By Ysabella Monton
Up-and-coming pop singer Shayna Leigh is quickly making her mark on both the charts and the music world. Recently, she supported alt-rock band Sister Hazel on tour and her single, “Wake Me When It’s Christmas,” proved a holiday smash.
On the tour, Leigh noted that the “audiences [seemed] really receptive to new music. “Being an opening act is super challenging,” said Leigh, “but it’s cool because I got to play really cool venues with really big audiences who just wanna have a good time.”
Leigh is no stranger to the stage, being an avid singer and actress who began writing songs while in high school. She attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts as a drama student.
“In college,” she said, which she calls her darker times, “[she] spent a lot of time worrying about the future. That’s something that [she thinks] is really important to get out of…the stress of tomorrow shouldn’t take away from living today.”
It wasn’t until after graduating college that she really focused on music as a career. “I came of age in this sort of boy band/ girl group era, and didn’t feel like I fit in,” she said. “I picked [songwriting] back up again after college, and started writing and recording my own music more seriously.”
Leigh acknowledges that the most important part of coming into one’s own as a musician is maintaining her authenticity. Prior to releasing her debut EP, “The Cold Hard Truth and the Dream,” she recorded what came to be two full-length albums that were never released because “[she] didn’t feel like [she] had gotten the crux of what it was that [she] wanted to say.” According to Leigh, “[she thinks] that’s the thing that [she] sort of [takes] the most seriously; it’s just that every song that you put out there message-wise is something that you’re adding to the canon of the universe, if two people hear it or two million people hear it.”
In terms of finding success, she wants to make sure to stay true to herself. “I think that’s a really important part of the process for an independent artist,” said Leigh, “is to be willing to try things and fail — or not fail, but try things and decide that this isn’t the direction you want to take…you’re developing yourself.”
Her first big release, the “Hey Shayna Leigh” EP, dropped in September 2014 on iTunes. The EP shows “the journey of a year of my life, showing the different places that I went and overcoming the darker elements of life.” The album is meant to highlight the challenges she faced on her journey of artistic self-discover. On said challenges, she says “all of [her] days are different. You work a lot but you play a lot, you do fun things and everything is exciting; a cool risk to take.”
Making something she can stand behind, she says, lets her be that much more proud of the end product. “It’s about knowing who you are and what you stand for,” said Leigh. “That’s the way you make a difference in the world in any way: by attempting to be the best person you can and say what you think needs to be said in the kindest, best way possible.”
Ysabella Monton is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org