Shyvonne

Photos by Ray Kairos

Today, February 2nd, 2010, marks the release of Kingdom’sMindreader” on Fool’s Gold Records. Dance blogs will be abuzz with word on the Brooklyn based producer. If you’re paying attention though, you will questions the origins of the big bad voice carrying the track.

That voice belongs to none other than Harlem-based singer/songwriter Shyvonne. A workhorse with a kung-fu grip on the balls of her destiny, Ms. Shyvonne is on an indomitable quest to capture some space on your iPod.

I caught up with Shyvonne, to hear more from the singer. Afterall, would you have enjoyed the track as just an instrumental? Didn’t think so.

So Mindreader is your first distributed single, how did you come about working with Kingdom?
Mindreader was a long road, a friend of mine, was like there’s this producer Kingdom, hit him up. So for months we talked back and forth; never met each other. When we finally met up, we worked on a song, I was like eh its ok, it was nothing special. He left for London to do something, and when he came back, he was like “Yo, the grime and club scene out there is crazy! I’ve gotten so many ideas and I’m working on a track.” I never really listened to it, until I went to his house to work on it. He had a party called Vortex in Williamsburg, and the DJ from London that he had met with was with him, and he was like I really want you to perform, let’s work on this song and see what comes out of it, and maybe you can perform it at the (Vortex) show. This was still new to me, so I was extra hyped. Keep in mind this was on a Saturday, and the show was on Wednesday, so no pressure (chuckles). I wrote the song, had to remember all the words, and I finished it in time for the party, performed it, everyone really liked it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

How did you hook up with Fool’s Gold?
It was actually all Kingdom, after we recorded he started playing it for djs, then started pitching it to people. Acaphele is a small indie label out of Canada, known for doing club music. They picked it up doing 500 vinyls limited edition and then Fool’s Gold picked it up for the digital worldwide release. That goes to Kingdom, he made it happened. It was really exciting!

How was it hearing it at clubs?
When we finally got the final version of the song, I started sending it to a couple of DJs I knew in New York, and it was so weird because I would go to a party, and I would hear it, and it was like “Oh My God!” Instead of dancing I would start looking around like are they dancing. I mean it’s not like (Kid Cudi’s) “Day and Nite,” it’s not on the radio, but to have a song that people actually know, is such a good feeling.

When did you realize your calling was music?
I’ve always loved to sing, I’ve been singing since I was 5, in the house, and then I started singing public in musicals at like 11, and I was in love with it, but it wasn’t until after college that I realized that I just wanted to sing, when I started singing back up. That was the first time I got paid for it, and I thought, this could be my job.

You were singing back up for Estelle. Tell me more about that.
I graduated from Towson University, and I was working at Q models at the time, and a friend of mine was going to an audition, and hit me last-minute to come because it was open. I begged my boss, and he let me go, because he would always make me sing every friday at 5 o’clock. It was all the way in Brooklyn, so by the time I got there, they said it was closed, but I was like “Please, please, please let me sing!!!”  I got a call back on the spot and I got it. This was to be a part of Estelle’s american band, she was signed, but this was before the madness of “American Boy.” We were supposed to be opening up for Amy Winehouse on her US tour, but you know Amy has some problems with her “extracurricular activities,” so her tour got cancelled. So it was a lot of rehearsal, everyday from noon to 10pm. After that we just did some stuff for the label. The time I was with her was only a couple months, but I definitely learnt a lot from it. I think when you’re used to singing by yourself you’re used to singing to what you’re comfortable with. I have a low speaking voice, and as you can tell I’m a little raspy (giggles). So I had a range that I never knew what it fully was until I started singing backup. It was just me and another guy that would perform with her, there was no alto, or soprano, so I had to be a filler There would be notes that the director would be like sing that, and it wasn’t until I opened my mouth and tried it, that I was like “Hey, I could probably do a lot more with my voice.”

When did you decide to go at it full-time?
In my junior year in college, I started interning in entertainment, mainly because I really like working with people, but also I really wanted to pursue music, so I got to see what the business was really about. When I started singing for Estelle, and the tour got dropped, my old boss at Def Jam said I could come back to freelance for her. So I was back and forth between the two, so when I left it became really hard to go from being onstage to being back behind the scenes again. After a while I went from Def Jam to Bad Boy, and you know, It depends on where your head is at. If Bad Boy was my first gig out of college, then I would have been like “Wow! Puff, parties, Ciroc!” It would have been the coolest thing in the world. I mean it was still cool, but mentally I was already over it. I had already been in it, I mean I’m still young, but I’d had enough jobs in entertainment that I was sick of clubs, and parties, so it was a mix between that and my heart not being in it 100%. There was so much that I wanted to do, but I couldn’t do it because I was working so much. There were days I would go in at 9:00am and not leave until 3: 00 am; I missed rehearsals, I missed shows, I missed opportunities. It just got to the point that I was like I’m not getting any younger, so it’s either that I have to try now 100% and see what happens, and I’m going to come back to the other side if I have to, or just stay on the other side and keep doing it half assed. That’s when I started making it full time.

What don’t people know about you that you would like them to know?
I really want to make sure, I’m not boxed in as some 90’s house singer, my hairs colored blah blah blah, those are aspects of me, but there’s a lot more to it than that. I’m not some naïve random girl, from New York trying to figure it out. Its taking a little bit of time but I’m confident in myself and in my music.

You write your own songs. What inspires your lyrics?
I write about what’s on my mind, how I feel, things that have happened in my life or things that I hope would occur. Or at other times I write about others. I’m a people watcher, all peeping tom aside (chuckles); one of my favorite places to write is on the train or outdoors somewhere. There’s so many people and each with a story that we can all possibly relate to. And that’s the beauty of writing your own music. It’s your words, your story to share with your own voice; writing is therapy and my songs help me through it all, and I hope it’ll do the same for someone else as well.

Site some of your influences?
That’s always a hard question, I love old Lauryn Hill, hiphop, Pharcyde,Tribe, loved older Kelis, Pink, Linda Perry. I just like substance, if you can make me dance really hard, or you can make me cry, anything in between is just eh.

You’re stepping out of the House scene, in what direction is your sound going?
I love it all, but I never want to perform anything that I don’t listen to. Right now, I would call my sound rock&souleclectro. Rock because I can rock, soul because of my voice and electro because of the house music. I’m confident that I can tap into whatever, I’m doing shows at basement parties in London, I’m doing shows with a live band, doing acoustic shows, I don’t want to be limited to one type of music.

So when can expect an album?
Ahhh ( chuckles) well the EP is set for March, might be April, but definitely early spring. I just want to make sure it’s all together, before I put it out there. You only get one chance for a first impression, regardless of the song being out, that’s the first impression of that side, not of me as a creator.

On the mixtape I featured “Flaws” produced by Precize (producer for Mickey Factz and Jade). Can you tell me about that experience?
Precize is an amazing producer, he just doesn’t realize it yet. We were actually roommates for a couple years. He does a lot of side projects outside of this whole new york scene, and he’s young, he’s really talented, it worked out that we lived together, so i didn’t have to go through the politics MySpace or email (laughs) we were at home one day and we started writing together. We didn’t have hook but the beat is so raw, that it didn’t need too much, so we just went with “You don’t have to love me.”

What has been your favorite city to perform in?
Everywhere I go makes me love NY more. In NY, I have a lot of amazing friends, when I go to a show, all my friends will know the songs. It’s an entirely different feeling when you go to another city, and people are singing along. Their not just your friends; they dead ass like you. Performing in London, was one of my best experiences so far, because that was a whole other country, we were all different, with different accents, from different places, but music broke that barrier. It’s only been a little over a year, I never thought I would be doing it that soon.

One thing I’ve noticed is your sense of style. You always wear extravagant outfits.
My parents were really strict growing up. It wasn’t until college that the transition began, because I had freedom to do what I wanted, and I was excited to be living on my own. It started out by dyeing my hair. Once I got that first hair color it was so hard to go back to black hair, sounds crazy, but its like an addiction. I also get bored very easily so changing my hair is something I do often. I like a lot of bright clothes, I’m not a name brand person, but it worked out that I ended up getting linked to Gucci last year, so they give me clothes (my jaw drops). I take anything if it has sequins on it. It’s on consignment so it’s for shows and shoots. I go through a lot of transitions, I don’t go with labels in New York. I’m not a downtown kid. I like sneakers but I’m not strictly a sneaker head. I went through a phase where you could not find me in a skirt, but now people see pictures and are like you’re wearing a tight dress, what is going on? As I grew up and got more comfortable with myself, I was like hey, maybe I will wear a tight dress.

What has been your the biggest obstacle?
I think everything is an obstacles, but its all worth it. Every industry has their ups and down, but the entertainment industry is so crooked, like its beyond politics, beyond relationships, everything about you gets pointed out. It’s like writing in your diary everyday, and reading it on stage, and people telling you, if you’re good or not. Its my story regardless. I think it took a while for me to get used to, like actually opening up and expressing exactly how I feel, and not worrying if they clap at the end or look at me like what the hell are you talking about. As for the business side of it, having been on the other side, it helped me with knowing how to approach people, how to pitch to people. I know everyone wants a co-sign people don’t want to work with an artist, unless they know who’s speaking for you. Another obstacle comes with being a woman, and having to represent myself, I’ve lucked out, I really can’t complain with the shows and opportunities I’ve had. Its worked out through friends and through relationships, or people I’ve met that’s what brought me here.

There’s been a shift in the way things are done in music, like you can almost bypass the music industry and be successful. Does that make you feel more confident about your career?
Right now, there is no such thing as a normal music industry, anymore. Technology has changed the game so much, you don’t know what to expect. These aren’t the days that you can sing on a bus and expect to get a record deal, there is no artist development you need to come as a full package, that has a good and a downside to it. You have to be prepared, have a press kit, an EPK, you have to have a look, everything that they usually do for you, you have to bring it to them and maybe they’ll put the money behind you, that’s the only thing they do now. The motivating thing is you see everyone around you blowing up, and you’re like “I want to blow up too!” It’s like if you are, then we can, and it’s not that far a reach. Overall, I’m not at the point where I’m ready to stop yet. Its only been a year, I’m paying my bills somehow. I’m doing shows, and I’m doing it on my own, the fact that I can do it on my own, makes me that much more confident. When I do have a team and do get a co-sign, it’ll make it that much better. I’m confident that it’ll happen, don’t know when yet, (laughs) but I know it will.

The last couple of years has seen a swarm of new talent, who among your peer group would you like to work with?
There’s a lot of great people that I know, and that I don’t know, that I would really love to work with, I’ve always been a big fan of Theophilus London, I’ve sung with him before, I hope to work on original stuff with him, Bridget Kelly, she’s dope and doing very well. I want to work with J. Cole is a dope rapper, I heard about him through people (ahem), and I saw him perform but when I heard that mixtape, and “Dreams” is still on repeat ’til this day. Melo-X produced “Second Chances,” he’s touring with Kid Sister right now, but I’d like to continue working with him. Love Jade, she’s a great artist. Outside of this whole thing I love a lot of british artists. I’m looking forward to working with a lot of different people.

Any last words?
Life is short and try to make the most out of everything. I don’t have a kid or a husband, other than rent, I’m not at the point where I can’t do it. So until I get to that point, and there’s nothing holding me back, I’m giving it 100% until it happens. I had a lot of fun working on the song, and I hope people are ready to listen.

If you’re in New York City tonight, check her out at the Local 269
269 E. Houston Street @7pm

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3 Responses to “Shyvonne”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Hawttttness! Someone should sign this girl!

  2. Mike Says:

    Damn shawty is fine…forget her music I just wanna holla.

  3. Nina Says:

    She has a really cool sound and a good sense of style! Kinda reminds me of a more polished Kelis…bought her song on itunes and playing it out!

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