [laughs] I don’t know, man! I haven’t seen them do it for Rihanna yet, so I don’t know. I would have to sell like two million. But Barbados will do things; like, for Rihanna they had a big tribute. The whole day was Rihanna Day, and they made her an ambassador and gave her diplomatic status and all this good stuff.
DJ Booth: It’s been well-documented that you and Rihanna go way back. I’ve read in several interviews how proud you are of each other, and the success that she has seen up to this point. Shontelle, deep down inside, is there any frustration at all, because she’s been able to accomplish so much, and you’re really just beginning your journey?
Shontelle: No, there’s no frustration at all, it’s just so much excitement. And it’s not even just me, it’s other artists from Barbados, too. Two other artists from Barbados just recently signed record deals: Livvi Frank just signed to Jive Records, and Hal Linton is also my labelmate on Universal Records. It’s this whole buzz, where all the artists are so excited, now that we know that we have a chance. Everyone’s so proud of Rihanna and everyone looks up to her, and when I was watching her do her thing, I was living vicariously through her, because we’re from the same camp. So I’ll be asking her a lot of questions, like, “Tell me what it’s like, tell me about the schedule, tell me about what life is like now.” And just hearing all the stories, I get so excited to be like, “Now I want to go out and do that, too!” The only frustration, really, has nothing to do with that; the only frustration is more like anxiety. You’re like, “Is this really gonna pop off?” And I know I put in so much work. I really hope that people feel it. It’s sort of like an emotional rollercoaster.
DJ Booth: Well, you can take the anxiety and throw it out the door, because the new album, of course, is in stores now, so anything that led up to that point is not a concern any longer. Why, Shontelle, should everybody go out and pick up 10 copies of the new album as soon as they’re done listening to our interview?
Shontelle: You should go pick up 10 or more copies of Shontelligence, ‘cause I’m guaranteeing you, it is fresh, you have not heard anything like this before, and it’s very edgy. Hey, CDs are not that expensive when compared to everything else. Times are bad. Go buy Shontelligence for everyone in your family. It’s a feel-good album, it really is.
DJ Booth: Well, from everything I’ve heard thus far, I am super impressed. I can’t wait to finish listening to my own copy. Shontelle, give everyone a website or a MySpace page, something so they can find out more about you and the new release.
Shontelle: Guys in the DJ Booth, if you’re listening and you want to check out more from me, Shontelle, you can go to myspace.com/shontelle, or my website is shontellemusic.com. And then I also have a really cool YouTube channel, youtube.com/shontellemusic.
DJ Booth: Listen: I wish you nothing but the best of luck, and again, I thank you so much for taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth.
Shontelle: Thank you, Z. It’s been my pleasure.