New Music to Know: Shamir Finds His Voice at 19
By Shannon Carlin
“School was nothing to me,” Shamir Bailey said. “I hate to say that, but I was not a good student.”
Shamir never made the honor roll, he barely got by, but he managed to walk away from high school with a few notable superlatives such as “Best Dressed,” “Most Likely to Appear on the Cover of Vogue” and Prom King.
“I didn’t even go to the prom,” the 19-year-old says, giggling.
You can’t really blame the kid for being apathetic towards his education because by the tender age of eight, he already knew he wanted to be a singer. Shamir had never sang in front of anyone before, but asked his second grade teacher if he could get up on stage during the class talent show and give it a try. At first his teacher was surprised and asked if he really wanted to go through with it, but after he finished, she was in awe “She came up to me and said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me you could sing?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I can sing?’” he told Radio.com.
Nearly ten years later, Shamir’s about to put out his debut EP Northtown on June 11 on Godmode records, which is a confident first look at a young singer who often feels like a 50-year-old man. “I may be young, but I’m an old soul,” Shamir explained. “I’m not new, I’ve been making music all my life. I feel like a veteran. That’s where the confidence comes from. I’m past the stage where I’m unsure or still finding my voice. I feel confident in who I am.”
His upcoming release is named in honor of his hometown, a little suburb outside of Las Vegas that the young singer says is “pretty much just dirt and barren land.” Shamir grew up across the street from a pig farm, which he says was not always ideal. “There would be some days when it would really smell, like really bad. And it would stink up the whole neighborhood,” Shamir said. “It was also a little bit scary. It looked like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We didn’t try to sneak in because it looked like if you went in, you would never come out.”
Shamir started writing his own songs at around five years old, inspired in part by his songwriting aunt. She opted for stability instead of pop stardom and now writes with Shamir in her free time. “She got caught up in the corporate world. She’s a paralegal now,” he said laughing. Every time he tells a reporter that his aunt is the one who got him interested in music, Shamir says his mom gets a little upset. His parents weren’t musicians—Shamir taught himself how to play guitar using that yellow, how-to book Guitar For Dummies—but they were music fans who introduced their young son to hip-hop, R&B, jazz divas like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone and ’70s rockers like Janis Joplin, who Shamir says just blew his mind. “I had never heard a voice like that,” he said. “And I wanted to hear more.”