Photos: David Studarus
After releasing her debut album Nothing’s Real this summer, Shura has gone from a viral YouTube hit with her single ‘Touch’, to a bonafide artist, playing sold-out shows around the world. Coming from a place of anxiety and uncertainty, the album is relatable in its vulnerability, as she speaks of broken down relationships and experiencing her first panic attack. Juxtaposing this poignant lyricism with pop bangers, Shura has a knack for seamlessly pulling together both the highs and the lows, making her one of the UK’s most exciting songwriters.
A true highlight of her chaotic year has just ended as she returns from a two month stint in America supporting one of her all-time favourite bands, Tegan and Sara. In the car from the airport she sounds tired and groggy, but excitable too, never missing the chance to poke fun at herself. “It’s been an incredible few months,” she says, sighing with an obvious retrospect. “On the one hand, it was really fun touring with Tegan and Sara, but obviously being there in the run up to the election and watching the Cubs win the world series, it’s also been really strange.”
“I feel like music has a life of its own outside of itself”
On the night of the election result, Shura played a show in San Francisco, explaining that the room felt like “some very sad San Franciscans who were in need of cheering up.” She continues: “I remember saying to a couple of Americans that it felt very similar to Brexit, obviously on a much larger scale. Unfortunately I was right about that and I don’t relish being right in that sort of prediction.”
Having produced an album that is so deeply personal, it’s easy to assume Shura would find performing these songs every night pretty emotionally exhausting. “I think by the time it becomes a finished song, it never really feels like it’s anything to do with the emotion that I had when writing it; it’s its own thing,” she explains. “There are moments though. I might make eye contact with someone and they have an energy that you connect with and that can sometimes bring something to the forefront, but I feel like music has a life of its own outside of itself.”
Playing roughly 30 shows in six weeks – “I’ve never done anything like that in my entire life” – Shura is quick to describe the experience as “awesome,” enthusing that she “can’t really stress enough how fun it was” on tour. “There were really no times where we had any tension or arguments. We’re such a close bunch as a band that it was just amazing,” she says. “I’ll really miss just being able to look out of the van and see this incredible country. You don’t really have a sense of how huge it is until you drive it. One minute you’re in the mountains, the next minute you’re in a desert, it’s unbelievable.”
One city that resonated with her was Minneapolis, where she took 10 days out of the schedule to sit down and work on ideas for album number two. “I liked the spirit of the place; it’s such a woodsy, outdoorsy place that just felt really inspiring in a different way,” she says. “Obviously I wrote my record in London and as much as I love my first record, I really don’t want to make the same record again. It felt like a really great opportunity to start a few ideas somewhere that was totally different and foreign to where I started with my first record. Hopefully it’ll be an evolution of what it is that I’m doing.”
“As much as I love my first record, I really don’t want to make the same record again”
Speaking of the existential themes on Nothing’s Real, she explains that it’s something that still plagues her. “I think as an anxious person it’s obviously something that you think about a lot; I think that’s something that will follow me whatever path I choose to do whether I like it or not. Quite how I’ll explore that in my next record, I’m not sure. Whether it’ll be more explicit or less explicit, I don’t yet know but it’s always going to be there for sure.”
Setting off on her European tour the next morning, Shura says that although it’s been a phenomenal year for her career, she hasn’t really had a chance to take stock of what she’s done. “I feel like a lot of the things that have happened are positive and I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I would in my entire life, and yet I still feel like I’m at the beginning of a journey, so I guess everything shifts. The more that happens to you or the more you achieve or the further you get, the more you look forward to other things and plan and just get excited. To be honest, I’m just excited about creating, whether it’s music or other projects. I’m hugely interested in film and art and the great thing about being a musician is that we can explore anything – I mean, I’m not quite at the Kanye level yet – but we get given this freedom to just go and create. That’s really exciting for me.”
Shura’s debut album ‘Nothing’s Real’ is out now via Interscope Records. She plays Trinity Centre on 6th December. Check out ‘What’s It Gonna Be?’ below.