Shay Lia is a French-Dijboutain independent creator, now residing in Montreal from where she expresses her views on identity, reprogramming the mind and the magic of music through her Afrobeats and R&B harmonies. Lia released her new EP titled Solaris, and is working on a new version of remixed songs which explores the many facets of her upbringing and curiosities in life.
From the age of 3, she knew her musical affinity was just the beginning. Her East African heritage and French roots have been intrinsic to her identity that shines through her percussion-soaked mixture of neo RnB, introspective lyricism and groovy island instrumentals.

After receiving her degree in Sociology and Communications, she decided to venture into other routes and trails of life, ultimately bringing her music career to fruition not that long ago. Her breathy gusts of sensual, soulful, and warm ambience allow her tunes to be endlessly playable. Lia’s pure and poetic melodies have brought her to many notable opportunities, collaborating alongside names like Kaytranada, Nigerian star Adekunle Gold and soulful Dutch singer Leven Kali. Her latest single with Michael Brun titled Baby Who, is just a taste of what Shay Lia can do.
Could you tell us a little about who Shay Lia is?
I’m an independent singer-songwriter based in Montreal, but I was born in France and raised in Djibouti in East Africa. I’ve released two projects so far; my first EP Dangerous which was very soulful and funky, and my new EP Solaris that is more Afrobeats/RnB. I love to dance and create visuals.
How did you experience music when you were young?
My first memory of music was at 5 years old. I remember dancing in the living room with my mom to Together Again by Janet Jackson. I was obsessed with her and the music video was set in Africa. Growing up my parents influenced my taste in music a lot and they introduced me to a lot of American music. It was really at around 14 years old that I started being more active in my passion for music, I would spend hours on YouTube searching for interviews, archives, performances and letting myself get lost in the algorithms to discover more artists.
Growing up in Djibouti made it difficult for me to really have any access to the entertainment business, we didn’t have any concerts there so I would feed my passion using YouTube
You graduated and then decided to choose for the music industry. What would you say this transition meant to you?
It was very natural to transition from my studies to this career choice because I had written songs before and I had amazing feedback and accolades for my songs. I had written a song called Leave Me Alone that became very popular and got me to perform at Coachella alongside Kaytranada. I was collaborating with many incredible and accomplished producers which made me practise my songwriting and focus on my vision over time, while also focusing on graduating college.
How would you describe contemporary RnB?
I find it nearly impossible to describe sounds with words. Music is in constant evolution and artists are constantly mixing sounds and genres together. I would say that contemporary RnB represents all the new wave. New RnB sounds are still indescribable and hard to identify, it doesn’t fit in any other category so we call it contemporary. All I can say is that this genre is shining more than ever as artists have found such freedom in it, it’s beautiful!
You mention that dancing is like an extension of who you are. How has it influenced the relationship you have with yourself and your spirit?
It is so powerful for me, I get to connect with my body. The body doesn’t lie and the way you move it tells a lot about who you are and how you feel. There’s also something incredibly empowering in the ability to control and command our body. It’s also one of these art forms that require whoever's dancing to be 100% at the moment. Dancing doesn’t make you think, cry, worry or anything like that. When it’s time to check on my soul I dance and I feel more complete and happy after.
Finding balance between the work and the turmoil of today can be hard. Have there been any restorative remedies you have explored to keep creative?
Apart from dancing, I also love staying curious. I use YouTube the same way I did growing up. I can’t spend hours on it every day anymore but it’s still an amazing tool to learn things and stay inspired. Doing a project forces me to stay creative too because I create the vision for everything.
If I’m planning on releasing new music, I’m the one deciding the type of music I want to do. I’ll also create a mood board for the visuals, the concept, I’ll gather my creative team and organise the photoshoots down to all the details. It’s the same thing with the cover art of my songs and project and all the social media content I do. There are so many ways to express creativity and I use my vision and music as fuel to create everything around it. It forces me to constantly find creativity. I also get very inspired by new artists. I love Chloe and Halle, Doja Cat and Victoria Monet, so when I see young women being talented, unique, creative and literal bosses I feel empowered and invited to join and do the same.
What music do you find most comforting to listen to when you wake up?
I love listening to some Bossa Nova or some John Coltrane. There's usually a lot on my mind when I wake up and I can have a bit of anxiety so I’ll go for comforting positive sounds. Bossa Nova makes me feel like I’m on a vacation near the beach and it reminds me that I have all the right in the world to breathe and enjoy my coffee. It’s also a good way to work on my mind and my spirit for the day. Jazz is so unpredictable and pleasing. I like music with no words or foreign languages in the morning so it doesn’t disrupt my own thoughts. The mind is a blank canvas in the morning. I want to work on my mood and not focus on words and lyrics.
What else is in store for Shay Lia?
Only God knows! I’m always working on new music and new visions. I’m also focusing on my skills. I’m focusing on self-improvement a lot, as a person and as an artist. I want to get better and I’m taking advantage of the pandemic limitations to do that. I can’t wait to be in creative and inspiring spaces though, meet new artists, have studio sessions in person etc. We’ll see how it goes, stay tuned!
Shay Lia Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Blouse LA CAGE (3ff345), corset DI PETSA (3ff345), skirt ZARA.
Shay Lia Metalmagazine 1.jpg
Shay Lia Metalmagazine 4.jpg
Shay Lia Metalmagazine.jpg
Shay Lia Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Earrings TOPSHOP, necklaces CUCHARA JEWELRY, bikini top and ruched skirt ROCOCO DISCO COWBOY, belt URBAN OUTFITTERS.
Shay Lia Metalmagazine 6.jpg