Part of the fun of writing about
entertainment is that you get to discover exciting new talent before
they truly catch on. For example, in fall of 2008 when I did an
interview with a new and fairly unknown dance artist who had just
released her first single and album, who would have guessed that
just over two years later Lady Gaga would be arguably the biggest
pop star in the world?
A nineteen year-old British singer
named Shirin is in a similar early phase of her career – her first
single “Taking You Away” and her quirky, stylish videos have been
building a buzz – and the comparisons to Gaga (as well as Rhianna
and Amerie) have started on the internet.
“That’s a really big compliment,”
Shirin says on the phone from her home in Fareham Hampshire, UK.
“What Lady Gaga has done with electro music and really making that a
worldwide success has been a big inspiration to a lot of artists
The question is, can she become as
big as those inspirations?
Shirin laughs, “I would absolutely
endeavor to do that. That’s what I’m aspiring to. I would love to
be as successful as they are. I’m chasing success. Because being
successful is what makes you famous. That’s another compliment and
I hope that people that listen to my music just enjoy it and that
they buy it and continue to support me and hopefully I can get to
The young British singer only goes
by her first name, also like two of those other artists, as well as Madonna
and Cher and any number of other icons.
“It means ‘sweet,’” explains
Shirin. “It’s an Iranian name. I’m half Iranian.”
And though this seems like a weird
thing to say for a woman who is still in her teens, Shirin has been
in training for musical stardom since she was young.
come from a musical family,” Shirin says. “It’s been a part of my
upbringing. I’m the youngest of three and we all play instruments.
I played piano from the age of five. I was always going through my
parents’ Motown collection… People like Stevie Wonder and Natalie
Cole are what inspired me to become a vocalist. I listened to
trends of music going on around me more as a teenager, I think.
Definitely some UK artists. But, yeah, I definitely would have to
say it would go back to the soul music that inspired me to become a
She takes her soul roots and mixes
them with more modern dance beats to cook up a scrumptious
and funky musical
“I would describe my music as a
fusion of pop, dubstep, electro and R&B,” Shirin explains.
Her first sugar shot is the single
“Taking You Away,” a bouncy dance anthem which she put together on a
transcontinental trip to work with respected producer Marcus
“Bellringer” Bell (Gala, Shakti Thari).
“It’s one of the songs we wrote on
the first day of my trip in LA back in 2010,” Shirin recalls. “We
went out to do the track. But we went out to Los Angeles actually
to start recording the album. The track was a very natural
process. I basically had this vision that I want to do a song which
is all about a statement. People who have at a 9 to 5 job can put
on the track and just have this adventure for three minutes. The
response to the track we cut has been very positive. I’ve gotten so
much support – not only here in the UK, but worldwide. I’m extremely
proud of how well it has done. This has been a positive feedback.
I’m really glad that the people enjoy what we are doing.”
That’s just the beginning,
Shirin’s debut CD – which is still in the works – is planned to be a
piñata of beats and styles, but all from Shirin’s unique musical
point of view.
“I’ve got lots of tricks up my
sleeve,” Shirin says. “I’m constantly writing with my producer.
Obviously, I’m here in the UK, so we do sessions when he comes over
or I go to the States. We also do sessions online. I think the
sound that is going to be forming my album is something that hasn’t
been done before. We really have not referenced other people.
These songs are purely what we feel is good, when you write in the
morning and you just want to work on something. What I really want
to do with this album is change people’s perspective of music and
people’s perspective of what it can do for you. It’s not just there
to listen to. It’s there to inspire and to change you – in a good
way. So, I guess I want to say that there is a sound to come that
hasn’t been heard yet.”
The sound isn’t the only aspect to
the marketing of Shirin. She is also very involved in giving her
work a very visual flair as well. Shirin is also about the style.
think it’s completely important,” she says. “I’ve got a
photographic memory, so the visual side of things to my music is
[a huge part for me]…
for example, ‘Take Me Away,’ when I did the video for that, it was
my storyboard, the costumes that I put together and all the props.
I’d gone out and got everything myself. People thought I was crazy
when I was saying I want to be doing a scene where I’m lying in a
bath full of bubble gum. They were like, ‘Why? How is that going
to fit in?’ I said it’s going to fit in fine. It’s what I
envisioned. I definitely think it’s a way to translate what I do
into pictures and connect to people on a different level.”
The video, which let Shirin loose
in a sweetshop as well as that very colorful bathtub, captures the
fun and funky style of Shirin’s music… and Shirin herself.
Though she did learn one thing – it’s not easy to be buried in
Shirin laughs,“It was
funny, in such a good way. That scene we did at about six
o’clock in the morning. I had to lie in there for about two and a
half hours.” She laughs again. “I had to lie really still, with my
arms out above my head. I got really lightheaded and everybody was
like,‘Get her some sugar! Get her some
sugar!’ I’m like, I’m lying in a batch of sugar. I can eat some of
this. This will get me back together. But it was really good fun.
I loved it.”
Shirin has also started doing a
series of journals and makeup tutorials on YouTube. It’s just
another way to reach out to her fans.
“Social media, we’re in that place
now where it’s very different because of how the music industry is
changing,” Shirin says. “I’ll be asked many times when I’m doing a
performance like, ‘Oh, where did you get your shoes from?’ or ‘How
did you make that dress?’ or ‘How do you do your makeup?’ ‘How do
you do your hair?’ I thought, well, why not use this tool that I
have right in front of me to show people how to create a home
version of the looks that I’m doing. It’s affordable. Everyone can
do it. Everyone can enjoy it. I’m getting loads of feedback from
it, so there could be more tutorials coming up and lots of different
things in the next couple of weeks.”
She has also done some live
with her fans, recently even writing and recording a song online,
specifically for the fans.
“That was the song ‘The Other
Girl,’” Shirin explains. “Basically, Marcus, my producer, was over
and staying at my house back in early January. This was the first
song that we did on that trip. I have a studio in my house, it’s in
my garage. I do these ‘Sweet Talk Tuesdays’ every week – it’s
basically a UStream so I can connect with my fans. I thought it
would be really, really cool if we could do a live session where I’m
writing the track and he’s producing the track right in front of
their eyes. They can see that this is a talent that we have and
this is how it happens. A lot of people don’t know how it happens.
It was just fun, the feedback, and we were on for about 45
“The chat was going crazy. So we
thought let’s not be precious with this track, because people are
already hearing it on the UStream channel. Why don’t we just give
it away? So we finished the track that night and then sent it to
the marketing team and they just put it up. We had a really good
response to it and quite a few reviews as well. Again, everybody
really likes it. It’s just fun, because that was an experience
where for once my fans were a part of it as it was being created, so
I think they are more excited about that track than any other
way that she has been reaching out directly to fans is that she has
been doing a tour of schools in the UK, playing her music to
students and future fans.
“I absolutely love it,” Shirin
says. “I started it back in April of 2010. I’m still on the tour
at the moment. I did about 60 shows. It’s probably more than that,
I can’t quite remember. I’ve been traveling all over the
country. I’ve been to places that I hadn’t been to before and
meeting so many wonderful people. I guess I never really
realized that my music reached to such young audiences, because here
in the UK we start school at age four or five. So, I’m
performing to kids that age right up through to sixteen. Every
single one of them connects with it. Everyone, by the end of
the performance, feels energized and inspired by it.
“The whole message that I’m going
into the schools with is to really say when you leave school you
need to do something that you love. There’s no point in doing
something that you don’t want to get out of bed for in the morning.
This is my job and I worked really, really hard to do this, so I
want the same thing for you: whether it is music or it’s something
academic, you’ve just got to go for it. The response on it from
email has just been incredible. I love my fans so much and the fan
base is growing so much by doing the school tour. I actually love
it when I go out every week and travel. Although it can be tiring,
it’s so enjoyable.”
Of course she would also enjoy
crossing the pond and doing some shows in the US. And, with her
unique outlook to marketing her music, she isn’t looking
for the typical shed tour.
“We’re trying to set up some dates
and I’m going to be over,” Shirin says. “I’m not sure when that
will be yet. The other thing we’re trying to do is actually do them
within theme parks. I know they have the Six Flags parks in the
States. That’s one area that we’re trying to tap into, same as
we’re trying to do the theme parks over here in the UK. So, fingers
crossed we’ll get some dates and I shall let you know when we do.”
Fingers are also crossed on the
full-length CD release, which is in the works but still a bit up in
“I’ve got enough material for
about two albums at the moment, but obviously the way the industry
works, you can try and set a timeline for things, but it doesn’t
always work that way,” Shirin says. “So I’m just going to keep
writing and I’m working for other artists as well at the moment.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we keep getting the buzz on the
internet and more and more people pick up on it. I
appreciate the support
that I’ve gotten from you for spending the time talking today. And
just everybody [reading and listening] and
hoping that 2011 is the year that more and more
people hear my music.”
So, who are some of the other
artists she is writing for?
“Umm, I can’t name names at the
moment,” Shirin laughs. “I don’t want to jinx anything quite yet,
but we are doing quite a few placements at the moment.”
In the meantime, while she builds
towards the debut CD, she plans on periodically releasing singles to
keep the buzz going.
“At this point
that’s the way that is proving to be building my fanbase,” Shirin
says. “So I think maybe releasing some of my tunes [online] and as
free giveaways and songs for the fans as well. Keeping everyone
happy while I’m recording the album and the CD is released. I guess
that’s kind of awesome.”