Interview: Ina Shai

Hello. We like your new song “What Is”. What is the story behind the song and how did you create/write it? Also, what inspired the song title?
Hi there. Thank you so much, happy to hear that you like it. The song ‘What is’ was inspired by a deep, one of a kind soulmate love. I wrote it when still in a relationship and remember wondering: »Well, if this is not that real love everyone talks about, then what is?« That’s also what inspired the title of the song. I finished the song with producer Millo after the relationship ended so the song itself kind of perfectly wraps up that era in my life and is, in a way, my goodbye to everything I thought I knew about love and soulmates.

We’ve also seen the music video for the song. What inspired the video and what ideas went into making it? 
I had the idea for the music video since the day I wrote the song. I knew I wanted to be by the sea and funnily enough, I also knew what I wanted to wear. I was lucky to collaborate with award-winning writer/director Maj Jukic and he captured the vibe I was going for perfectly. We had so many ideas for the video but in the end, decided to keep it simple and allow the song to shine on its own. We wanted to capture the past and the present so I also had an actor Callum Diaz join me on set to play my boyfriend. We’ve hit it off from the get-go so recording those scenes was lots of fun. And of course hair and makeup is a big part of any music video. Eva Vilke and Zoe Illana Hill did a great job with that. We were shooting outside for hours and they still managed to somehow make me look good. Majda Jukic was our fairy godmother who looked after all the little details that go into the making of the video. Absolutely grateful for the team I was working with. We had such a great time especially as we weren’t able to do anything like that for over a year due to Covid.

If you had to describe your sound, how would you do so? Furthermore, what artists (or other sources) do you cite as influences?
I’d describe my sound as soulful and sultry RnB-pop. There are so many artists that inspired me throughout the years. As a young girl, I was looking up to all the big divas like Beyonce, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston. I was also obsessed with Usher and absolutely in love with Sade. But at the moment I’m really vibing with artists like Sabrina Claudio, Snoh Alegra, Sinead Harnett…

What have been career highlights so far? And what is on your bucket list that you’d want to achieve?
Highlights have been performing at Pride London, becoming ‘Artist of the week’ at BBC Introducing London and having a cover ‘Starboy’ go viral 2 years after a release. There’s plenty of other things I’d like to achieve but my main goal is to become successful as a recording and performing artist as well as a songwriter. I want to do this for the rest of my life. 

If you could be the main support for any living artist, who would that be for and why? Alternatively, what would be your dream live booking?
It would have to be either Beyoncé or Sade. They’re both iconic and I was and still am such a huge fan. My dream live booking would be performing at the main stage at Glastonbury. 

What artists have you been listening to? Additionally, who should others be listening to?
I’ve been listening to Jazmine Sullivan and Sinead Harnett. Absolutely recommend you go listen to them if you haven’t already. I’ve also recently discovered Cautious Clay through a song called Wildfire and I’m obsessed. 

Ina Shai: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Photo Credit: Maj Jukic

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