Shanell Calls On Aubrey O’Day + D Woods For Music Biz Advice + Hates Being Labeled An “R&B” Artist


I’m glad you say that because some women aren’t as bold as they can be because they’re scared of being a “bitch,” you know what I mean? And that brings me into the next question. With your g-spot-inspired single “My Button”, what message are you trying to send?
Oh, gosh! The single [Laughs]. It’s a subject I’ve heard from friends, on TV shows. It’s a subject I heard on The View, you know! Women having to fake it when it comes down to that. The song is a story; I’m talking to my button and trying to convince my button. We may have to go ahead and fake it this time but just hang in there ‘cause if he doesn’t come through, I got you when it’s over with. It’s funny, but it’s real shit at the same time.

It really is, and what made you go with this song?
I was really nervous to play it. I had Cortez, Mack, Wayne in the room, and I was like, ‘I’m about to play a song and I don’t want y’all to get offended because it is kinda on the attack of men.” [Laughs] And they thought it was so funny and so real that they were like, ‘We wanna roll with this one,’ and I was surprised. It’s done in a classy way.

What does it feel to be at this point in your career with your first single about to hit radio rotation? What does that feel like?
I’ve been wanting to do this forever, so it’s crazy. A few years ago it was like people don’t know you until you drop a single, but people are like, ‘When’s the album coming?’ I’m like, can I do a single first? [Laughs] It feels great. I can’t wait. I’ve done and dealt with a lot of stuff in the last few years just media-wise–gossip blogs—and I’m really excited to put some music out for people to listen to instead of talking so much. This will give them something to talk about!

Who is giving you advice about this industry and helping you navigate the biz?
My sister [D Woods] and Aubrey [O’Day]. There are certain things I call my sister about, and there’s certain things I call Aubrey about. They both have dealt with this whole world before I have, and sometimes if I’m crying or upset about something, they’re both looking at me like, get over it. [Laughs] They help me out a lot, and that’s the whole thing that we try to do—support each other. There’s not a lot of women that stick together like that.

What are the two pieces of advice that you Aubrey and D give you that just sticks with you every day?
Aubrey has said to me… Well, I’m a really nice person, and I tend to feel like people are friends. I put people close to me, and she’s like, ‘This is a business. Everybody’s here to use each other, so use people for what they’re good at and then keep moving.’ And it sounded crazy to me! I’m like, use people?! But I’ve seen it happen a few times with people that I work with. This business is not about loyalty, it’s about business and that was something I had to learn quick. That’s what Aubrey has said to me, and D says a lot [Laughs]!

Is there one thing in particular?
Her and I talk a lot more when it comes to the stage and performing. Usually when a person is like, ‘You did a great job,’ she’s the one that’s standing back behind everybody waiting to tell me, ‘Okay, you looked down at the ground five time and you didn’t hit that not right there. You have to breathe in.’ She’ll tell me what I didn’t do right, but I need that because everybody else is telling me, ‘Good job,’ and I can go to my sister to find out what I need to work on.

Constructive criticism is awesome to have. Now, to jump back into the music—On Shut Up And Listen, your sound was sexy and almost hypnotic in a way. Is that the sound fans can expect on your upcoming mixtape Nobody’s Bitch?
Nobody’s Bitch is going to be very loud and obnoxious to some people because it puts the more wild, fun, party side. The stuff on Shut Up And Listen feels good, it’s more melodic and you can two-step to it, but Nobody’s Bitch is when you got your hands up in the air dancing on somebody’s table.

So it’s more of a strictly party album?
Yeah. It’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun 2011″!

Does it have any house music undertones?
Definitely. I’m not done working on it yet, but I’ve listened to what I’ve done so far, and I’m like, oh my God! People are going to think I’m a house techno artist [Laughs]. There’s a lot more of that because, you know, I’m a dancer at heart. I need to get people up out their seats, and I wanna hear myself when I’m going to the club. Yes, I want to be sexy and melodic, but at the same time, I can party. Hard!

Do you like being labeled pop/punk? Some people even say that you’re R&B.
I don’t like the R&B [label]. I’ve always done a bunch of different sounds, and I kind of feel like that’s where the listener’s ear is now. There’s access to so much music so easily that people are starting to accept more. People that just used to listen to hip-hop now listen to dance music. Usher doing “OMG”, Chris Brown doing it. With me, the lines are gray. I do it all. I just don’t like “R&B”. I guess because when I was younger, R&B to me was Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. I didn’t listen to that. That was my sister, and I was listening to Madonna and Janet Jackson and people that did a bunch of different music.

I feel you. Your music is heavily influenced with pop, so I understand you not wanting to be boxed in.
They don’t expect a lot to me. I am a black girl that sings, but that’s not it.

Exactly. If you’re a black artist then people want to categorize hip-hop or R&B, but it’s not strictly that anymore.

Are there any specific writers or producers that you worked with for this mixtape that you’re excited about?
I’m really excited to hear my song with Jeffree Star. He just recently signed to Akon, and we got together and did a crazy song [Laughs]. I have some other features on there that I don’t want to tell, but it was so crazy because it was hard to find women that didn’t care what they said. ‘What’s the song about? Oh, I can’t say that.’ What?! Like, come on. So, I got some bossed up girls. We’re not apologizing for anything that we say.

Photos by Drexina Nelson

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