In The Spotlight With Shaboozey

Shaboozey, the multi-hyphenate artist from Virginia, referred to as ‘the new face of country music,’ is set to shake things up. Not only is he in demand for collaborations by chart-toppers and fellow country stars like Kacey Musgraves and Luke Combs, but Shaboozey builds on his genius ability to musically translate visual concepts fusing his Nigerian heritage and Southern American upbringing.

A couple of years ago, when Doja Cat compared Shaboozey‘s voice to Beyoncé’s, the wheel started spinning. Coming into a full circle moment, Shaboozey features on Beyonce’s latest masterpiece project ‘Cowboy Carter,’ and is ready to unveil a new snippet ‘A Bar Song (Tipsy),’ from his forthcoming album ‘Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going.’

Recent hits like ‘Vegas,’ ‘Anabelle,’ and ‘Let It Burn’ all tease the new Shaboozey project with his signature alt-country blend with hip-hop and Americana. ‘A Bar Song (Tipsy)’ is an instant earworm, inviting with simple guitar chords and relevant bar escapades, coming together for a brilliant sing-along musical euphoria.

From our conversation, it is clear that Shaboozey is a natural talent, evoking timeless musicality with a heartwarming effect on the people listening. Hoping to make a concept album in the future, ‘Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going’ is a timestamp of Shaboozey’s most recent inspirations.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got your start in music? And if it wasn’t music? What would you be doing?

If I wasn’t doing music, I’d probably be directing. The music kind of just came to me. Being the creator and the storyteller and making art in general, it spoke to me. I wasn’t really given an instrument or told to sing a song. It just naturally came out in times where I guess I needed to have an outlet to express myself.

You’re a multi hyphenate, you like to create films, produce music, and perform? Do you have a favourite outlet for your artistry?

Not in particular, I do like filmmaking, and telling stories, because you are able to incorporate music, and storytelling. You can incorporate all the things I like into one thing. At some point, I would love to make a concept album, where each song is a chapter in a film, like a musical if that makes sense. 

Your writing is really visceral, as we’ve seen on tracks like ‘Anabelle’ and ‘Let It Burn.’ Is it quite cathartic for you putting your feelings down on a track like that?

In a way yes, 100%, I think a song like ‘Anabelle’ is also super personal to me, and then sometimes I don’t even like thinking about what they mean.

You’re released ‘A Bar Song (Tipsy)’ today, you’ve recently released ‘Vegas’ and  ‘Anabelle,’ this year too. How have you found the increasing love towards your music? And were you expecting that when you first got started in music?

No, not really. I’m just grateful to be able to create music with my friends and people who inspire me production wise, I think it’s just coming together and having similar stories, we were able to create something that connected with people in a real way. It’s just great to connect with people honestly, and have people that are very touched by the things we’re doing. I get a lot of messages about my music helping people through super hard times. So it’s good to have messages like that, your music is something that is a part of people’s lives.

Where do you personally find your writing inspiration? Is it always something personal? Is it from other people’s stories? Is it from a world of your own making?

Usually, it’s a mixture of everything, personal stories, things I read, thing I see and what’s around me., s something in the current events that may inspire me too. For most artists, inspiration can be found in anything, I can write a song about sitting at a table right now.

Who were your early musical influences? And then outside of music as well, because you’re into cinematography, film and art. So do they go hand in hand?

They do. I had to get inspiration from wherever I could find it, from whatever was shown to me. I’m getting a lot of inspiration from my friends and people who make music in my area, underground hip-hop stuff, from fashion, from style, going to thrift stores inspires me a lot. You go to a thrift store, you’re shopping and you’re finding pieces and articles of clothing. You’re trying to understand the story behind those articles of clothing, whether it’s an old workwear piece or some coal miner jeans, and then you can start getting into film. Films are a big thing that inspired me as well. Westerns, like someone mentioned earlier, Beyonce watching old western movies when doing her project. That’s something I definitely did.

You’re very stylish and you’ve got a great sense of style. Is that something that’s always come really naturally to you?

Definitely, again, that’s another thing I think I’m inspired by friends and family. My sister was one of the best dressed in high school. She was always into her style and how she put things together, so I was super into vintage early on when I was younger. So seeing her do that probably definitely inspired some of my early sense of fashion. Movies really helped me figure out what I liked and what I didn’t as well. 

And then your Nigerian heritage, how did you find growing up in Virginia with such a rich cultural background, as well as the Southern American influence on you? How did they come together to make you the artist you are today?

Obviously, going to Nigeria and understanding how much this natural music is within just a West African culture and African culture. Kids are able to play drums and sing and dance and do these things just naturally within that without having to, have any technical training. I went to a boarding school over there for two years and seeing the marching band play, sound better than any HBCU or any college in America without any training, that was definitely something that showed me music is within me. I’m the same way, there was no real classical training, I kind of just got into it. Mixing that and being from Virginia, and the folk Appalachian music that comes from that area. It’s a blessing, it’s awesome to see how those things melded together for me.

You’ve been making music for a decade now and you’ve had some really cool collaborations, you’ve collaborated with Duckwrth on Spider Man, and then Doja Cat also featured on your track. How did those early collaborations come about? 

Republic Records, who I was with before, were putting together a compilation soundtrack for Spider Man, which was obviously another moment for music. With the record like ‘Sunflower’ on there, they felt like I would make a good fit for that. That I would bring an energy that they were looking for. Duckwrth already had his parts and I came to the studio and did my thing, and we had a good time and we made that record, super fun. 

Doja Cat as well – actually when I met her, she said she heard my music, and was like “your voice is buttery, like Beyonce” [laughs] which was a couple years ago. See that full circle came around which is cool as well. But she’s always been a cool person. Super, super awesome. Whenever you’re in a room with her, she’s just having a good time. She heard my record ‘Winning Streak’ and was like, “I want to put a verse on it”. It was also around the time when Doja didn’t have hardly any tweets on Twitter apart from two, and they were both my song lyrics.

How important is it for you to work with artists that maybe occupy a different genre, to the one you’re currently leading the way in?

It’s definitely important, but one thing I learned about country music or this music, is that people think it’s one thing, and it’s really a lot of other things, it’s really layered. So it’s not something that everyone can just jump in and participate in. At first, I definitely would love to see some cross collaboration in the space. But it’s a genre, it’s its own thing. It takes a special type of a creative to be able to come in this space and do something good. So I’m very delicate about who I bring into it.

You’ve collaborated with arguably one of the biggest stars right now? Who else is on your list of people to collaborate with in the near future?

Even before Beyonce I was getting a lot of interest from other artists that I dreamed of like Kacey Musgraves and Luke Combs who I’ve connected with on socials. And it’s funny because both of them reaching out to me happened within a week of each other. It’s really awesome. Those are two people that I thought it was really cool, because at that point, they were both occupying spots and Billboard Top 10. It just shows that you’re doing something that people are paying attention to. I’d say she [Beyoncé] got in there early [laughs] because there were a few people trying to do things and work together and I’d definitely still love to.

Looking forward now, so your new album, ‘Where I’ve Been Isn’t Where I’m Going’ can you tell us a little bit about your creative process on it? Obviously, not giving away too much because it’s still a few weeks out, but what’s the creative process been like?

It’s really not so much of a creative process other than we write a bunch of songs and if we find a good body of them that we think how to work them together and showcase just where I’m at the current moment. I kind of make things that inspire me and I hope inspire other people. Not too much of a crazy process honestly. Hopefully when there’s more budget then we can have crazier processes like, oh, we all get up at four in the morning and do a cold shower in the Alps then we all write music together [laughs].

Final question – this might be a little bit tricky but do you have a favourite track on your upcoming album already or like something you will for people to hear?

There is a song on there called ‘East of the Massanutten’, and that’s probably my favourite song on there. It’s a slow one, but that’s my favourite and it may be the last, or second to last. I just think it’s a moment for people in my area to hear a song that is about people from my area. It represents where I’m from.

FolloW Shaboozey On Instagram

Words: Karolina Kramplova
Photographer: Daniel Prakopcyk