Local indie artist, India Shawn is an accomplished songwriter, a singer, a student and, above all else, a real girl following her dreams.
Growing up in a musical family, Shawn began singing in church choirs as a teenager. Upon moving to Atlanta in 2004, she always knew a career in music could be a reality but had no clue where to begin, until Big Lo heard her singing in a parking lot. He later became her manager, took her to the studio and her dream became a reality. During Shawn’s first semester at Georgia State, she began to write more songs. She had more studio time and her music career picked up.
“I was up all night in the studio with different producers and trying to get my homework done,” Shawn said. “I was just sacrificing too much on both sides.”
The music chose for her once she got a recording deal with Universal Music Group. She moved to Los Angeles and dropped out. In that time, she worked with artists like Chris Brown, Monica and Keri Hilson, writing song after song.
“That was hard for me because I found myself compromising and making music that I wouldn’t even listen to myself,” Shawn said. “But because it had placement potential, I was doing it.”
Shawn took a step back from writing and began to put out music that is up to her standards. She released her first album “Origin” in 2012 and it was the sound that defined her as an artist. The nature of “Origin” requires listeners to let their guards down and sink into the sound. Tracks like “Sinking In” allow mellow introspection while, “Be Myself” and “No Saint” soulfully share her direct and innermost thoughts.
“It was super personal for me,” Shawn said. “It was me coming out of the writing situation and putting out music of my own. I was tired of just writing for other people. It [Origin] was really pure and message based. It was deliberate and in your face.”
Kassa Khouzami, political science major, discovered Shawn with a friend when they went to one of her performances at Aloft Hotel this February.
“Her music has such a pure vibe that I could almost see her glow through her lyrics,” Khouzami said. “She’s honest in her songs. It’s relatable and her performance was moving. Floating Away is pretty dope as far as the way she decided to sing it, and the instrumental is pure magic.”
After releasing her sound defining album, Shawn was at a party when she thought she felt Solange eyeing her from across the room. Eventually, Solange approached her to praise her song “All I Have.”
“I just fan-girled out,” Shawn said. “It was really crazy because I wrote that song. Sometimes, it’s really easy for me to downplay my achievements. Like ‘Oh I don’t deserve that credit because I only co-wrote that,’ but I wrote that song and that song was real for me and she found it without a manager or a publicist reaching out to her.”
Shawn’s song “I’m Alive” is featured on Solange’s “Saint Heron” album amongst other R&B artists, like Jhene Aiko and Cassie.
Return to School
After being inspired by her fellow artists who were juggling music, school and work, Shawn returned to school determined to persevere.
“I don’t know what year I am anymore,” Shawn joked. “I have dropped out a few times. I come back and knock out a few hours here and there. I’ve got about 30 more hours to go.”
Shawn is now motivated to wake up earlier to fit in homework and make the most of her time in the studio with her producer. She also found what works best for taking on her daily tasks.
“I write stuff down a lot more often than I used to,” Shawn said. “I have google calendar and whiteboards. I’m writing things down and crossing them off as I complete them. It’s the only way.”
Shawn recalls struggling last semester while taking microeconomics as a prerequisite to her marketing minor.
“No matter how hard I studied it was still crazy,” Shawn said. “I made it through with a B though. I don’t know how the heck I got a B in that class.”
This semester, Shawn performed at the Aloft Hotel every Tuesday in February as a part of a new music series. On Tuesdays, she would leave school at 5:30 p.m. to go home and change, then go straight to the hotel to rehearse. Even though it was hectic, she managed.
“It has been cool to help and watch it grow. Just watching more people come out each week and respond to music they’ve never heard, made it all worthwhile.” Shawn said.
Shawn is set to release her new joint album with renowned songwriter, James Fauntleroy in March. The album, “Outer Limits”, takes a more funky direction than her first album.
“I really just took my hands off of it and gave someone else the creative reigns,” Shawn said. “It’s because I trust him so much as a songwriter. He’s one of the most brilliant songwriters I know and he knows me on a personal level so he gave me what I wanted. “
Although, Shawn is doing what she dreamed of, she enjoys the classes she is taking. She says she is back in school as a personal goal.
“I don’t know how much I need it [school] now,” Shawn said. “But I actually enjoy what I’m learning now. The past year or so has been dedicated to planning, so I had the time to go to school and do the music.”
Shawn’s dream beyond music is to use her degree to open what she calls a human potential center to help inner city residents who don’t have or know about the resources available to them. She hopes to use music as a platform to help her community, but she says she is
prepared to put school on pause again when it comes to furthering her dreams.
“If I get a called to open for Kanye West tomorrow, I might have to say peace out to GSU,” Shawn said. “You just have to sacrifice for what you love. As soon as this album drops and summer hits, I’m just praying that I can go on tour.”