Features - Interviews

Authentic and In Control: An Interview with Shiv

From on a blue velvet couch in a bustling hotel lobby in Dublin City Centre, Zimbabwean-Irish sensation Shiv chats to Ciara Byrne, reflecting on her unconventional journey to becoming a musician and the contributions and pitfalls of social media as a platform for self-promotion. Diving into her new single ‘Limerence,’ collaboration, working with Bricknasty and finding her own authentic voice, Shiv lays herself bare in the wake of her musical re-emergence

Photos by Seán McMahon

Shiv’s new album ‘the defiance of a sad girl’ is out on 4th July.

Your music career started with a recording of you being uploaded to YouTube. How did that come about and in what way did it kickstart your career?

It was my sister’s wedding. She got married in 2015 and I was (and still am) a slightly nervous public speaker. I was her maid of honour so I had to make a speech and I said full stop, sorry, I cannot do that, so I wrote her a song instead. I put that up on YouTube and a friend sent it to their friend who happened to be a music manager. He got in touch and offered to help guide my career in a trajectory and things started to snowball from there. 

Who are your early musical influences and how was music present in your life growing up?

My dad was an avid music listener and we didn’t have a TV until I was in secondary school, so we used to listen to music all the time. My dad hates silence so he’d always be playing music. He’d play everything from Technotronic to Pink Floyd to Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. It was such a mishmash. That gave me a very musical palette, and once my brother and sister started developing their musical tastes, all of it fed into one. I learned to sing by singing along to their music.

Collaboration is a big part of your work. You’ve made music with Nealo, Bricknasty and Girls of the Internet to name a few. How do collaborations come about and do they tend to inspire your solo work?

It’s usually quite a natural process of people reaching out and saying they like what you do or vice versa. Instagram is such a good networking tool. I find you can make genuine connections from it, which is how a lot of collaborative stuff has happened for me. In terms of whether it influences my solo work, I think it does to the extent that whenever I’m working on a collaborative song or project, I don’t think about it as much. I just let whatever comes out come out. So when it comes to my own stuff, I feel like I can get a little bit deeper and a little bit more vulnerable and sincere.

You mentioned that you’ve been spending some time in Mayo and you wrote your first album on a writing retreat. Do you find you do your best work solo, or do you prefer working with others collaboratively?

At the point that I’m at right now, I prefer doing it solo for at least the initial phases when I can get ideas out. For a couple of years, I had been in and out of studio sessions. While I learned a lot from those experiences, I came away from the sessions questioning whether or not it felt like I had imprinted my true self in those songs. Until I feel I have a strong enough voice of my own and a strong enough musical identity, I don’t think I’ll produce my most Shiv work in a studio session environment with other musicians. 

You made an Instagram post recently about the pressure of posting on social media as an artist and how it impacts your self-perception. How has it influenced your experience of the industry and your perspective of self?

Social media is a necessary part of not just being a musician, but being a creative. I’ve always said that it’s a blessing and a curse because it’s the only reason I can release music independently which is an amazing opportunity. But at the same time, it’s a curse because all of the responsibility falls on you. I was signed to a major label last year, and as much as I loved working with the team, most of our conversations would be about social media and TikTok. I’m the only person who can grow my following, they couldn’t do that for me. The landscape of the music industry has shifted entirely. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but a lot of creatives are still adjusting and it makes some aspects of the job more difficult and mentally taxing because of the nature of social media and how it influences your mental health.

You’re working on some new music at the moment. Is it reflective of the music that you’ve released to date or are you exploring a new direction?

It feels new. And a lot of people I’ve shown it to have reflected that and said that it feels quite different to what I’ve done before. It feels more like me than anything else I’ve done before. Radio releases like Golden, Hold Me and a couple of others are self-produced, but they’re also reflective of a time when I was still learning how to produce. I’m still a novice producer, but a lot of my new releases are a collaboration. What I’m doing now feels like an elevated version of my first releases. I went into the studio with Bricknasty which was the first time I had confidence in my own ear and taste to be able to direct other people as instrumentalists. It feels different this time, I’m able to be authentic and in control. 

You’ve been sharing the process of managing yourself on Instagram. Why did you decide to start sharing that and do you think it’s important that people inside and outside of the music industry are aware of the management side of the job?

I think it is super important. A lot of people even within the music industry don’t necessarily know how much time, effort and energy is involved in being an independent artist outside of creating the art. I often keep my creative work completely separate. When I’m in release mode, I’m not creative at all because there is so much to do that my brain switches to a different mindset. There’s also an aspect of genuinely wanting to help people who might want to pursue music as a full-time career but don’t know where to start or what it looks like.

Can you tell me a bit about your new single Limerence?

I’m really excited about the release of Limerence. I worked with Bricknasty and producer Adam Shanahan on the album who did some great work on the tracks, but Limerance was left almost untouched. It was always my favourite song. It feels very vibey, like something that I haven’t been able to tap into on my own. We tried to add production to it and ended up paring it back to what it was originally. It feels important for my first release to be as me as it possibly can. Limerence by definition is a form of unrequited love, so the song should feel a bit sad and hopeless, but for some reason when I’m listening to it, I feel good and hot and sexy. That’s something that I’ve always wanted to capture in a song and now I can tick it off the list.