Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shena - The Pop Trash Interview

Shena Winchester is a one woman disco revival machine. Earlier this year the English diva announced her arrival with the stunning "Can't Stop The Rain" and further cements her position as one of 2009's essential pop acts with its equally brilliant follow up. "My Fantasy" is a glittering nu-disco anthem that sounds like it has been dug out of a sequin filled time capsule. The track is so incredibly faithful to the tenements of disco without ever sounding tired or derivative, which is an absolutely massive achievement in my book. I couldn't wait to ask Shena about her influences and upcoming debut album when I interviewed her. Hearing about the evolution of her sound was fascinating but I was just as excited to discover that Shena is the voice behind some of my all time favourite dance tunes - starting with JX's iconic "You Belong To Me" way back in 1995. I hope you enjoy my chat with this fabulous 14 years in the making overnight sensation!

Shena, you seem to have come out of nowhere but I believe you're no stranger to the music scene. I was digging through my collection and found a copy of "Let The Beat Hit Em" from 1997. Are you the same Shena and was that your debut?

Yes that was me back in 1997 with "Let The Beat Hit 'Em". That was my second release as a solo artist but not as a dance diva. The first track I recorded and released commercially in the dance world was "You Belong To Me" by JX.

A young, bald (!) Shena helped turn this into a dance classic

Did you actually record an album to go along with "Let The Beat Hit 'Em"? What was it like being with a big label?

No, I didn’t record an album to go with it unfortunately. I did and didn’t enjoy being with a major label because I felt like I was contracted to them in name only. That was because my label was Virgin Club and not Virgin itself, so I got none of the perks that say The Spice Girls got.

I understand you've also been a session singer for some of the biggest names in soul. Who has benefited from your amazing vocals?

The late James Brown, the late Luther Vandross, Joss Stone, Ronan Keating, Heather Small, Amy Winehouse, Patti Labelle, Inner City, Errol Brown, Lisa Stanfield and Angie Stone. These are as many of the big soul artists as I can think of at this moment, but there are plenty of others from many different musical genres that I lent my vocals to.

You've also featured on some of the biggest dance tracks of recent years including Michael Gray's "The Weekend" and Junior Jack's "Dare Me". Was not being credited on such big hits frustrating? Did it spur you on to record your own album?

Absolutely, because as much as I love dance music I have always felt faceless within it. Hence after years of trying to contain that frustration, my husband and I decided that enough was enough and "One man woman" my forthcoming album was born.

It must be great to finally be calling the shots. Did you have an idea of how you wanted "One Man Woman" to sound before you started recording or did it just evolve?

Calling the shots feels very nice indeed. Also no, I had no idea how I wanted the album to sound except that I wanted to create something that I myself would buy as well as a lot of other people of course! Initially we had great songs but were unsure of direction, but when James and I analysed what our strengths were and through some very helpful advice from a ‘tastemaker’ friend we decided to reinvent it into a nu-disco album. It’s hard to break a new act with a sound that is different to the mainstream, but the feedback we are getting is phenomenal, so we’re now convinced that we made the right decision.

Which writers and producers have you worked with?

Too many to mention but the list includes the Freemasons, Alex Gaudino, Michael Gray, Full Intention, Starchaser, Warren Clarke, 7th Heaven, Bimbo Jones, Fraser Smith, Richard Cottle and James Winchester who produced the entire album except for one song, co-wrote it with me and also happens to be my manager and hubby.

"My Fantasy" is such a glorious slice of disco. Have you always been a fan of the genre? What are your favourite disco anthems?

I have always been a fan of the genre and because I was born in the 70’s I never got a chance to really appreciate it the first time round so I am more than making up for it this time. Regarding my favourite disco anthems that would have to be, "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer, "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind and Fire and "Blame It On The Boogie" by Michael Jackson.

Shena's scorching hot sisters!

The video clip is amazing. I want that disco ball outfit! Is it true that your sisters are the sexy backing singers in the video?

Thank you and yes the three gorgeous ladies who star as my backing singers in the video clip are all my sisters…Nobody believes me when I tell them that!

You've said that Whitney Houston is your ultimate role model. Are you looking forward to her comeback in September?

Oh yes, yes and yes, but she had better be good and not have lost that beautiful gift that she was blessed with or I don’t know if I will be able to forgive her. It’s not nice to see or hear your idol in a bad state, so I’m hoping to be inspired all over again like I was when she first arrived on the scene.

Congratulations on delivering one of the best songs of 2009. I wish you every success with the album!

Thank you so much!

"My Fantasy" is released in the UK on the 29th of June. You can pre-order Shena's debut album "One Man Woman" from HMV and Amazon. Make sure you add her as a friend on Myspace and check out her website.


Miss Halliwell said...

I never knew that was THE voice behind that classic JX track!

I LOVE My Fantasy and will buy her album when it's out!

You get a mention on her website Mike (fame at last!)...

Great interview, Great lady!

tommie said...

Freemasons? That's quite a surprisingly big name for a no-name dance artist! I hope all goes well for her, even if My Fantasy isn't gearing up to do any major waves which is a shame. I'll def get it once it's out.

Anonymous said...

Check out 'Hold on' soon to be released on Freemaison Records. Massive tune, Freemasons mix is killer...not sure an artist with 9 UK top 40's can be classed as 'no-name' either...check your facts the new disco stuff, go Shena!

undisco_me said...

Facts have nothing to do about it, she 's finally got her name single-billed and not in italics after the producers moniker in bold capitals. To many she is a no name despite her reseme being fuller than Dannii's passport.

I know her from the Guetta-circa-2002 style 1000 Years, which was one of my favourite 2005 faceless dance tracks. There *is* a video though..

I applaud her vintage disco fetish, but I'm not feeling any twitches down south about it. I await her hardboiled Bimbo-Freemasons collabs - those I expect to be disco viagra.

I also love her entitlement and 'hell yeahs' to Mike's casual probing. And I agree with her about Whitney (who I am currently going a bit mad over).

In her current state, she reminds me of Mary Griffin's dance campaigns.

tommie said...

@Anonymous: she's still a kind of a no-face dance diva act despite that. I'm not hatin', but I had never heard of her name before "My Fantasy" here on PTA, despite knowing of at least two of her previous hits.

I hope My Fantasy can sneak into the top 40 at least. It's too good to be overlooked!

Jay said...

I cannot believe Shena is the busty beauty behind the epic There's Nothing I Won't Do!

John said...

Great interview. I'm not familiar with a lot of the output listed, but here's hoping she at least stands a fighting chance.

Talia said...

I know JX 'There's Nothing I Won't Do' but not this one.

I LOVE the fact that the backing girls are her sisters. Amazing.

Scarlett said...

Wow! Ace interview, Mike! After reading the Pop Panel's thoughts on "My Fantasy" I looked up Shena and was thrilled to find that she did the vocals for "Watch Out" with Alex Gaudino. I love that song and her voice, and now after reading this fab interview I can't wait to hear her new album. :)

Mike said...

I kind of understand what Tommie is trying to say. After the interview I flicked through my Ipod and found at least 10 Shena tracks. However, until recently I had no idea of her amazing dance legacy.

However, as anonymous says, if Shena was given credit for all the hit records she has contributed to - she would be a household name.

I really hope this album brings Shena the success she so richly deserves!

Paul said...

Great interview mike. i am increasingly obsessed with My Fantasy :)

Aaron said...

Fantastic Interview Mike, you must be suitably impressed with yourself - Surely!

Anyways, Can't wait for the album, I wish her all the best!

tommie said...

Exactly what I mean Mike - I didn't mean to sound dismissive of her, because judging by her extensive discography on Wikipedia, she should be a household name.

She's just been unlucky with producers not giving her proper credit I guess. Hopefully Freemasons will do her justice.

Anonymous said...

Mike, doll... couldn't you at least get her name right? It's Shèna. :)

And tommie, shut the fuck up! We are tired of your bitterness. All your comments are some smart-ass remarks.

How many hits have you had?

*crikets chirping*

Exactly! NEXT!

Anonymous said...

PS: Mike, JX hired a woman to do PRs and appear on the singles' covers and music videos. Shèna never received a single credit.

Mike said...

LOL! I actually noticed the accent in Shena's name on the album cover. I just thought it was something the graphic designer threw in to look classy! Whoops.

RV said...

it's gonna be IMPOSSIBLe to wait till 31st of August for her album ...!!!

Tommy said...

Great job on the interview, Mike! I'm looking forward to more from her, even though there seems to have been plenty already (I just never knew it either). Looking forward to her album, hope she'll get some name recognition now!

Moogaboo said...

Oh wow, I had no idea she was the voice behind "Weekend," one of my all-time faves. That song could spring me out of a coma. As for her current stuff, I really love "Can't Stop the Rain" -- the Chic-y first single, apparently. Can't wait to hear more.