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Shay Lia Talks Lying to Kaytranada and Allowing Her Manifestations to Bloom

Shay Lia never needed an intricate formula to succeed. There were certain things about music that naturally poured out of the East African musician, like the way she conceptualized melodies and how her body translated those feelings into movements. And when music became something Shay Lia lived and breathed as a career rather than just a hobby, she looked back and realized that it was all predestined. “I feel like everything that I’ve been accomplishing has been a result of a full moon manifestation for me,” the singer tells Rolling Stone in the latest installment of On Your Radar.

Shay Lia learned early on to get out of her own way in order to allow her manifestations to fully take shape, as it has on her latest single, “Upside Down.” She had never seen herself as a singer in the beginning, but she would release her inhibitions behind her closed bedroom door. Tucked away, she would also spend hours on YouTube searching for new artists. It helped her feel connected to a bigger musical world while living in Djibouti, a country so outside of the Westernized world that barely any concerts pass through. (“Beyonce went to Ethiopia, and it was a whole event in my school, and it’s not the same country,” she adds. “To say how different it is.”)

Years later, when Kaytranada hit Shay Lia to ask if she wrote songs, she played the fake it till you make it card. “I lied to him. I said, ‘Yeah, of course. I write songs in English, whatever the language.’ I could speak barely speak English back then,” she admits. But her lie eventually became her truth. She penned “Three Months” and shared the song as her first official SoundCloud release. Within three days, the song had surpassed 100,000 streams.


“It started like that, slowly. And then I’ll be thinking, ‘Oh, I want to work with that producer, let me try it.’ I wanted to have a judo nomination, and I had it in two, I think, three years ago for my second EP,” Shay Lia remembers. “I also remember seeing Barack Obama’s summer list of artists he loves. I saw Kaytranada on there, and I thought, ‘Okay, if he got it, I can do it.’ And it worked because six months later, Michelle Obama added my song “Good Together” to her list for a Spotify show about love. And on that list, I think I was the only French, East African, and independent artists. It really felt like an out of nowhere manifestation.”

Watch Shay Lia’s full On Your Radar interview above.

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