Below is an interview with Universal Motown alum, Shontelle. Superlative1 wishes to thank Shontelle for graciously agreeing to the interview. Originally published April 12th, 2008.
“I’m here watching this picture on National Geographic.” Not the words you expect to hear coming out the mouth of a young singer, on the verge of her album launch, but such is the life of Shontelle Layne- the rising star.
A humid and bright Saturday afternoon, I called Shontelle to see how she was doing and to catch up on the latest happenings in her life. She began telling me about the show she was watching- it was a feature on the infamous 9/11 attacks, which shook the world back in 2001, describing in depth how moved she was by it and how she didn’t know how she would have reacted if she were in that situation. She now lives in New York, so there is always that fear in the back of your mind, the ‘What if…?’ I was pleased she agreed to do the interview without hesitation, and I was even more pleased when I was able to catch her on a lazy afternoon.
“Universal Motown Records was one of the labels I was looking at… there were a handful of them but definitely Universal.” Her voice noticeably lifted when talking about her distribution label, but there was a far more personal investment in the smaller label SRC Records, which crafted her sound and shopped her around to Universal Motown in the first place. The fact that ‘Akon’ was also under that same ‘imprint’ label- the term used to refer to the smaller labels which handle the actual production and artist development which the larger labels no longer do- seemed to please her greatly, apparently she’s a fan. It was at this time I remembered why I wanted to do a face-to-face interview instead of a telephone interview. My telephone beeped, I ignored it as she was mid-sentence talking about her youth, and how she could not see herself doing anything other than music.
“That’s why I went after that American Musical and Dramatic Academy scholarship because if you’re going to do something, you should learn to do it best.” I honestly never heard of the AMDA, so I researched it and discovered she actually won the scholarship, however while in New York, received a call from Evan Rogers from SRP- the man behind Rihanna’s discovery- and decided to take the opportunity that presented itself. What I also never realized was her aunt is Kim Derrick, a local entertainer and she mentioned it was being exposed to the live aspect of music and performing that really inspired her. She was also quick to say when she was younger she wanted to be like her aunty Kim. I was tempted to ask how she felt now that she’s surpassed her aunt, but I felt that question would be inappropriate so I moved on. Besides, my main focus was to find out about Shontelle the girl next door, not Shontelle the potential superstar.
What I found most intriguing was her revelation about her routine in New York- where she is currently based. She told me that she basically does what she was doing when our conversation began. I had to be sure that she really wanted to tell me all she does at the end of a long day is go home to her apartment and watch National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. There was no mistake. I had always imagined the life of a singer to be such a glamorous and exciting life. Fueling my apparent misconception is the recent spate of out-of-control celebrities all over the television, getting arrested, falling down drunk coming out of clubs and bars, and what ever else they get up to. However, Shontelle tells me that type of behaviour is not in keeping with her image or modus operandi.
“I used to party a lot when I was younger… I eventually realized that was a waste of money and I decided I needed to find ways to take the money I had and make it work for me, not simply throw it away.” At this point I was really beginning to see how she has matured in life and in the industry, though she is still yet to release her debut album.
Why I was particularly impressed with Shontelle is because I look up to people in entertainment. Entertainment in all forms inspires me, and entertainers are the most amazing people on the planet. Although it cannot be denied- the fact that a lot of them often mess up on such a phenomenal scale- one has to admit that many times, the amount of good that the majority of their peers does far overshadows the negative that a handful of irresponsible people do. What I also discovered is that Shontelle is quite socially aware and very committed to the (RED) campaign, which seeks to raise funds to stamp out HIV/AIDS in Africa. When I asked her if she had any final words to say to aspiring artists, she simply said, “Keep trying.” Very short but it carries a strong message for anyone who really wants to go after their dream, keep trying.