In an exclusive interview, Shawn expresses her thoughts on her forthcoming project, her career and more.
Raised on the edge of Los Angeles, India Shawn is a phoenix rising from the ashes to stake her rightful claim in the fast-paced music industry. After all, she’s been putting in work for years as a songwriter co-penning for the likes of Chris Brown, Monica, Diddy’s Dirty Money and more. It all started during her childhood, she sang in the youth choir at her church and her mother was a singer in addition to a praise and worship leader.
A relocation to Atlanta would prove to be a step in the right direction for the aspiring singer. This move led to her connecting with a local music fixture who helped her create a few of her first tracks, following this she was inspired to do more. “Full Circle,” a songwriter team consisting of India, her sister and a friend would come into fruition. Accompanied by “The Clutch,” a well-known songwriting collective, the two teams became successful in their own right.
During this point of her blossoming career, singing wasn’t the focus. By 2010, she signed a publishing deal with Universal Music and admitted to feeling something was missing. “I felt stuck,” she shared. “I knew I wanted to be writing and recording my own songs.” By 2012 she released Origin, her debut. This release features an experimental sound throughout. The majority of the production was done by John Key, producer and touring drummer for Solange. “Origin was recorded with the very pure intention of wanting to make an album for myself,” Shawn said. The project arrived with features from Hit-Boy and James Fauntelroy. “I’m Alive” was included on Solange’s Saint Heron album compilation (2013). Over the next few years, she finished college, kept recording music and would continue following her passions.
Once 2015 hit she began working with Fauntelroy again, their creative partnership led to Outer Limits a refreshing project. At this point, she wasn’t working in music full-time. A move back to Los Angeles marked by odd jobs seemed to be the reset she needed. She ended up meeting her current manager as she held down a gig with Postmates. Fast forward to 2019, she was singing backup for Anderson. Paak and would go on to sign a record deal with Epic Records that same year.
Her newest work proves that she’s kept her pen sharp over the years. The evolved sound is a culmination of the relationships she’s built since her teenage years, one being friend and producer D’Mile. On a recent visit to our Brooklyn office (pre-coronavirus), Shawn shared a few of her latest tracks with us. One standout “Cali Love” has a West Coast vibe. She expresses that this cut tackles complicated romances in LA. We also heard “Not Too Deep,” her second single of the year with 6LACK early and enjoyed the easygoing nature of it.
In our newest interview, India Shawn expresses what fans can expect from her upcoming project, touches on what her childhood was like in L.A. and more. We’re also premiering the music video for her new single “Cali Love,” you can watch it below.
What was it like growing up in Los Angeles?
I had an amazing childhood on the west coast [filled with] sunny days, summer camps, trips to the beach, soca dance parties at my grandma’s house with all my cousins, and lots and lots of church. I actually moved to Atlanta mid-high school. It was a total culture shock, but Atlanta has half of my heart, I did lots of growing up there too.
What led you to become a singer-songwriter?
Music for me was more of a calling. My mother was a singer-songwriter, I’m just carrying the torch.
Why did you decide to shift gears a bit and focus on your own career rather than writing for other artists?
I’m still happy and grateful to write for others, I’ve just had more fun making music for myself. It’s less pressure, and I guess it’s kinda self-indulgent, but the entire process: living the experience, writing it all out, recording it, and sharing it has been more fulfilling for me.
Why did select “Cali Love” as your latest single?
“Cali Love” was the very first song my executive producer D’Mile and I collaborated on. That session was so organic, and the song felt so good.
What can fans expect from your upcoming project?
You can expect honest, heartfelt songs. This is a more grown-up India, uncensored, unfiltered, telling stories about discovering and navigating my womanhood, a side people haven’t fully seen.
Who are your top three musical influences?
Lauryn Hill for her voice and authenticity, Beyonce for her power and work ethic and Brandy for her tone and vulnerability.
Robyn Mowatt is a staff writer at Okayplayer where she covers culture, music, and fashion. You can see what's on her mind @robyn_mowatt.