Photos by Meghan Marshall
Interview by Jordan Edwards
Shuba gained fame for her uncanny impressions of performers like Ariana Grande, Celine Dion, Shakira, and Eminem. Now she's ready to concentrate on original music, something she's been releasing for the past five years.
The Chicago native's latest single, "Icon", announces her intention to be known beyond her viral videos. We caught up with her in LA shortly after its release.
You just went skydiving. How was that? I say next time you record a freestyle on the way down.
I feel like next time I want to try and challenge myself to sing on the way down! I don’t know how my friend Jax did that though. The wind is crazy when you first get in the air! Skydiving is something I’ve always wanted to do and I feel like Dubai was the absolute perfect place to do it, especially over the Palm. I’d definitely go again!
Your voice is ridiculous. Not only can you sing in different styles, but you have a really big range. How much of it is talent, and how much of it is work?
Thank you! I think it’s a combination, but I do believe with singing, it’s primarily dependent on what you naturally have and how you use it. I think learning through impressions was how I started developing a more diverse voice for sure though, and that did take a lot of work and re-listening to singers I love over and over again.
What do you do to keep your voice in shape?
I try to stay hydrated and watch how often I use my voice! Shouting or talking too loudly can hurt your voice, singers!
Your latest single "Icon" acknowledges your talent beyond the vocal impressions that helped make you well known. Are you done with impressions?
I don’t think I’m “done with impressions” necessarily but I do think I’m always evolving as an artist and creator, and at this time, I have a lot to say through my own music! Of course, my inspirations will always come out, and it’s super fun to do my Celine Dion voice to shock people every now and then, but I’m especially excited to share my own story and music with the world.
"Indian Summer" is such a smooth track. It sort of reminds me of early Outkast. Where did the sound of it come from?
The original beat for "Indian Summer" was just a guitar loop that my producer and friend HOMI music made. I thought it had a cool western flare to it, and I was spending a lot of time in a desert region at the time, so the guitar line just felt so heat wavy/hazy to me. It was the perfect vibe for a “feeling yourself” type summer track.
When I interviewed Raja Kumari, she talked about the strength of the Indian Diaspora and how it helped build her audience. Have you felt the Diaspora get behind you too?
I definitely have! I love when I see messages of people having listened to "Icon," for example, and saying that they feel heard and/or seen. We’re all trying to figure things out and it’s amazing to be able to speak to that community through my music.
You’ve received recognition from several well known singers and musicians. Which one thrilled you the most?
This is a hard question because I admire everyone so much and without them, I wouldn’t have the artistry I have now. I think my most emotional reaction, where I cried, came from getting a DM from A.R. Rahman when he saw the video of me ordering pizza as Shakira. I grew up listening to A.R. Rahman’s compositions, so they not only remind me of my childhood, but also are so beautiful and hit the heart. Seeing that someone I’d respected my whole life resonated with something I created was surreal.
You have a lot of fun with your sponsored content, like singing as different Snapple flavors. How do you choose which brands to work with?
I honestly go by feel! I love when brands seem like they’ve also done their own research and propose fun ideas that would realistically work with consumers, because people want ads to feel natural or spark some sort of emotional connection.
What’s next? Maybe a full album?
Right now I’m mostly working on getting as many singles out as I can! I’ve been writing pretty much every day and working with a lot of cool people to get out my ideas. There will be lots of new music videos and lots of live shows (a tour in the fall) for sure!
Shuba - Icon (Official Lyric Video)www.youtube.com