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Shiv’s rich, warm, and timeless voice shines on her brand new EP, Me 2 Me, out today, complementing her playful lyricism and the subtle production on each song. We speak to her about her musical influences growing up, as well as her efforts to be authentic with the music she’s creating now.

That authenticity is undeniable on her latest project, suggesting an artist who’s self-assured and confident in her abilities, even if that’s not always how she feels. New listeners would be forgiven for believing they’re enjoying an album by a seasoned veteran rather than a rising star. If it’s this good at the beginning, then we can’t wait for what’s next.

We’re so looking forward to your new EP, which is why we’re excited to get to talk to you today. As an introduction though, can you let us know a little bit about your background? We know you were born in Zimbabwe and are now based in Paris, so how have those places shaped your sound?
Thank you for having me! I was born in Zimbabwe and moved to Ireland when I was about five, then I was brought up in a small town south-west of Dublin, then relocated to Dublin for college. Dublin, though small, is a city that is brimming with so many stories and its own colourful and unique culture, so it makes it easy to weave that inspiration into my work.
Paris gave me a very different feeling, and the beauty I found in every single corner made it so much easier to find the motivation to create something beautiful myself. I think, in a weird way, Dublin is my lyrics and Paris is my music. That’s the way I see it in my head anyway.
Having only decided to pursue music relatively recently, you’re still quite new to all this. What made you realise this was what you had to do? Did you ever have or need a plan B?
I think for a good while music was the plan B. I studied Psychology in college, and my plan was to venture into Educational Psychology until my sister’s wedding came around; I wrote her a song instead of a Maid of Honour speech, and after posting this on YouTube, it caught the attention of two Dublin-based managers who gave me the push I needed to start taking music seriously as a career path. The decision to be a full-time musician only really came once lockdown happened; I had been working as a waitress previously, and lockdown gave me the opportunity to put all of my energy into music.
You’ve spoken about how you’ve felt a lot of fear and anxiety around recording and releasing your new music. Where do you think this comes from? Have you now learned to allow this fear to drive you positively?
It’s a weird one. I wrote my first releases, Here, Golden, and Over in Mozambique last year, and I released them with no real expectations; I just loved them and wanted to share them. When they were well received, of course, that was amazing, but it also came with a huge amount of pressure to live up to them. I ended up fabricating a very strange intimidation towards my own past creations, and I built up a lot of anxiety and a feeling that I now had to prove myself as worthy in order to hold people’s attention. This meant I wasn’t creating anything authentic to me anymore, but rather creating what I thought people would like, and therefore doubted how good what I made was as I wasn’t sure I liked it myself.
Honestly, that fear does nothing to drive me positively, but I have learnt to get back to creating without thinking about other people. With a lot of self-reflection, I am now happy to release anything that feels good to me, because I know that is how I can maintain the level of authenticity I believe comes with good, honest art. This is the main theme explored throughout my EP, Me 2 Me.

It’s clear that this fear played a role on You and I, where beneath the surface of a love song, your personal struggles can also be revealed. What was it like writing and recording this song? Did you intend for it to be multifaceted in terms of the meaning behind it?
When I wrote this song, it felt very much like the love song it sounds like. It was only when I listened to my EP in its entirety, in a particular order, that the lyrics took on a very different meaning. I’ve come to learn that sometimes your subconscious comes up with ideas before your conscious mind is aware of them. This often comes out in songwriting because I try not to think too much about the lyrics and just put down what feels right.
You and I was the first song I had written by myself in a long time, and the lyrics just spilt out without me trying. Even though I loved You and I when I wrote it, I never really felt it until the lyrics shifted from meaning one thing to what they mean to me now.
You’ve also mentioned how you’ve learned that you have to allow creativity to come to you. Do you feel like you’ve had to be more patient with yourself since the beginning of the pandemic? What’s happened when you’ve had to force yourself to be creative in the past?
The pandemic played a huge role in making me realise that patience is vital in the creative process. Lockdown left me with vast amounts of time to create, but I often found that in a way this was all the more frustrating if I got down to creating and I didn’t like what I was doing, or I didn’t have anything in me to give. All I had ever wanted was time and space to create, and I was finally given what I wanted and I still couldn’t make something I liked.
I think the important thing is to apply patience to your failures. Being patient with making something bad is so necessary because that something bad could be the inspiration for the next amazing thing you make. I think it’s important to show up and try, but expecting greatness every single time is unrealistic, and makes you lose belief in yourself. If you set ridiculous standards (making something great every time you create) and fail to maintain them, then that only serves to make you feel worthless as an artist and give up. Keep trying, prepare to make some bad stuff, and the good stuff will come.
There’s a contemporary soulful and R&B feel to the music you’ve released so far, but you still manage to keep that enduring classic style with the piano and jazz influences as well, and with your voice being the main instrument. Where or when did your love for music start? What singers inspired you growing up?
My dad has always been a music fan, and he laid an extremely varied musical foundation for me and my siblings. We would switch from Zimbabwean music like Oliver Mtukudzi and Tomas Mapfumo, to classic house like Technotronic and Blackbox; then the harmony-heavy Bobby McFerrin and Sisters With Voices, and so much in between. Santana, Pink Floyd, Erykah Badu, Nina Simone… I could go on all day.
My mum used to teach my sister and me songs with harmonies and we would sing together, and she always encouraged us to sing and play music. I remember my sister and I riffing along to Destiny’s Child and Alicia Keys in front of the mirror. Having such a mixed musical palette growing up made me carry that over when I started creating music. I like different things from different genres so I just pick and choose the sounds I like and blend them together in my music.

Concerning your creative approach, how do you normally go about recording music? Are you just as involved with the writing and production of your songs, or do you find it more worthwhile collaborating with others?
So far, almost all of my music is self-recorded, produced and written. I have had the production tweaked on certain tracks with the help of some great producers, like Myfault and 1000 Beasts, and my current single was produced and co-written by Tev’n. I guess in these initial stages I wanted to be hands-on, so I could figure out what I liked and what felt like me. Going forward, I think a collaboration would be a great move, as collaborating brings out ideas that wouldn’t exist without another person’s input.
Speaking of collaborating, we’re keen to know if there are any artists you’d like to work with in future. We’re hearing elements of Lianne La Havas and Corinne Bailey Rae in some of your vocal arrangements and production, but is there anyone you have in mind who you think could complement your sound in terms of a duet or a feature?
I love Lianne La Havas and Corinne Bailey Rae, so that’s a huge compliment, thank you! There are a couple of collaborations in the works for 2021, which I’m really excited about. I would love to work with Cold Callers, a UK rap duo whose voices are like silk. Also, Tertia May has a really cool vibe.
Hold Me, your newest single, feels like a big musical hug in itself, and having your parents feature at the beginning of the track makes it all that more intimate and special. How much of this track was created for yourself, and how much was for your parents as a reminder that you’re thinking of them while you’re in separate countries?
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve listened to that song just to make me feel better when I’ve been missing my parents. Even though they’ve been living in Southern Africa for close to seven years now, it still doesn’t make it easier on those days when everything is overwhelming and a hug from them is all I need. That song was absolutely all for me; when I showed it to my parents they joked about how I’m still the baby of the family at 25, but I know that they love the song!

For me, one of the other highlights of Me 2 Me is your track Again with Nealo, with its playful lyrics and vocal layering that’s typical of the project as a whole. How did this track come to be? Speaking of vocal layering, did you see your voice as an instrument for producing the songs on the new EP?
I knew I wanted to make a kind of talk-singing song; I had been listening to a lot of Chlobocop and Biig Piig at the time. I found this really cool sample and knew it was perfect, and everything else just slotted into place. The whole story of the repetitive nature of life was something I had been thinking about a lot at the time, and the song just kind of wrote itself.
My voice was the instrument I started with, and the thing I have the most control over, so I wanted to be sure I always used it to the best of its abilities, otherwise to me it feels like a wasted resource. I love the added texture it brings, and the fact that it’s utterly unique because, of course, I’m the only one that has my voice, so it’s another way to make the songs more 'me'.
Your songs are deeply personal and sentimental, but we’re also interested to know how or if wider political issues affect your approach to making music. Do you ever use music as an avenue to explore the issues you care about, or do you prefer to keep that separate from your art?
I would absolutely like to explore that avenue, but I’m still trying to find a voice that feels authentic to me in that vein. I would never want to write something for the sake of writing it, and I want to maintain genuineness in anything I put out. So I hope I will be able to express myself about the issues I hold important.
You recently performed virtually for Ireland Music Week. To what extent did you feel like you had to adapt or change your performance style? Are you hoping to perform the new EP for a live audience at any point?
That was a really cool experience and I’m so glad I got to be part of it. It was definitely strange not to have an audience, and because there was no energy to bounce off it had a different feel to any live performances I’ve done previously, but it did let me get into the songs fully and relax into my performance a lot more.
Finally, how do you hope listeners will respond to the Me 2 Me? Your new music will probably be your main focus right now, but do you have plans to record a full album as well? 
I hope that people will be able to take something from the EP that makes them feel stronger. I think the main takeaway from the EP, for me anyway, is the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself, being gentle and careful with yourself and not allowing fear and anxiety get in the way of achieving what you want and getting what you deserve. I know songs will feel different to everyone, but I guess if even one song connects with someone, and makes them feel something, I would be happy. An album is definitely on the cards, hopefully for the end of 2021.

Words
Fraser Currie
Photos
Joshua Mulholland

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