Shontelle: More than the Next Rihanna

Barbados has proven to the music industry that it is more than the typical island scene, dancing natives and the amazing Grass Skirt Posse. Your favorite deejay most likely played Alison Hind’s version of “Roll” in their Caribbean set which has been a grand success since it hit the airwaves. What’s more amazing is that […]

Barbados has proven to the music industry that it is more than the typical island scene, dancing natives and the amazing Grass Skirt Posse. Your favorite deejay most likely played Alison Hind’s version of “Roll” in their Caribbean set which has been a grand success since it hit the airwaves. What’s more amazing is that the songwriter behind “Roll” is the same talent singing “T-Shirt” that has gained popularity as of late.

Meet SRC Records’ newest protégé, Shontelle. She’s intelligent, driven and inspired by Ariel from The Little Mermaid. It’s even been said that she told Rihanna to drop and give her ten in Cadet Camp during their childhood. The Bajan sensation had an interesting journey between family and education, but her calling into music helped her overcome her dilemma. With her new album Shontelligence in stores now, the songstress showcases her versatility in Pop, R&B and Caribbean flavor, but don’t worry. She’s not another Rihanna. Alternatives: How excited are you about your album being out?

Shontelle: Super excited! My album is out now and I am ecstatic!

AHHA: Let’s talk about your background for a minute. Who were some of the artists that you were influenced by coming up?

Shontelle: Oh man, so many! From local Soca and Calypso artists from home, Bob Marley, my parents listened to Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and a lot of Motown [music]. I grew up on that stuff too. I really loved The Fugees, Missy Elliot and Timbaland when I was growing up. I was into a lot of Hip-Hop when I was younger, but then I also love artists like Prince and Sting. I remember when I went through this real heavy Biggie phase. I moved on from that to Jay-Z. I listen to so many different styles of music. I’ve been influenced by a lot of different genres.

AHHA: So you have an Aunt that’s actually a famous singer in your hometown?

Shontelle: Yeah! [laughs] My aunt is Kim Derrick!

“Gimme Some” – Kim Derrick

AHHA: How influential was she in your career?

Shontelle: Very. She used to have me practicing Michael Jackson songs when I was younger and practicing the moves and everything! She was pretty much the only person in my family when I was growing up who was encouraging me to do music. My parents and the rest of my family, for the most part, were old fashioned. They didn’t think that music was a viable career and it was too risky. They were scared of all the things that I might be exposed to. They weren’t that keen on it, but [my aunt] would be the one to push me. She was really crucial as far as keeping me motivated and keeping me wanting to do music.

AHHA: How supportive is your family now that you’re signed and have an album out?

Shontelle: My parents are very excited and very supportive for sure. This started even before I got signed. Before all this happened, I wrote a song called “Roll.” I was really doing well at home and at that time I had proven to them that I could still balance school and still do music. They were worried that I would drop out of school or that I wouldn’t care about school anymore, so I think they started to feel more comfortable by then. Now they understand that I made up my mind that this is what I wanted to do. They’re 200% supportive now.

AHHA: What was it about music as an artist that was so appealing to you than you staying at the University of the West Indies studying Entertainment Law and taking it somewhere?

Shontelle: I just had this thing. I had to watch Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock and anything that was musical and that had singing into it.

Then I remember watching The Little Mermaid and … I could relate to how in the movie she always has to try to go against her father and it reminded me so much of my situation, or your family wanting you to do one thing and you want to do something else.

It didn’t help that she had Sebastian the Crab and he was West Indian. [laughs] I could really relate to all the songs and that’s when I really started to tell myself, “You know what? I think I want to do this. I can’t do anything else. I just can’t.”

I would find ways no matter what it took. Even all the way when I was still in school I would lie to my parents all the time. I was the opposite of other kids. Where kids would say, “I’m going to the studio” or “I’m going to study” so they could go to the club, I would tell my parents, “I’m going to the club” or “I’m going to a sleepover” and I’d be in the studio. I didn’t want them to know I was working on music because they would tell me, “No.” I just did anything, anything that I had to do. I couldn’t help it.

AHHA: Let’s talk about Shontelligence. You have your hit single “T-Shirt” which is a Pop song. It shows your diversity since you have that Caribbean element. Was that a conscious decision?

Shontelle: That was a very conscious decision. When I first met SRC, they originally wanted me because I was a songwriter. They kind of put me on the spot one day, brought out a guitar and said, “We really think you’re one talented artist.” First we couldn’t make up our minds what direction we were going. At first I was going to be a female Sean Paul or maybe be a female Collie Buddz or a female Damian Marley. It was going to be a lot more Reggae and songs from the islands, but then I started telling them, “I have more than that. Why don’t you give me a chance to just showcase everything that I can do?”

They were actually cool and they let me do it. We started working on different songs and that’s when everyone started to get really excited that I was so versatile. It made me think of some of my favorite artists that I look up to like Wyclef and Lauryn Hill where they could do the mainstream sound and they could also flip it and give you a little West Indian flavor here or there. I thought if they could do it, I could definitely do it, so why not give it a shot.

AHHA: How hands on were you on your project?

Shontelle: Oh yeah! I was really hands on with my album. Actually, there are only three songs on the album that I did not write. All the others I either wrote or co-wrote. I was very hands on for sure.

“Roll It” – Shontelle

AHHA: What do you want your audience to get out of your music?

Shontelle: What I would love for everyone to get is that my music is very real and I put a lot into it. It’s a “feel good” album. You can bet that everything you hear on the album is all my thoughts. It’s everything I’m feeling, it’s my experiences, it’s all me. I think it’s an album that’s really enjoyable because different age groups can relate to it.

There are songs on there for the club, there are songs on there for when you feel bad and you just want to mope about something, there’s feel good songs like “Battle Cry” and songs that empower women like “Superwoman” and “Roll” also. Those are the things that are real important to me and I’m glad I got the chance that I got to do all of that on my album. It’s such a versatile and dynamic album that I think it will appeal to so many people. I just know people are going to enjoy it. It’s very edgy.

AHHA: Has anyone ever told you that your style is similar to Rihanna’s?

Shontelle: I’ve heard people say that they think that our style of music is similar, but I don’t really know how to respond to that. There are so many Pop artists, R&B artists and Hip-Hop artists and you can make all the comparisons that you want. I think our music is very different. I think we are two very different artists. Our styles of delivery are very different. I think if people actually take the time to explore my music then they’ll be able to see that there’s a difference.

Both of our styles are really great—no, I don’t think that there are that many similarities. Maybe it’s our accent and the way we pronounce words. Pop is Pop. R&B is R&B. There’s always going to be comparisons. I guess when you’re new that’s what happens. There will always be comparisons until you solidify yourself and establish yourself. So hopefully one of these days some new artists are going to be compared to me.


“T-Shirt” – Shontelle