Shaylen is here to turn her pop dreams into a reality. After a 10-year run with pop group Savvy, the Tennessee born, Texas-raised singer-songwriter is ready to turn her efforts into her own solo artistry. The group was managed by the Jonas Brothers’ dad, and proceeded to have a TV show on Starz Kids & Family before signing with Cash Money. Read more…
A few months ago, Shaylen released her debut single “El Dorado” with Republic Records, bringing that same charm and personality that attracted listeners across the world in the first place. Now, she celebrates a new single titled “Isn’t You,” while shutting down a recent performance at Peppermint Club in Los Angeles.
You were in Savvy for 11 to 21 years old. What happened?
It was fun. We did an album with RedOne and had it all ready to go, Cash Money did the typical Cash Money thing and it never came out. We had a 7-year contract and we were shelved at 2 so… [laughs] It was a good time. At 20.21, I was like “we got to do something about this,” so I moved out here from Texas to LA. I just started fighting and then the group moved back home to Texas. I was like “fuck it’s over.”
How many were there of you?
There were 5 of us. They were my best friends, but it was time to move on and do my own solo thing. Got out, got my release date on me. [points to arm tattoo] It was a tough battle. The music industry can be amazing, or it can be those situations where it’s really shitty. Started writing all of my own stuff, started working with anyone that I could, then we signed to Republic in July.
Would you say you’re only pop, or R&B & hip-hop too?
I am definitely pop. Definitely pop, it’s like rhythmic pop. Not anywhere in the hip-hop/R&B world. [laughs] Maybe one day, I’ll do a side project. Pop just runs in my blood. I can’t escape it.
You’re from Dallas, how does that play into your life and career?
Recently, I have really started to do a country vibe. A lot of my songs, you will hear a country flair to them. I kind of owned that ‘cause I ran from it for a little bit, then I was like “what am I doing?” My instincts are naturally to have country melody. I was like “I’m gonna do some urban rhythmic pop with country melody and it’s gonna be dope.” And that’s what happened. My whole project has been really on the guitars or certain melodies will have a country undertone. Then when I’m intoxicated obviously, my accent comes out. I’m like, “I want pizza.” [country accent]
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
You have to be here. You can do so much from where you’re at. Texas is great for the music scene, but if you want to go that next level — you want to meet people and just be in the hustle — LA is the city of hustling. Every artist, depending on where they wanna be at in their career, they need to come to LA. It’s very important.
How long have you been in LA?
What’s your favorite part of the city?
I like Hollywood, but more like outside of Hollywood. I like Beverly Hills, obviously for the shopping. The experience itself, you just get to meet a lot of dope creative human beings. You can always see everyone’s minds turning. We’re all in this little creative vibe. When I go back to Texas, it’s such a different pace. I realize l belong here, kind of. At first I was trying to fight it. I was like “I wanna go home,” and then I was like “I don’t think I belong there anymore.” I’m a weirdo. I belong out here with the weirdos.
I feel the same way, I’ve been here for 8 to 9 years.
LA itself is an entity. It’s a different kind of vibe. It’s a love/hate relationship.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
I really came out of the womb knowing that this is what I was gonna do. I was really blessed with the fact that my purpose was instilled in me when I was literally tiny. All I wanted to do was sing and perform for people. When I started the group, I was like “oh this is fun,” and then it got really serious when we got a TV show. We started filming and signed my first record label deal. There is nothing else that I am gonna do with my life, this is it.
Bring us back to the days you were bartending 7 days a week.
Oh my god. I was signed to a record label and working 3 jobs, like “what is wrong with this picture?” It’s a crazy thing about the industry. You’re on top of the world, and you can turn around and think it’s gonna keep going, then you’re scrubbing toilets at a bar. It’s fucking terrible. I really appreciate the fact that I had to go through you take for granted a lot of shit that goes on. The first record label deal, I definitely wasn’t living in the moment for a lot of it. I was traveling the world, I was touring, and it was really when I hit rock bottom after the fact that this whole next chapter of my life, I’m appreciating every last second. I really am thankful that I had to go through that. It made this next victory so much better.
What was the inspiration behind keeping your name?
I’ve never, ever wanted to change my name. My parents were like “let’s name her Shaylen,” and I just kind of rolled with it. It’s a cool name, it just stuck with me.
Talk about your journey from pop group member to solo artist. Hardest part?
Everything. You just have to reinvent yourself. You become an identity of 5 instead of 1. I always have known that I was gonna break off and do the solo thing, but really finding myself in that 2 to 3 year time span of what did I want to say? Instead of what the group want to say. What did I want to do, what did I want to look like. In that moment, the pop group was just a product in the pop music world. I was just told what to be. I was told how to act, what to say. When we were in interviews, each one of us had a designated answer. I never knew what I, Shaylen, wanted to say. It took me a year to really… it was like PTSD. [laughs]
It was finding an identity, but it was really fun and fucking terrible at the same time finding that person. It was terrifying. I didn’t realize for 10 years of my life, I was living as a character. Now I am so in touch with myself that I can’t even remotely relate with that other human.
Finding my own voice. I really didn’t realize how much I had to say in the music. At that time, we were just given pop songs to sing. We didn’t write anything. That was just the era of pop music and now, everyone writes their own shit. At first, it was hard. I had to figure out how to write a song, it was weird. Then it just hit me one day. It was a really cool moment seeing that flip on.
You just released “Isn’t You.” Talk about your mind state creating this one.
Oh man, let’s talk about the serious breakup. It was that transitioning moment where I realized “holy shit, I was so hung up.” You know when you’re tripping over that one guy like “what was I thinking?” It was that moment when I met somebody new who was amazing and treated me awesome. I was like “what have I been doing to myself this whole time?” I could have been doing this and I was tripping over your ass.” Not that you need anyone to feel great, but in seeing that, you wake up and find your validation in yourself. It’s also nice to have somebody be like “hey, you’re dope.” Like you’re fucking right I am!
Has he heard it?
I don’t know. If he did, he knows it’s about him. [laughs] We’re not in contact anymore.
“El Dorado” was a big record for you. Talk about bringing it to life in your visual.
I love it. That was an experience. There’s a whole batch of songs I have ready to come out but that was the first one. I wrote that 2 weeks after I signed my deal. It was so crazy, the vibe was just right with Evan and Dan. The track, everything about it. I felt like a bad bitch when I heard this track. It all just spilled out. I am really inspired by the mythical city in Columbia, the lost gold in El Dorado. I wanted to make it about finding that lost gold within yourself. I want you to feel like “fuck, I can go fuck shit up.”
What can we expect from your forthcoming debut? Do you have a name yet?
Not yet, I don’t know if it’s gonna be. We’re trying to decide if we’re going to do a full body of work, or a bunch of singles that I put out into a body of work. The world of music is interesting nowadays ‘cause you don’t really have to put out a full body of work anymore, you can just put out a shit ton of singles. Everybody’s attention span is 5 seconds. If you’re Drake, you can put out whatever. But when you’re upcoming, you just have to play the game.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
There’s so much that goes into my story. Each song is a representation of breakups, of addiction, of just not feeling great about yourself. I want people to listen to each song for 3 minutes and totally feel like they went into a different world. Cry if they need to cry. There are anthems, there’s ballads. I just want people to escape and totally feel unapologetic about who they are after they listen to my music.
That’s just who I am as a person. I’m never sorry for who I am, what I do, what I say, because I wouldn’t be me without that. I want people to walk away and realize that it’s okay to have cried over somebody for too long, or it’s okay to have developed an addiction to something. It’s okay to have hated your ex. Whatever you are going through, it’s okay. We’re gonna get through this. Just be authentically yourself.
What is your take on the music industry?
[laughs] It’s such a curse and a blessing some days. Especially being a girl, you put yourself out there. You put everything you have into these songs, photos, etc. It’s fucking terrible, so much anxiety. But it’s so beautiful when people accept your music. Behind the scenes in the industry is tricky sometimes. I’ve fortunately been blessed with an incredible team that listens to me, that for the most part lets me be creatively free. ‘Cause I was in the situation where that was not the case. It’s miserable. You’re like “wait a second, I’m supposed to be creative yet I’m not able to do or put out anything.” Now, we’re in a situation where it’s making me find why I love the industry again. Which is amazing, everything I could ask for.
Talk about your journey with Republic?
They’re amazing. They are the #1 label in the world, they’re the best. Especially for pop, I couldn’t have a better home. I get to work with incredible people. My team/management and Republic work so well together. Everything these last couple months have been so fucking awesome. It’s everything I could ask for.
What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I have so many, it’s just the beginning. I wanna put out all my music. I want people to love it, hate it, whatever they want, I just want to put it out. I wanna tour. I’m thinking big: Madison Square Garden, Grammys. Just to leave an impact and leave people with something. That’s why I do it.
What did you do with your first advance?
I was really stupid. [laughs] I bought a Camaro, bought a dog… well, I wasn’t that stupid. I put myself through school. I used it pretty wisely but this next advance, I was much smarter with. I was a baby when I got my first advance. Don’t do that. Whoever is getting signed, don’t be stupid. It doesn’t last forever.
How important is social media for your career?
Um… [laughs] If I’m honest, I hate it. It’s very important because it’s actually beautiful that you can connect with people that you’ve never met. Some of my really good friends I met over social media just by putting myself out there. A simple DM. It’s a beautiful thing that you have a platform to reach so many people. You have to do it. You can’t just be in the dark, put out music, and think people are going to hear it. It doesn’t work that way. It also comes with the downfalls, but just look at the positive side.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
Well it’s important to exercise. Anyone who is trying to be an artist, you have to take care of yourself. Self-love is the most important. Find time to meditate in the morning or at night. It starts off trying to think of content. I usually meet with my team. Film an acoustic of something, take pictures, have content ready to go. Most days, I’m in the studio for hours on hours, just getting the next song ready to go or mixing and mastering. Phone calls with Republic, it’s constantly brainstorming. Vocal lessons, piano lessons. Some days, I’m in movement rehearsals. This whole last week, I was in rehearsals for shows. It’s never-ending. You always have to perfect your craft. There’s no days off as an artist, and I don’t like days off. It makes me feel like… what’s going on? [laughs]
3 things you need in the studio?
Sour Patch Kids, even though that’s terrible. Singers, it’s the worst thing you can have. Gallons of water, and my dog. I bring him everywhere. His real name is Buddy, but I call him Tuna. I don’t know why.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Nothing. Literally, music is it. When I think of life and by chance I wake up tomorrow and couldn’t do this, I would figure out some way to have a music-filled life. Whether it was teaching, who knows. This is it. Maybe a dog whisperer, I love dogs.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
When I went to South America with my group. That was surreal to go outside of the US and meet people who really appreciate. America is a little different. You go overseas and they really just appreciate your music. It lasts longer over there. You put out something and people are still listening to it months later. Rather than here, each week people are like “I’m over it.” [laughs]
We got to go to orphanages. We had this partnership that we would deliver new shoes. It was just so crazy. I got to see myself in Spanish on TV over there, which was amazing. They give you a bunch of gifts. You don’t even realize that you are impacting people. When I wake up, I’m like “am I doing anything right?” You realize you can write a simple song and one person hears it — it does something and I have done my job.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Dave Matthews Band, or probably Post Malone. I love him so much. [laughs]
I would love to collab with Halsey. I love her so much. Then I’d love to collab with Post Malone. I am obsessed. All I would do is drink Bud Light with him.
What advice do you have for an aspiring Shaylen?
Believe in yourself 100% ‘cause no one else will if you don’t. Fuck what people think. If you believe in something and other people are like “I don’t think so,” and you have a gut feeling about it, you just have to trust your gut even if you’re wrong. You have to stand up for what you believe in. As an artist, that’s all that matters at the end of the day. That’s your art, you can’t be persuaded by other people.
Anything else you want to let us know?
This is a really fun interview and be on the lookout for the new music, because I am excited.