> Interview: SHEARS On Artwork, Friends, And That Album - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Interview: SHEARS On Artwork, Friends, And That Album

Now we're kind of getting into our stride.

When it comes to good music, we don’t care where you’re from, if we like it, we love it! However, there is something special in Scottish talent coming through and at times, we need to pinch ourselves at the music made by SHEARS. If you love dance and/or pop, she’s had some of the strongest releases in the past couple of years, and her new EP is more of the same.

We once again caught up with SHEARS, talking about artwork, friends, dancing, and that album looming on the horizon.

New EP Now We’re Getting Somewhere WAS released in late February. Is it a fair representation of where you’re at right now?

I think so. I finished it in April last year, so you change a little bit and progress with what you’re doing. But it’s a fair representation and it’s called Now We’re Getting Somewhere because it’s a body of work that I have written, recorded, produced and mixed, and it’s the first one where I’ve done all of the stuff. Everything apart from mastering. So it feels like a bit of a milestone for me and now we’re kind of getting into our stride.

Is it easy to present something you recorded a year ago as new?

You’ve just got to kind of remember where you were at, at that time. Part of me listens to it now and I think I could do that a bit better now, but you’ve got to leave it be and say, this is the best I could do at that time. And then we move forward.

A lot of moments are about the end or soon-to-be end of a relationship. Have you collated a theme for the EP, or just had a rough few months?

I had a lot of feelings at the time, ha! There was a lot going on. I hit a point in my life where people moved forward with what they’re doing, but everyone’s going in different directions. I think it happens to everyone. Some people stick around, some people don’t. Breaking up with a friend can feel worse sometimes than breaking up with a partner because you’ve known somebody for such a long time. It felt like a turning point where all this stuff was happening.

It’s natural that many people focus on the production work, but how much work do you put into your lyrics?

Lyrics used to come first. And now they come in bits and bobs, but most of them come at the end. I try and put as much as I can into the lyrics. I find the production work more immersive, and then I realise, there’s a verse here, I need to finish this verse. And I sit down and have a think about what I’m trying to say. It’s a process, but at the moment, the lyrics come at the end once everything else is kind of set out.

SHEARS – I Look At You (It’s Over) (Lyric Visualiser)

With your vocals, but ultimately with any instrument, when do you know it’s time to cut loose, and when is it time to be more restrained?

Haha, it’s difficult to know sometimes. You want room to cut loose, to have a better vocal live, to make it more interesting. It’s hard to know when to cut loose. You just don’t want to overdo it; you don’t want to have it too busy.

The artwork for the singles/EP features yourself as a child. Was this to save money or to symbolise something more pertinent?

I mean, it did save money, but it wasn’t the initial intention. My mum was clearing out a bunch of cupboards and they were moving house, and she’d sent me a whole load of those photos that I’d never actually seen before. I went through them and thought these would be really good. As the EP is called Now We’re Getting Somewhere, I felt like having the young me at the beginning worked with that idea.

Now We’re Getting Somewhere EP artwork

You wrote, recorded, produced, and mixed the EP yourself, and there’s many reasons you should, but is there an overriding reason for you to remain in so much control?

I definitely like control over the music because you get to have it sound exactly the way you want it to sound. Also, you don’t need to wait for other people’s schedules to align with yours, which is something that was always kind of tricky before, because people are really busy. You’d be like ‘can you mix these six songs?’ They’d say, ‘yeah, in two months’.

You can work it into your own time and get it done whenever you need to get it done. And that’s quite nice as well. Also, having control over the sound, and having it sound exactly the way you want it to, because you get so used to demos and how they sound. Sometimes when it goes from that straight to a finished mix, it can be quite jarring because they sound completely different.

Obviously, they sound better as mixes, but it takes you a while to get used to how they sound. So when you go through the process yourself, it’s not quite as jarring.

You’ve said learning mastering is next. Have you started on that yet?

I’m learning at the moment. I’m doing a mastering course with Berklee College of Music (a US-based institute of music and the performing arts) at the moment. It’s really good. I think, from what I’ve learned so far, that if you’re doing every other process, it’s good to get somebody else to master it. Just because you get so used to what you hear, getting another pair of ears at the end is actually quite helpful. So I might not master my own stuff, but I thought it would be really useful to understand the process.

I feel learning to mix made me a better producer. And I felt like if I learned how to master, at least then I would understand the mixing part better for it to go to the next step, rather than just saying ‘I think it’s done, give it to the mastering engineer’. Actually, knowing exactly what they’re going to be doing makes everything a little bit clearer.

Just learn everything. I just want to know everything.

shears new ep mind in decline

Something which vexes me a bit is if we should we refer to you as a female producer, because what you’re doing is special because of the additional barriers that are in the way and you act as a beacon to others, or should we just say a producer, because that’s what you are?

I don’t know. I posted on Instagram recently where I said can you stop using the hashtag female producer at some point, but it feels like that’s the way to find other women doing this, because I feel like we’re unicorns. You know, there are a bunch of us, it’s just you’ve got to find them. Yeah. I guess I am a producer. It’s not a lie to say I’m a female producer.

I totally understand and I don’t get offended if anyone says female producer because you know there aren’t that many, especially not producing for other people commercially. If it helps more people get into it, then that’s always a good thing. It’s tricky. I wish I didn’t have to be called that, because I’m just a producer. But also, if it inspires younger – or not even younger – if it inspires women to get into it, then that can only be a positive thing.

Do you dance to your own songs?

Uh, you’re making me laugh. I have danced to my own songs. Yes, I have, I don’t say I do too much, but I have dance moves.

What’s getting you dancing at the moment?

There’s so much good stuff at the moment. I’ve been listening to a whole bunch of dance stuff. Like Elkka, she was playing at Sneaky Pete’s and I was sad I couldn’t go! TSHA and Kelly Lee Owens, I love them. I also love good old pop music; it perks me right up as well. Some Dua Lipa, some Kylie Minogue, some Georgia, loads of stuff. I like interesting, intricate music and I like pure pop. I think that’s what I’m going for at the moment. Just stuff to brighten my day again.

SHEARS – Figure Me Out (Lyric Visualiser)

You’re five years into your career as SHEARS, with many more in the spotlight to come. How do you feel about the journey to this point?

I feel good about it. We did have Covid in the middle, so I don’t feel like it’s five years. It feels like it’s picking up, there’s a good sort of pace. I think if I said to myself five years ago, I’d be doing all of this myself in five years, I’d be like, nah, whatever. So I’m quite proud I’ve reached this point because I didn’t think I would.

Any thoughts on a debut album?

I’ve started maybe 4 or 5 songs, but they’re not finished yet, so it’s hard to know. It may be a bit poppier than the EP that I’ve just released, slightly, but still with my own style of production. I never know where my songs fit. I always have that trouble when people ask ‘what genre is your music?’ Well, this song sounds like this, and this song sounds like this!

Will any existing songs make it onto the album?

Nah, it’ll all be new going forward. I don’t know exactly how, but I’ll figure that out. That all comes out in the wash.

You’ve already played big shows in Glasgow and Leith recently. Do you have any live plans you can share with us?

I am in a writing bubble at the moment, so I’m not entirely sure. I’m in talks with a couple of festivals. It’ll be nice to do some of that, but I don’t have major plans: usually gigs come through and I go, oh, yeah, that’d be fun.

I haven’t planned anything strictly myself right now because I just want to write for a little bit, but I’ll get some plans in to do some stuff.

If someone asked you for advice on how to get started with music production and mixing, what would you say?

Just start. The first things you do aren’t going to sound good, and that is okay. I think a lot of people try it and then say, I can’t do this. But it takes a little while to find your feet with the kind of sounds you like to use and what you like to do with it. For mixing, especially, mixing takes a lot of practice, so you’ve just got to be patient.

Now We’re Getting Somewhere EP is out now

SHEARS plays the Poetry Club, Glasgow, on 15th March. Tickets here.

Main Photo Credit: Trisha Ward

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