Shalom: “Call me the king of the chorus because this song slaps”

Shalom is dealing with life in a way that also just happens to make a rather brilliant album.

Brooklyn-based, South African-raised newcomer Shalom is about to release her debut album ‘Sublimation’. Recorded with producer Ryan Hemsworth and coming via cult favourite record label Saddle Creek, it’s a record that effortlessly captures the intensity of your early 20s, and trying to deal with life.

Hi Shalom! How’s it going? What are you up to today?

Hey! Today I have therapy and a job interview. As for how it’s going, it’s definitely going. Life has been a bit of a hellstorm recently, but things are finally easing up.

What first sparked your interest in music? 

I’ve always been a writer, and I’m a writer first – I sang in choir in primary school (until they decided to phase out all the altos – which was a weird creative decision by the choir director, to say the least), and I came to songwriting in a pretty natural way because I’ve been writing for so long. 

Did you grow up in a musical household?

I didn’t grow up in a particularly musical household, but I did get a small pink radio for my birthday when I was 11, and I started listening to radio shows and tracking the charts in an almost embarrassing way, but I’m trying to not really believe in being embarrassed anymore. I love music so much – it’s definitely the reason I’m alive, and I can’t even really explain what it’s like to be able to make music while having such a reverence for it as an art form. I wanted to play bass because I always gravitated to that part of music, and in 2019 I was able to buy a bass, and it’s been kind of a ride from there.

Are you creative in non-musical ways too?

I like to write, I like to dance, to cook, mostly to bake. I like making stuff, and I’m reprioritising my joy, so creativity is coming up in a lot of ways.

How do you approach writing songs? Do you have a process?

I don’t really have a process so much as I have a lot of feelings, and holding them in my body gets to be too much… a lot. So really, for me making songs is a matter of bringing myself to a place where I can do my shit, and being like, ‘Ok! Come on out, feelings!’, and then there’s a song. 

What’s the best song you’ve written so far?

Actually wrote this song in December 2022, and it’s so funny because I would not have had an answer to this prior to this event, hahaha. I had a really lovely date with an Australian person who lived in LA but was visiting New York, and it was so wonderful and fun, and the next day at like 1am, I was up making this song about it. And I finished it, and I was like well, I’ll be damned. Call me the king of the chorus because this song slaps.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve been inspired by?

IDK how this goes in so far as being ‘weird’, but a dear friend of mine was in a really terrible abusive relationship, and it made me so angry and so sad, and I had to get the feelings out. That song actually doesn’t have a title; it’s just called like, ‘what is this dec 13’.

You’re about to release your debut album; how long have you been working on it?

The songs on the record were all recorded and written through 2021, with the exception of ‘Concrete’, which I wrote in December 2020. Ryan (my producer) and I are both crazy people when it comes to doing this kind of stuff, so we work really fast and really well. 

What’s the album about?

Yeesh, talk about a loaded question! I guess if I have to come up with an answer for this, which I do, I would say ‘Sublimation’ is about being a person in all the ways that you learn you are one in your early 20s. It’s about hating yourself for thinking about yourself so much, loving people who don’t love you back, making out and feeling good about it, and being off your meds and doing stupid amounts of psychedelics for a month. It’s just what being a person has been like for me on this planet for the last few years. It’s pretty much my bones.

Did you hit upon any unexpected challenges during its creation?

No, actually, making the record was actually one of the easiest things I’ve ever done, and I’m so happy I was afforded the opportunity to really just feel my feelings and make art with them. That’s nuts! And now it’s on vinyl!

You’ve just released your new single ‘Happenstance’ – do you believe in fate?

I don’t know, I mean in some ways totally, but in other ways, like because of that, there’s no such thing. The universe is so big. There’s so much stuff and people and ocean out there that the chances of anything happening at all are ridiculous. But they are real, and they happen, and that’s life. It just is what it is, and I guess if you had asked me in June 2021, I would have told you it’s happenstance. And now, in January 2023, I’m telling you, it’s happenstance – wanting to disappear but also be adored? It just is what it is. My best friend Emily always says ain’t no thing but a chicken wing, and that’s just that.

What’s on your music career bucket list?

This is a crazy question for a lot of reasons – I never really ever made a bucket list (on account of being dangerously depressed for a long time and not really ever thinking about making it to the future), but if I had to have one I would say like having a music career would be like IT. and here I am having it. I want to do so much – I would love to play in Asia? I want to play at a festival in Australia and meet my pen pal, Dora? I want to do pretty much anything I thought I couldn’t do, which is all of it, and then just keep doing it. I’m just happy to be here.

Music aside, what do you do for fun?

Love my friends, pet my kitty cat Jasper; I’m trying to read more, go on walks, notice new things. Existing at all is a pretty miraculous adventure in and of itself. And the really great moments exist in the ordinary everyday ones. I love the idea of just treating yourself like a benevolent alien looking at all the stuff there is in the world. What a joy to be at all. ■

Taken from the March 2023 edition of Upset. Order a copy below. Shalom’s album ‘Sublimation’ is out 10th March.