Shantaia Levels Up with her New Album, “Exes and Friends”

Shantaia is an artist on the rise, and her new album is one of the best releases I’ve heard this year. Undiscovered Nashville has been fortunate to see the Saskatchewan native perform occasionally and walk away impressed each time. The singer/songwriter began her musical journey at a young age and has continued to up her game since moving to Nashville. I was excited to have the opportunity to sit down with Shantaia to learn more about her journey and her new album. Please keep reading to learn more about the rising star, Shantaia.

A Lifetime of Preparation

Whenever I interview an artist, I am curious about their “Eureka” moment. Shantaia explained, “I’ve had a long time in music. When I was three years old, my parents put me into singing lessons. Then, around six years old, I began taking piano and guitar lessons. Finally, at nine, I started writing songs. So, by the time I was thirteen, I had won a couple of local competitions. Then I applied to a local radio chain called Rawlco Radio, which was giving out grants for Saskatchewan artists to record a full-length album. So, at thirteen years old, I became the youngest recipient of the grant. It was at this point I started recording my songs.”

For Shantaia, seeing the recording process for the first time would be her “Eureka” moment. She said, “I got the taste of the recording process and being in that creative space, which has become one of my favorite parts of the music industry. This was the first time I remember thinking music could be a career. So at seventeen, I took my first trip to Nashville, where I recorded three songs. After returning to home, I began releasing songs on the radio in Canada.”

Saskatchewan to Nashville

Shantaia is one of several artists who moved to Nashville in 2020. Moving during a global pandemic wasn’t ideal, but sometimes you must rip the band-aid off and go for it. The singer/songwriter said, “I moved to Nashville in October 2020 and loved every second. But, I still get pinch-me moments, like driving down music row and thinking, I live here. I always wanted to move to Nashville, and you only know what that will look like once you are here. It hasn’t been easy for me, especially being a female in country music. So, I had to develop some thick skin. But when people tell me I can’t do something, I smile and say watch me.”

Many artists who move from Canada to Music City have a following in Canada before moving. Shantaia found herself in a similar situation. Shantaia explained, “Before I moved to Nashville, I had released an EP and a single. I released the three songs I recorded at seventeen to radio in Canada. But I didn’t know what I was doing. Even though I had a radio tracker, I was just throwing stuff at the wall to see what stuck. I didn’t know my sound then either, but I leaned toward country/rock. But I also listened to a lot of pop music, and I loved listening to insanely gifted vocalists. So I began working with a new producer and manager, and we took a step back.

While previously lacking experience with radio releases, each song Shantaia has released to Canadian Radio charted higher each time. For example, Shantaia said, “I Wish You Would” charted at 73 and “2 Cents” at 68. “Had a Good Weekend” also hit 54 on the charts, and “Broke to Brand New” reached 33. So, “Broke to Brand New” opened doors for me. Moving to Nashville also helped my following in Canada because it says you are serious and music is not just a hobby.”

Shantaia has Leveled Up as a Songwriter

We have mentioned in other articles how much you will improve as a songwriter after moving to Nashville and consistently writing with others. For Shantaia, this indeed has been the case. The singer/songwriter said, “My songwriting and, more so, my confidence in my writing has elevated since moving here. In Canada, you are, for the most part, writing alone. But in Nashville, you are no longer writing only for yourself. You are writing every day, and also for other people. It opens your mind to fresh ideas. Whereas in Canada, you are so spread out from your peers. You may see your peers twice yearly, but you will network daily in Nashville.

Shantaia Has Learned from Music City

There is a learning curve to the Nashville music scene and a tendency to compare yourself to others. But, the Saskatchewan native explained, “When you first move to town and see all the talented people, you can be motivated to improve or get discouraged. So try to find what makes you unique.”  Shantaia is spot on here. From the perspective of Undiscovered Nashville, I am looking for something fresh. Be bold and be different from other artists in Nashville. I love songwriters who have substance in their writing. Shantaia fits those criteria.

Shantaia explained a valuable lesson she has learned since moving to Music City. She said, “Before I moved here, I worked with a music mindset coach. She helped me focus on the music business and wellness. But after I moved to Nashville, I struggled to find a balance between going out, networking, and the pressure of drinking. So, finding a balance between mental, physical, and musical health was important. It was vital to know my limits because burnout is real. I have witnessed people hit a wall and leave town. Moving during the pandemic may have been a blessing.

Shantaia Releases “Exes and Friends,” a Ten Song Album

Canadian Country music artist Shantaia released her new album on Friday, February 24th. The album, produced by Grady Saxman, features eight songs plus two acoustic tracks. Shantaia discussed how the album came to be. The singer/songwriter said, “It’s a concept album that takes you on a roller coaster of breakup and party songs. As you listen the first time, you are unsure what you’ll get with each track. People gravitated toward my breakup and party songs as I played the music out. Then I had this song, “Exes and Friends,” that became the title track which crosses over both topics. We have party songs for the friends and heartbreak songs for the exes.”

Since the release of “Exes and Friends,” I have listened to the album top to bottom several times. The album concept and the order of the tracks work very well. “Broke to Brand New” was my introduction to Shantaia last year. As with all of her songs, I found the lyrics relatable. “Curfew” takes us back to our youth when times were simpler for many of us. Listen for the key change. n “Had a Good Weekend’ makes you feel good, and the melody will have you bobbing your head. “Know You” may be my favorite track on the album, along with “Hungover You.” “Damaged Goods” is another feel-good song about finding happiness while carrying your baggage. “Best Yet” hits you in the feels as you reflect on seeing an ex with someone new. Finally, the title track, “Exes and Friends,” tells the story of seeing your ex for the first time after a breakup while out with your friends. Also, don’t sleep on the piano version of “Know You.” Shantaia is correct; this album takes you on an emotional roller coaster.

Watch the Shantaia’s “Know You” video here. You can listen to “Exes and Friends” on Spotify or Apple Music

New to Shantaia?

Are you new to Shantaia? Well, we are glad you found her. We asked the singer/songwriter what she hoped you take from her music. Shantaia said, “What I hear from people who are not country music lovers sticks with me. Several have told me, “I’m not a country music fan, but I love what you are doing and your music.” So, I want to write melodies that will stick with you, and if the lyrics do the same, then that’s amazing. It always starts with the melody for me. My music is an edgy pop country, but you will hear the rock influence in the guitar and vocals. But there is a lot of pop influence, but you will also hear a banjo or mandolin. I love that country music is no longer in a box because I never want to box myself in creatively.”

My Thoughts

If you are a loyal reader of Undiscovered Nashville, you know I write about artists that impress me. While I hope you will see what I see in Shantaia and her music, everyone will have an opinion. Shantaia is the real deal! I can see her playing at CMA Fest and on the Opry Stage. Her music is as good as anything on the radio today. So when I say, Shantaia is an artist on the rise, I firmly believe that. So take my advice and listen to “Exes and Friends.”

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