Shiama ‘Shi” Young likes being the only woman in London indie/pop/hip-hop band The Stow, so much so she tells me she even vetoed the idea of adding a female keyboard player to the line-up. It seems there’s only room for one queen bee and if it all sounds a bit diva-ish, you would be completely… wrong, actually.
The 25 year-old Bristollian was actually once just as shy as her name suggests, and she credits being part of the group as giving her the confidence to grow as an artist. “I get quite bashful and shy, if people come up to me after gigs, I feel awkward. I’m not good at taking compliments, but being in the band, having people who believe in me, and also performing together and gaining experience I believe the praise much more and it gives me more confidence. Seeing the reaction of the crowd. It gives me an adrenalin rush.”
It seems crazy that someone with such a beautiful and distinctive voice could ever feel awkward about compliments on her talent, and Shi agrees that it is her voice that makes her so unique. “The more I record, the more I think I have quite a unique voice, insofar as you would be able to identify my voice on a record. I’m quite a low singer, my vocals are quite powerful.” It comes as no surprise then that her musical idol is Jill Scott. “I love her vocals, I love her stage presence and I respect her more when you think about what she’s achieved in her career, especially as she keeps herself to herself.”
This is something Shi feels quite strongly about explaining that she doesn’t understand the whole “I want to be famous thing”. First and foremost for the band it’s about music, then sharing it with people and making some money out of it. For Shi, fame comes afterwards and its important to not be over-exposed, musician first, celebrity second.
Other than the formidable Ms Scott, Shi also draws a lot of influence from her parents, who instilled in her the drive to chase her dream fully, and they’re so supportive, Shi’s mum has been nicknamed ‘Mama Stow’ as she tries to come down and support their gigs as often as she can. It was Shi’s parents who ultimately convinced her to join The Stow, who she initially became involved with as a backing singer, when she kept them waiting when they asked her to join properly. “I wanted to be solo and do my own soul material. I didn’t want to step out of the box. My parents convinced me there was nothing to be lost by giving it a go, and I tried it and here I am.”
Currently working for the Performing Rights Society, Shi also has a degree in music industry management and if she wasn’t an artist would definitely be working in music on the business side of things. Although it seems touring with VV Brown – a prize from a competition the band won – has definitely spurred Shi on to try everything to make it as an artist. “Touring with VV Brown made me realise that this is what we should be doing all the time. Travelling, performing at different venues every night, its what I want to do.”
When it comes to the music the band performs, which is a breath of fresh air in the UK scene right now, Shi is careful to point out that they don’t claim ownership of any particular genre. “I think there is room for a lot of bands similar to us because music isn’t as genre specific anymore. Artists like Tinie Tempah are crossing boundaries and a lot of other people are dipping their toes in. As a soul singer, I don’t have to make soul music. I enjoy indie and live music. More people should incorporate what they love and listen to into their normal sound, and they’ll see it grow and flourish and become something new.” Her hopes for the band are that they are successful and that they will be seen as pioneers in years to come, paving the way for similar bands to break through. And her hopes for herself? Shi wants to be thought of as the British Jill Scott, of course.
Stay tuned for the other members of The Stow everyday this week. For gig information check out thestowonline.co.uk
Photo courtesy of www.Mariskeva.com