Electro-pop singer, songwriter, and producer Shura has come a long way since worrying about her first live radio performance at the BBC’s infamous Maida Vale studios – smashing multiple hit singles out of the park and cementing her place on our radio ever since. With a string of festival dates under her belt this summer and her beautifully produced debut album Nothing’s Real recently released, there’s one thing that definitely is real, and that’s that the 25 year old’s star is definitely rising. We caught up with her before a fantastic set at LeeFest: The Neverland to chat about the album, playing live, and an alternate career path…
Congrats on the album release! How does it feel to finally have your debut out in the world?
It’s a massive relief! I’m really happy, it was a really nice feeling to finally not have to hide it away anymore and for people to be able to live with it and discover it in their own time. It was a really exciting few days actually when it came out.
It’s been a work in progress for a while, was there a part of you that was putting it off to make sure it was all perfect?
It wasn’t that we had a date and almost moved it, it was just that I didn’t have enough music that I thought was good! I’m sure the record label probably would have liked for it to be finished earlier, but then I think they’d always like it to be finished earlier – in the way that when I go to a restaurant and order a meal, I’d rather it be here sooner than later but at the same time I’d rather they spend their time and it to be good. But if it could be good and soon as well that would be great! So it’s kind of one of those scenarios where the most important thing was that it had to be good and if it meant that I had to take a bit longer for whatever reason, then so be it. I was able to do that which was great, it was nice to be able to have that luxury – some people don’t.
Rather than someone be like it’s coming out NOW…
Yeah I’d be like whaaaat, it’s like hanging my laundry out in front of the world!
So when I first saw you perform it was at Maida Vale as part of Radio 1’s Future Festival, did having that support really help you gain confidence in your music?
Wow, that’s a long time ago! You know what, it was amazing, but fuck me that gig was just terrifying because it was the first time I’d ever done live radio. I was playing on the radio, LIVE. I was just like wow, this is being broadcast to millions of people, so if I fuck up one MILLION people will hear it.
But you didn’t, you were great!
I didn’t fuck up, but I can tell you your heart is just going so fast and all I was thinking was, for God’s sake, don’t fuck up. But I’ve been very lucky to have had amazing support from Radio 1 and Zane Lowe, even now he’s at Beats he’s still a big supporter, which is awesome. I’m very privileged to have that support, there’s a lot of people that put records out that are brilliant and much better than mine that don’t have that, and vice versa. It definitely doesn’t do you any harm!
You originally taught yourself to produce music through watching YouTube tutorials, so did you do most of the album production yourself?
I did do a lot, I co-produced the entire record with Joel who I wrote the record with, bar one or two songs – one was with Greg Kurstin. But it was basically us for the whole record and it was very important to me to have a hand in producing it, mainly because I needed it to sound like it came from me – even if that meant it being a bit shit and not perfect production-wise. I just wanted it to sound like I produced it, rather than some random person or someone that’s brilliant and really expensive, because there just wasn’t any need. I just thought I can do this, me and Joel together – and it was hard work, it took a long time and it was kind of a mad way to make a record in a way. But I think I’ll always have a hand in the production, I enjoy it too much not to be involved in it. Some people don’t care, they’re just like “I wrote this brilliant song, can someone produce it in this kind of way” and that’s fine, their creative process is away from the production – but for me it’s one of my favourite bits, if not my favourite part of the whole process.
Has it been received well at the festivals you’ve played so far?
It’s definitely different now because every song people are singing along, whereas before it was just ‘Touch’, ‘2Shy’ and ‘Indecision’, so it’s really nice to be able to go on stage and play ‘What Happened To Us’ and people are singing along. You’re just like, “What? How do you know these words, you guys are on it! Oh yeah, the album’s out!” It’s nice from that kind of perspective. We did Longitude in Dublin and that was awesome, there were so many people singing along.
Crazy Irish crowds too!
They are so much crazier than we are in England – it’s brilliant, absolutely mental.
It’s funny to think that your career could have been a lot different, as you started off in football. How come music came out on top?
I think because I just realised that making music was less effort physically, and it meant that I didn’t have to go outside in the cold rain in just shorts and a t-shirt – I could just stay inside and write a song! I love football, I still play it for fun, but I think as soon as I was a teenager I just thought fuck this, this is way too much effort! So I picked up a guitar and just wrote some songs instead.
What gets you in the mood to put on a good show? Any pre-show rituals?
We’re still kind of figuring it out I guess! Me and the boys in the band will maybe have one gin or one beer before we go on just to take with us on stage. It’s not necessary, but that’s quite nice sometimes, especially for festivals because it can be a bit rowdier. But yeah you can see my rider…
I did spot an avocado over there…
Avocado is a hugely important part of the night. I’ve just gone vegan, but we like to make sandwiches…. Tea is also a big part. We’ve got Haribo over there just for our tour manager, he likes to mix from front of house with a bunch of sweets.
Pretty sweet life. Do you find that performing live is a good cure for shyness?
In a way for me when I go on stage, and I am quite a shy person, but it’s almost like I’m not aware. It’s almost like I’m in my own bedroom rocking out and occasionally there’ll be certain people in the crowd that I make a connection with, whether it’s eye contact or whatever, and that’ll be really nice when you have that moment where you’re feeding off them and vice versa. I never feel really exposed bizarrely, so maybe it is a cure – I’ve never been worried about getting on stage because I’m in front of people, because actually the more people there are the less scary it is. It’s a lot scarier to sing a song just in front of one person than it is in front of a crowd because it’s much less intimate.
I have always wondered about that – when you’re out there can you actually pick out people individually, rather than just seeing a mass of people in front of you?
Yes, you can! Not always, sometimes when the lights aren’t on the crowd then it is a mass of people, but when the lights turn on then you’ll see certain faces. It’s really important to acknowledge them, because as much as you’re performing to the audience, you get energy from them. So it’s important to recognise their existence because you can use that to bring energy to a show if you’re lacking – they can really pick you up which is awesome.
Finally, before you shoot off for your set – what’s next for you?
We’re off to North America for two months with Yeasayer and M83, then we’re coming back to do a UK/Europe tour at the end of the year which we’re still finalising, but it’ll happen!
Shura’s debut album Nothing’s Real is out now on Polydor Records.