Exclusives Interviews 22 November 2021

GRM EXCLUSIVE: Shakka Talks Debut Album, Writers Block, Motivation & More

22 November 2021
Shakka GRM

Longevity and consistency go hand-in-hand when being a mainstay in the music business, something Shakka has been able to perfect, and he is now reaping the benefits. There’s been no looking back since the days of his first EP Foolishness, and the R&B sensation who grew up in Notting Hill has grown in stature.

Versatility has been shown throughout the years, building his own brand as well as working with heavy-hitters including the likes of Young Thug, Wretch 32, JME and many more.

Accolades have followed and have not gone unnoticed. Working with Dua Lipa to receive the songwriter award at the Grammy’s is no small feat by any means. A greater achievement is his own body of work. His long-awaited debut album A Road Trip To Venus showcases the individual brilliance of Shakka, as he takes us on a journey throughout different stages of love.

A career which has evolved over a 10-year time span takes patience, inspiration and a whole lot of focus. We spoke to Shakka to get an insight on the new album and what pushes him to be the best.

Shakka! What was the process of creating your debut album? 

“I swear to God we didn’t have one! The last project we dropped was in 2016. I had this conversation with my manager, we have gorgeous amounts of music that’s waiting to be heard. We were like let’s plan a strategy for the next couple of months and by August/September 2020 we were ready to go.

“It was a mad concept because we didn’t know if we could shoot videos or link up with people on a human level during lockdown. The process of the album just evolved over time. The pandemic hit again, so we thought build the bread and however many tracks we’ve made and completed before just invest!” 

How did you come up with the title A Road Trip To Venus

“There was a lot of titles swirling around and I put this task off for time! The thing that did stick with me was the fact that it felt like a journey of love. It felt like talking about different aspects of love. When I put the songs together, I took road trips whilst listening to them, it was like a car test! Every time I went to a new sound it felt like a new space and a new world.”  

Clocking in at 19 tracks, how long did it take to complete the project?

“There’s a lot of songs that didn’t make the cut! There was a focus group, with a close group of friends where we shared all the music and get opinions from. Asides from the musicality and level of production, lyrical content, we had to think is this song a one of one? Is it a song nobody else on the planet could make? That was an unspoken rule that we felt with the entirety of the album.

“In term of putting the album together and ordering, there was a healthy conversation about maintaining energy. We needed an area with slap after slap and moments where you just want to exhale for a bit. It was a process in itself but after a couple weeks we got to the form as you see it as now.” 

There’s a mix of different sounds on the album – What was the most enjoyable song for you to make? 

“It varies all the time! I remember moments that happened when we were writing the songs and there all different moments. They were also made at different times in my life. “Hunting” I’ve had for about 5-6 years but I’ve been in love since I made it. Even interludes like “A Rasclart Fistbump” – That was like a slice out of a moment in a time where a culture clash was very likely, either in your workspace, or school space, someone’s going to try and be ignorant and overly comfortable.

“After the events of 2020, and the many debates of race, this interlude feels a bit more poignant and more people can connect with it. In terms of my favourite song it’s hard to gauge! Right now, “Take It There” is really nice but I have seasons! “Scuba Deep” is getting a lot of great feedback.” 

We’ve recently seen Kanye West and Drake release feature-heavy projects – Was there an importance of having a majority of solo singles opposed to features? 

“Yes, there was. I hadn’t told my story in a while. I hadn’t really expressed where my head was at and give a debut offering, this is my first album! It’s important for people to see what I think the future of British music can sound like. A lot of that comes from hibernating and going away from the scene.

“I love writing with a bunch of people and with that comes the addiction of learning. There’s a huge beauty in being able to collab’, at the same time there was importance for me to tell people what my story was and to establish what my sound was. It can get blurred very easily.” 

Did you have a set studio to go to? Or was it about travelling to different locations and changing your scenery to deliver your best music? 

“It varies! When I was finishing the album, I was at my home studio. In the making of the album I went to Montreal, L.A., New York. I want to go to more places because the scenery affected me! Al Shux who produced “Take It There”, his space is in Downtown L.A and there’s like a floor-to-ceiling window which expands all across the room. Whilst we’re writing, there’s just this view of the entirety of L.A. – The valleys, the mountains, people who live there. You could feel the humidity and it was a great environment to work in.”

Even the most gifted musicians can have writers block – Is there a technique to combat this? Or do you take some time off to reflect on the work you have already done? 

“I have a few techniques! I think I’ve realised that the only time I get writers block is a combination of two things – A lack of inspiration and a lack of faith. The inspiration is essentially an umbrella word to describe any musical aspect that I haven’t tackled yet. If I hadn’t studied any new music, that hole wouldn’t had been refilled.

“There’s also rating myself! It’s easy to get into your feelings based on a performance of a song or something as simple as an Instagram post! It can easily make you question your tekkers! Unless your faith in yourself is so solid that you don’t even think It’s a problem no more. That comes from staying in the studio and seeing this whole game as a marathon and not just one hit.”  

Is there a difference between the process of making an album and releasing a shorter body of work in an EP format? 

“It’s more expensive! Especially doing more videos! I want my fans to have enough emotional stamina to go through seven tracks. There’s this fear in me that questions whether people will be there after track 8, 9, 10 and there’s 19 tracks! There’s also having faith in the project and the way you structure it.

“In terms of the process, I think studying is one of the most important things in the way I approached this album compared to an E.P. I listen to albums which I believe are classics, like Speakerboxxx/The Love Below from Outkast, or ‘Conflict of Interest’ by Ghetts. Great bodies of work. Cheat codes would come out for me and we would implement them into an album.” 

For artists, winning a Grammy is one of the highest achievements – How did you feel after receiving one for your work with Dua Lipa? 

“You know what’s weird? I don’t know if I feel how people expect me to feel. I grew up falling in love with sound more so than the stardom. I love showmanship and performing on stage, it’s exciting! However, I didn’t tell my parents I wanted to be a singer so I could get a Grammy, I really liked bars, melodies and the process of putting songs together. The Grammy is definitely dope. My Mum and Dad came from humble beginnings. When they see that name and award associated with their child’s name, it’s mind-blowing for them! Same time, I know what the assignment is.” 

Outside of music, what keeps you going and motivated to succeed? 

“I definitely seek fulfilment. The way I was gassed by the likes of Gorillaz, Outkast or Dizzee, I want to give that same feeling to human beings. Aside from that, there wasn’t many opportunities for my Mum and Dad. They fought tooth and nail to first come to the country and then build something me and my siblings could benefit from. With that comes the real reality that the opportunity you have cannot be taken for granted. Those are the things that motivate me.” 

Do you feel with music, that you have to evolve your sound? Or can music and the vibe you bring be timeless? 

“You’ve got to evolve with it. There’s a constant desire to see yourself represented in different art forms. I’m one person that loves to show how melodic black music could be represented in a space where romance and R&B is a cornerstone. I feel like a reason people may gravitate to my music is because they may see themselves in me or what I’m saying on the songs. Music needs to evolve because people and culture evolve. If it doesn’t evolve you will be extinct!” 

Who are your current 3 go-to-artists you are listening to? 

“Ragz Originale is a bad boy, his solo stuff is crazy. Santino Le Saint, I discovered him not to long ago and a really nice pocket of R&B and Trap. Kaleem Taylor’s been murking for a while too, he’s great.” 

Is there anyone on your bucket list you want to work it who you haven’t had to chance to yet? 

“There’s always someone on the bucket list! Stevie Wonder I have to work with. Andre 3000, I’d really like to have a conversation with him. Adele would be really fun to make a song with, Tame Impala would be really dope too. A Skepta song would be really fun to make!” 

Final question Shakka, what would be an achievement for you with this album?

“The achievement is that fact that it’s out! To be at this milestone for me is a mental achievement. I have a billboard in Leicester Square with my face and Amazon Music! My family see this and are like what is happening right now! To take my family’s last name with me wherever I go is an achievement for me. The fact people are constantly sending me messages is mad. I’m winning right now!”