SHONTELLE LAYNE is flirting with Rihanna-level success with her current single Impossible.
And last Saturday she took Miami by storm when she appeared at the Think Pink Rocks benefit in Mizner Park Amphitheatre, Boca Raton. The annual concert raises funds and awareness for breast cancer.
Prior to the concert, Shontelle spoke to New Times about her excitement in taking part in Think Pink Rocks for the third time, the challenges of recording on the road, and how her single lives up to its name when it comes to performing it.
The following is an edited version of that interview.
Q: How does it feel to participate in this type of benefit?
Shontelle: I’m a big supporter. I think I’ve done Think Pink every year since it’s started. It’s something that’s really close to my heart. Even though myself or no one in my family has ever been affected by breast cancer . . . I know just being female alone puts me at risk. I know families are being affected by it every day. Being a part of anything that’s going to aid in research and finding a cure and making people aware about everything about breast cancer is something that I’m always very happy to be a part of.
Q: What was your impression of the past performances?
Shontelle: It was one one of the most fun charity events I’ve ever done. It was such a family atmosphere. All the kids come out with their mums, dads, and grandparents. Then they get to watch a whole bunch of their favourite artistes perform. The atmosphere is so fun. We let the kids come on stage every year, and they get to be right next to their favourite artists.
Q: It’s exciting to have an event so close to the release of your album. Looks like it was a fairly long process getting the songs together.
Shontelle: Yes, I’ll be able to perform fresh, new music for them this year; brand-new music that’s been over a year in the works. When you’re trying to make your second album, you have to find time to record and write between work. When there are people you really want to work with, you have to work around their schedules as well. Then you record a whole bunch of songs; then you have to go through the painful process of selecting the ones that will actually make it to the album.
Q: Did you have in-studio time with Bruno Mars for the album?
Shontelle: I’m very lucky. Most of the songs that I recorded and wrote for this album, I was actually in-studio with the producer this time around. Bruno, he is like a mini Michael Jackson or something. Full of life, his spirit is so sweet. It’s like he wants to save the world. He’s a genius. He plays every instrument. He can sing like there’s no tomorrow. He’s so fun to be around, and I really enjoyed being in the studio with him.
Q: What’s it been like to be on the road while creating an album?
Shontelle: The days are blurry. I never know what time it is. It’s very, very difficult. You have to have a whole team around you, between management and the label. Keeping me grounded and sane? That’s my family and friends. I make an effort to see them as much as I can. This life is completely different from real life. It can be crazy. You lose your mind. People do say, wow, you’re really different. Whether they mean you look different physically or you behave different now, you carry yourself different. Luckily, I haven’t had much of “you’re different and we don’t like it”.
Q: There’s a pressure for pop singers right now to change so much from appearance to appearance.
Shontelle: It’s an expectation. You have to morph constantly to survive as a pop artist now. Especially as a female. Even if you look at Justin Timberlake. Every time he comes out he has a new image.
Madonna was the queen of that. We could go through the number of outfits we’ve seen Lady Gaga in, and Rihanna’s another example of an artist where fashion’s a big thing.
Fashion and style is a big part of pop, so we gotta be on it or else we’re not cool. If we’re not cool, you’re not going to survive. You gotta be in trend – ahead of trend. There is a lot of pressure to be beautiful and fashionable and glamourous, and that can be hard.
Q: How have you charted your growth in terms of what you hear in your music?
Shontelle: I feel like I’ve improved a lot vocally. That’s what I hear when I listen to the new songs. That came a lot from the intense touring. You have to be able to perform live every night for months straight. Having the opportunity to perform in front of people live actually influences the way that you record. You have a whole different experience to feed off of. When you record, you’re remembering what the crowd responds to.
“You’re remembering the little moments, and you’re trying to capture that, whereas the first time you’re recording, you don’t have any of that to draw from.
“It’s all very raw, and you’re just singing. On this album, I feel like I’m really performing instead of just singing. I feel like my sound has really grown and it’s a lot more radio-friendly and club-friendly, and a little more edge to it.
Q: Is there a specific song you wouldn’t be able to pull off before you got this experience?
Shontelle: I wouldn’t have been able to sing Impossible. There’s no way. Impossible is the most difficult song in the world to sing. I thought that, and then other singers started asking me, “How do you even sing that a cappella?” There’s no space to breathe, the way it goes up and down the scale.
“As simple as it melodically sounds, it’s actually a very difficult song to perform. If I didn’t have that experience of performing and singing live on tour, over and over and over, and intense recording sessions. I was able to develop to a point where I could record and perform songs like Impossible.
That was a challenge in itself. They had to pull everything out of me, like [exaggerated]: “You can do it.” And I was like: “Aah! It’s hard!” I improved just by recording that song.