[Interview] Shamir Bailey at The Great Escape ’15

So, there we were minding our own business at The Great Escape Festival, when we stepped outside the Brighton venue where Låpsley had just played to find Shamir, who was due on stage in under an hour, smoking a ciggie. Naturally we joined him for a light and a chat…

by Gareth Thomas

Emerging blinking into the daylight after watching Merseyside newcomer Låpsley perform in the Brighton beach nightclub Coalition, we cross the path in front of the venue for a smoke and end up asking for a light from US rapper/singer Shamir.

“I’ve smoked for a while now,” confesses the young artist. “I have to try to smoke in secret – my mom doesn’t like it,” he adds, wafting smoke away with his hand as if she was there. He looks at the ground. “I should stop.”

The 20-year-old Las Vegan, who has just released his debut album Ratchet, is obviously close to his mother.

“My mom is into r’n’b,” he says. “I’ve definitely absorbed some of the music she likes…I’m not sure if she likes mine.” His eyes crease and then twinkle. “She’s a cool mom!”

Fresh from a gig in Nottingham where he said the crowd gave him a great reception, Shamir says he likes touring and is looking forward to his forthcoming shows along the east coast of America, especially New York where he lived for a few months.

He said he’d already been in Brighton for “a few hours” and becomes suddenly modest, taking a slight step back when it was pointed out that all of the people in the ever-growing queue just yards away were lining up to see him. “Really?”

“I need to work on my lower vocal range,” he states, possibly in mind of his upcoming show. “My upper range is okay though.” This earnest comment is somewhat ironic and would come as no surprise at all to anyone who’s heard his trade-mark high-pitched voice, in full use on the track On The Regular.

As well as pursuing his own career, he’s managing a band called Forever Lesbians (er…actually four guys from Philadelphia). “They’re very new, but they’re amayyyy-zing,” he enthuses. “I’m not really into the business side of things – I just want to help them out. I’ll take them as far as I can then a proper manager can take over…I’ve got my own music to think about!”

Just then, fresh from her show, Låpsley comes out for a cigarette and they share a mutually appreciative hug. “I love her,” Shamir purrs.

“Oh my God!” screams a Japanese girl who’s emerged out of the queue after spotting him. “You talk just like you sing!”

Shamir takes this interjection in good spirit.

But then he pulls out his phone. “Where’s my band?” he says, looking worriedly at his mobile for some heaven-sent help. “I need my band!” At this point we realise he needs to sort stuff out.

We part with Shamir giving us a smile and an “okay” sign with his thumb and fingers.

Modest, cool, funny, charming. Shamir.

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