India Shawn continues to grace the world with her undeniable talents and breathtaking beauty. Having floated around the music industry for over a decade now, the Los Angeles-born and bred singer-songwriter has now stepped into the limelight as her own artist, creating her own version of smooth, sultry R&B—while touching on important topics such as self-love and divine femininity.
Coming up as a member of writing collective Full Circle, India has written for everyone from Chris Brown to Keri Hilson to Monica. Her 2012 debut Origin hails standout single “I’m Alive,” which caught the attention of Solange Knowles. To date, she’s played at Kanye West’s iconic Sunday Services at Coachella, as well as toured with Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals.
After touring with the Free Nationals, India reintroduced herself by releasing “Cali Love”, “Not Too Deep” featuring 6lack, and “Movin’ On” featuring Anderson .Paak. Fast forward to today, she returns with “Too Sweet,” ft. UMO, an Alt-R&B downtempo song about empowering yourself after being ghosted.
Flaunt caught up with India via phone to discuss her roots in LA, her first big placement, transitioning into her own artistry, the inspo behind “Too Sweet,” shooting the visual, what she wants fans to get from her story, collaborating with Anderson .Paak, her recent experience at the Grammys, relationship with Harry Styles, goals, and more!
What was the household like growing up in Los Angeles?
My LA days were mostly spent in church. My mother was the praise and worship leader, so I was there 3 days a week going to Bible studies, choir rehearsals, and church services. That was my West Coast experience. The industry didn’t really happen for me until I moved to ATL.
What happened when you moved to Atlanta?
I moved to Atlanta mid-high school around 10th grade, that’s when everything started to unfold for me. I was randomly singing in a parking lot one day and was approached by someone who became my first manager. We went to the studio the same night, that was the beginning of my music career. The first time I ever heard myself recorded was that day. ATL was where my music industry roots formed.
Do you remember your first big writing placement and what it meant to you?
My writing team Full Circle had a batch of placements on Chris Brown’s “Fame” & “Fortune” albums (“Love The Girls”, “Tell Somebody”, “Calypso”, and “Trumpet Lights”). Those placements were huge for me because I was and still am such a fan of his talent and his work ethic. Those songs solidified me as a working songwriter, not just someone who had an aspiration.
What did you learn from your songwriting sessions that you apply to your own artistry now?
I learned creative vulnerability. I learned how to get in the studio and be free to express myself. Again those Chris Brown sessions, Chris always had a million ideas for every track. [laughs] We’d pass the microphone around the room and he never lacked ideas. He was always free with it, so I learned to really open up.
Who or what inspired your new single, “Too Sweet”?
Too Sweet features Unknown Mortal Orchestra, shout out to Ruban. This song was inspired by a night with a male friend that didn’t go the way I hoped for it to go. He ghosted me a little bit, I wanted to reframe that and put it into words that would make me feel better about the way it played out. The lyrics are “I’m too sweet, I got you tongue-tied. I’m too sweet, that’s why you can’t reply.” That was my way of justifying him not replying to text the next day. [laughs] I was just too sweet.
Does he know it’s about him?
I sent it to him right after I recorded it. I always do that, I always send songs to my muses.
What was your creative vision with the music video?
I really love this video because it wasn’t straightforward conceptually. It was beauty and fashion, a different side of me I really hadn’t shown in other videos.
How was it shooting during COVID?
Everybody had to get tested. Everybody had to wear masks. We were very strict with regulations. We kept it minimal.
When did you first get the idea for the game show, For the Love of India?
The game show was conceptualized a few weeks before the release. I wanted to show a different part of personality and really build on my story. I’m a single woman. There are so many beautiful, elegant, successful single women right now. I wanted to create something that speaks to us and also show people that this is my real life, I’m really out here dating and open to love. It was a parody/comedy sketch, but definitely mirroring my real life.
What is it that you want fans to get from your story?
Determination and will. I’ve been doing this since I was 15. A lot of the inner circle in the music industry, I have their love, respect, and support. I’ve been doing it for so long. I want people to see that I’m here because I really love music and I’m pretty good at it. [laughs] I hope that will inspire people to do what they love and to keep going.
How was it touring with The Free Nationals?
So amazing, those are my bros. Our first headlining tour last year was actually my first headlining tour. We co-headlined. They put out an album of features so I got to sing all of those songs. It was an amazing first for the both of us. They took me to NPR Tiny Desk, really a blessed experience to be able to have those moments with my friends.
What did you learn from that experience?
Wow, we had a lot of technical difficulties behind the scenes with it being a first for us. [laughs] I learned that you just gotta do it. You gotta get on stage and do it. I learned that I’ll always be more than enough. Sometimes in those moments where things aren’t going right, you can fall into that doubt and fear. But it worked out every night, the crowd never knew. They were really excited, still posting clips a year later from the shows. I learned that it’ll always be enough. It’ll always work out.
How was it collaborating with Anderon .Paak on “Movin’ On”?
It was cool. Everything unfolding from his verse to him coming up with a treatment for the video, to actually directing the video and being in the video, it was all really a dream that I manifested. Years ago, I’d be DMing him and telling him that I loved his music. Not even wanting anything from him. To go from singing background to having a song that’s on Top 20 radio right now is insane.
Who’s idea was it to switch faces in the visual?
That was his crazy idea. [laughs]
How was your recent experience at the Grammys?
It was another magical experience. We didn’t have an audience of course, we all had to perform for each other. To be 6 feet away from Billie Eilish and Haim in the center of the floor, Black Pumas on the stage across from us. It felt like a grown-up talent show. [laughs] It was so amazing. Harry’s so kind, such a professional and sweet person to work with.
Talk about your relationship with Harry Styles, I saw your post “how it started” vs “how’s it going.”
He’s amazing to work with, very kind and easy-going. I did Jingleball Fest with him in December and decided to do Grammys with him. I don’t think I’ll continue singing background, but that was a moment I really couldn’t turn down. Harry Styles, Grammys 2021, pandemic award show. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and a beautiful experience.
How was it working with Blood Orange?
That was my first time ever meeting Dev Hynes, he was the musical director for our Grammy performance. These people that I’m attracting right now, I don’t know what it is. Just the kindest, most angelic spirits. That’s all I can say about Dev. I asked him “Dude, what’s your morning routine? What’s your regimen? Because I’m trying to be like you one day.” He told me that he wakes up, cuddles his dog, and listens to classical music. Dev is great.
3 things you need in the studio?
I don’t need much anymore. In the past, I’d always need a bottle of tequila or wine, but I’m 3 months sober. Now it’s water, hot tea. I usually Postmate some dinner, because I don’t be eating the way I need to [laughs]. I’m pretty low maintenance in the studio. A pair of good headphones and hot tea is enough for me.
Any goals for yourself at this point in your career?
I really want to expand as a performer. Having this time off from performing with where the world is right now, I’ve been doing vocal lessons and doing some dance classes here and there, really trying to grow as an artist and as a performer so when things open back up, I’m ready to be on stage.
How excited are you to get back on stage?
Oh my gosh, I can’t wait. I’m putting together a mental vision board of who I’d want to head out on tour with. Before everything closed down, I was trying to manifest opening for the Alicia Keys tour. That’d be a beautiful pairing. Also Snoh Aalegra, that’d be a dope tour as well. Putting that out there.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
I’m going for a boho, vintage vibe. I’m working on that too right now, gathering inspiration and really trying to turn the fashion up a little bit.
What can we expect next music-wise?
Next is the album! I’m in the studio, tightening things up, preparing to release a 15 or 16 song body of work. This is really gonna be the moment. People want more music and with every release, I’m seeing more excitement is building. I’m looking forward to that, maybe late spring a full album.