Analogue Music | Shamir


By Matt Conner

It wasn't long before Shamir was already onto the next thing. As if we couldn't have guessed.

Ever since Shamir first turned heads with the brilliant Ratchet back in 2015, an album that landed on numerous year-end lists, he's explored and experimented on six other records in the last five years. That list is punctuated by the arrival of his self-titled album last fall, a release that best brings together his interests and influences. Oh yeah, that one also landed on "best album" lists of all kinds.

These days, Shamir is close to packing up for a trip into nature in the Poconos in order to finish writing and tracking yet another album. This came from an unexpected burst, but Shamir has learned to follow the muse whenever she arrives. Before he headed out, however, he took some time to reflect back on a pandemic spent in South Philly, the response to the self-titled album, and what new song has him so excited to record again.

Analogue: The self-titled album landed on a lot of year-end lists. Have you taken the downtime of the holidays to sort of reflect back on the year you had or the album in particular?

Shamir: No, but only because the quarantine afforded me that reflection in real time that I think probably would have been around this time. But I think without touring and other typical distractions that would have prevented me from reflecting properly, I just tend to reflect in real time.

I mean, I do work really quickly when it comes to records to begin with. But I think this was definitely different in the sense that it happened so quickly and naturally I guess I’d say. But I feel like I’ve reflected in real time and already in a new space I’m looking forward to the future and I’m super-excited to do the next thing.

Analogue: How did you adjust when quarantine first hit?

Shamir: I was lucky to shift gears because I was still in the early stages of things. I didn’t have a whole tour planned or anything really substantial to cancel. Because of that, it was easier for me to morph everything around it. Some of the songs were already recorded and I had plans for this record already, but I ended up having to finish it during quarantine and the pandemic record. So this was a pandemic record through and through. I was blessed to be able to do this whole rollout and process that, yeah, I’m not touring this. I knew it’s a pandemic record and I have to approach it accordingly.

Analogue: Has this sort of isolation stimulated you creatively on another level? How does this compare to other creative periods for you?

Shamir: The initial stretch was actually a time where I wrote the least. I was shocked by that but also fine with it. Because it was like, ‘I’m in the middle of promoting my seventh record and this is the first time the metaphorical faucet was off for a second. It wasn’t really writer’s block; it was really just a break. I was so busy promoting the record. I am and was self-managing and self-releasing and taking on a lot more other stuff I had to do, so I was really busy. Any free time that I had, I was just sleeping and unwinding. I wasn’t creating that much and I was fine with it.

I ended up having this new project by chance, just because my collaborator, Isaac Eiger, hit me up three weeks after the record had came out and we were just so inspired by each other, we quickly wrote this project in about a month’s time. So that was one whole condensed period of time where I poured out writing.

I think that time I wasn’t creating, I think it was built up. Once I found this muse, then I just hit the ground running.


Analogue: Is that normal for you to work in bursts?

Shamir: Yes and no. Yes, definitely when it comes to creating a record. Not so much when it comes to writing. Normally writing is a little spread out and then I’ll take a good month’s time to make a record. Mostly that’s how all my records were made.

Well, Revelations was maybe written a little bit before the two-week period where I wrote and recorded everything in tandem. That record was made on a four-track. Then there’s also the record that came out after that which was written over a two-week period over the holiday break. Then when I returned back to Philly, I quickly recorded it in a month’s time.

This is the first time that I made a record with the picture fully realized of how I wanted it. Each song was written around a central concept that I already had. This was also the fastest I’d ever worked with another collaborator or producer. Even then, those previous records that I mentioned, those were records I wrote, recorded, and produced myself.

Analogue: Does Shamir feel like a before/after for you, career-wise?

Shamir: I wouldn’t say before and after. I would say it’s like a renaissance. To me, before and after means a stark difference, but if you look at any of the previous stuff leading up to the self-titled, it feels like a natural progression.

Analogue: Well, I guess that’s why I said in terms of your career.

Shamir: No, because I still don’t think I’ve surpassed the success of my first record. It’s not like this is some success I’ve never viewed or seen in my life so far. [Laughs] This praise isn’t anything new, nor do I feel this is new feats. That’s why I call it a renaissance. I’m starting to now be recognized for the artist I’ve always wanted to be viewed.

Analogue: Was that frustrating before, when the recognition for what you wanted wasn’t there?

Shamir: Of course it was frustrating. People would say, ‘Oh, you were so successful doing this one thing. Why aren’t you continuing it?’ I’m like, ‘Because I didn’t want to. It didn’t make me happy.’ Some people couldn’t fathom that. Then when I decided to scratch everything and start from the ground up, people looked at the first official follow-up record to Ratchet, which was Revelations, as a regression.

"People would say, ‘Oh, you were so successful doing this one thing. Why aren’t you continuing it?’ I’m like, ‘Because I didn’t want to. It didn’t make me happy.’"

As we know now, that wasn’t the case. That was almost like a debut. That was me starting from the ground up, establishing myself as an artist and finding myself as an artist in real time. So it was frustrating when people put that record up or put any kind of post-Ratchet record up against Ratchet. Not only was it unfair but it also wasn’t the point, y’know?

Analogue: You mentioned you’re working on something new earlier, but I assume every artist is always writing. How much of it is already coming into view or is it too early?

Shamir: Yeah, my collaborator and I are about ready to head to a secluded place in the Poconos and track everything. I’m really super excited about that as well, because this will be the first time I’ve ever recorded on location. So we’ll have a complete project.

Analogue: Why the Poconos?

Shamir: I wanted to track somewhere around nature. It felt important to me, but I don’t know why. Just instinctually, I’m following everything. That’s the energy around this whole record. It’s me following my muse. This record wasn’t supposed to be made.

It just so happened that my collaborator hit me up at the right time, basically. Literally two days before he hit me up, I came up with this central idea and art direction that when I came up with it, I just wrote it down. I was just like, ‘Okay Shamir, don’t even think about music. You just finished your seventh record. The music will come. Just write the idea down and just forget about it.’ Then two days later, he hit me up and I was like, ‘Oh, no!’ This sound was exactly what I need for this idea, too. It’s almost like he knew. So I’ve been going with the flow with everything and it felt good to do it somewhere around nature.

Analogue: Are you often outdoors?

Shamir: Not really, but I think being in quarantine, especially in South Philly, gave me a new thirst for nature that I never specifically really felt. I always love and appreciate nature, but I was never a person who had to get out and hike and everything. But I think quarantine created this new appetite for nature and made me realize how important it is for humans to get out of the city and connect in that way.

Analogue: So what’s musically interesting to you these days, then?

Shamir: All I know in the moment is that I’m insanely inspired by Olivia Rodrigo. I think “Driver’s License” is a perfect song. It’s so different. I know she keeps getting the Lorde comparison, and I think every new pop girl gets the Lorde comparison, but the Lorde comparison is correct in the way that when she first dropped “Royals,” it sounded like nothing else at the time. I think “Driver’s License” is exactly the same. Nothing sounds like it in the same arena that it’s on right now and it’s a debut single. It’s putting her on this fast track already with one song. It definitely gives me that same feeling I had with “Royals.” Much like “Royals,” I’m going to remember where I was when I first heard it.

VISIT: Shamir