Sheena – 20 Questions
With her debut pop/r&b single ‘ Moving On ‘ gaining attention and a busy diary of engagements, singer Sheena fielded a customised set of questions from our Pete over lunch in Baker Street in London. The single is reviewed and indeed viewable elsewhere on our site. Here goes with the questions then …
- When you are performing, what are three things that you would like to attain from being on stage?
Definitely a strong connection with my audience..in fact I like to see it as leaving a postcard of my life, at each venue that I go to. Hence why I write all my own material and I think you can only do that if it comes from within, telling a part of your experience. I want them – the audience – to feel like they want more, maybe to see me perform again. Plus the feeling that I have given the best of me and the band has, too. Because if you’re doing it half-heartedly, ‘it’s just another gig’ then what’s the point ?
- When you do live performances, who do you call upon to work with you?
My live band is made up of a bassist, keys, drums and guitar..two backing vocalists. Not the ones on the single video though ( they are very good – PS ).I have a great band MD who gets my creative vision out into the songs and arrangements. With people having limited resources these days, when they come to see a show, they deserve exactly that – a show. Am I just going to perform the song as people may have heard it? No! I want to do different things, I want to get creative, make some excitement..to let the musicians solo and get that vibe going. Without my musicians I can’t do what I’m doing, after all
- Did you enjoy school? and are there any songs that remind you of schooldays?
In my later years, yes..as I got older I did. This was in Nottingham, I’m a Nottingham girl..Woolerton way. I had a bit more of an appreciation and I was coming into my arts as well. Now there is a song that does remind me of being a certain age in schooldays time – ‘Heartbreaker’ and it was one of the first songs I wrote, in my second year doing GCSEs, aged 15 – I’m not sure whether it will be on the album at this point…my uncle had come over and he was talking about splitting up with his wife, I started humming this melody..stood on our patio..going round and round in my head. When I moved to London that was one of the first songs we fully developed.
- Do you play any musical instruments?
I don’t, really. I can ear train around the piano, using chords. I can write but I’ve not been trained, as such. I do wish I had played piano when my Dad wanted me to. He sent me for organ lessons – who sends their child for organ lessons?!
- There’s a vicious rumour that you were up to try for the national women’s football team?
I had an opportunity to but in the end I didn’t do it…strange things can happen, I used to play for Nottingham and had the chance to try for the England Under 21 Ladies team, along with a couple of other payers from my team but on the same day as the Trials I also has the offer to go and sing at an open air festival, in Leicester..40,000 people on the Saturday, 30,000 on the Sunday. So I took music and I knew that the minute I made that choice, I knew that I was committed to my music..and that was it !
- Tell us about the single we have reviewed, which is ‘Moving On’, which does sound upbeat and happy, but it’s quite a nasty lyric isn’t it?
Yes. ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’…particularly a singing woman, who’s going to put everything into a song (Taylor Swift, anyone ?? – PS)..it’s about a relationship, which most love songs are ..but it was more than that..everything I have been through up til now…when I moved down to London, there were a lot of people in my family who were not happy. I come from a very academic family and they wanted me to go on and be educated further, traditional Indian girl. Luckily though it’s quite a liberal-minded family. I don’t feel that my purpose on this planet is to be a lawyer and work all hours God sends and make loads of money from it
- Can you talk about any album sessions that you’ve done?
We are doing the album and it will be out early next year and when I sat and thought hard about what I wanted this release to be and sound, going through the songs that I already had and what else was going through my head, I came up with a theme (I did not press Sheena to reveal the theme – PS)
- What sort of instrumentation / whatever will you employ to complete the tracks?
It will be a mix of styles..ever since I started writing music and lyrics I want the recordings to be very ‘live’..my producer plays keys, plays guitar, bass, everything under the sun, so what we capture on my songs is that very live/animated feeling. Hence when you come to a live show, it’s not too disjointed from what you may have heard on the record
- Please tell us your favourite songs – any artist – with the words a/ white and b/black in the titles
Dido – ‘White Flag’. That for me was an epic song. Her vocal as well is incredible…I’m not sure what she’s doing these days …..Amy Winehouse ‘Back To Black’ ..amazing performance. She was so troubled, wasn’t she?
- Two tickets arrive for an artist you have never seen and you are excited – who is the artist?
Well I haven’t seen Prince in concert before, so Prince ! I think his show would be epic, the inspiration that would come over would be just amazing…to hear ‘Purple Rain’, that would be so good
- What have you worn on stage that would make you laugh now?
Well I don’t think I’ve ever worn anything that would make me laugh…( these youngsters eh – PS )..I have had a couple of mishaps…I wore a skirt and top, but the skirt had a slit in it ..and it was a lot higher than I realised..there was lot on show that night, put it that way
- Tell us a song that you and your Mum or Dad loved equally
Anything by Celine Dion. About four years ago,I got almost front row tickets for them to see Celine at the O2 at Christmas.They just love her and what she sings
You get the chance to record a duet with Darryl Hall – what song?
‘The Broken Road’ by Rascall Flatts..that song has been on my mind for a while now.
- Tell us about the music college project you are involved in
It’s called Ultimate Artists and was conceived by two of the vocal coaches on ‘The Voice’ TV singing show and it is literally a 360 development programme for aspiring artists, not just to do with art but everything else that goes with becoming an artist and performing. We have someone in from YouTube, musicians coming in, experts from ‘The Voice’. Some of the young artists think that it’s enough to be a good writer or singer BUT if you don’t know how to market yourself, to use things like YouTube or Twitter the chances are that you won’t reach the level you might aspire to..you are a brand and not just a band.
- Does this embrace things like microphone technique?
Yes – microphone technique, performance, vocal technique – why is it that Sam Smith, Bruno Mars, Mary J Blige have had to take time out of the industry, due to vocal problems? Technically, you’re not singing correctly.
To what extent do you become involved in this?
I have pretty much been in the centre of running it for a while now..the course content, the programme, booking everybody and the venues..Josh is always on the road, teaching with Ally..so I do the back end as much as I can manage
- What’s a piece of music that will always relax you?
There’s a Gospel singer called Kirk Shanklin and a song called ’Everybody Hurts’ and that song for me puts me in a place where I feel I’m not alone
- What recording that you like fades too quickly for you?
Toni Braxton ‘Unbreak My Heart’ come to mind, straight away ( I request she sing the end of that song for me. Which she does. In a bar/restaurant – PS) It fades away suddenly ! so abrupt
- Have you a favourite Beatles song?
‘Hey Jude’ ! ( Oh no ! – PS) or ‘A Hard Day’s Night’
- When recording do you ever double-track your vocals or harmonise with yourself?
Oh yes. My producer is classically trained so between us we can come up with what’s right for that part of the song. I do all the harmonies and backing vocals on my recordings
- Is there a book that you would love to do a soundtrack for, when filmed?
‘The Art of Happiness’ by Dalai Lama. Every six months I went back to that book as there is so much in there about life – and especially when you are pursuing a career in the arts world. It’s easy to let criticism affect you, negatively rather than positively. Reminded me that 10% of life is what happens to you and then 90% is our reaction to it
- Is there an album that you find is perfectly sequenced, start to finish?
That’s a very very good question! Jill Scott’s early releases ’Gettin’ In The Way’? And India Arie’s albums ..now that woman nails it, for me. Every time
- Have you appeared at many festivals?
No but I have done a mela, which is like an Indian version of a festival. The one in Leicester when I had to choose what to do
- What’s a good channel to try Indian music? I get some on my cable.
B4U Music, Zing
- What’s the diet, on the road?
I try to eat very healthily. I tend not to eat before a show, or drink. Just salady, light food, fruit, lots of water really
Whitney Houston, one of your favourites?
Yes, I like ‘I Have Nothing’,’Saving All My Love For You’, on the newer stuff it’s ‘I Look To You’ which R Kelly wrote. Lovely song
(Thanks Sheena, Sam and Adrian)