Spotting Shamir Bailey near the media tent at Pitchfork Music Festival, it was clear that Shamir is not the same as he was in 2015. Wearing a black denim jacket and free of the long braids he sported at last year’s fest, there was more of an edge to the 21 year old artist out of Las Vegas. But don’t tell that to Shamir.
“Nothing has really changed except that I have a bass player now,” Shamir said. “And I’m headlining the stage I played last year.” With the meteoric rise following his 2015 release Ratchet, at this point being just over a year old, it’s easy to assume that Shamir would have changed from his cheerful and approachable self. Being in the spotlight and touring as much as he has is the recipe for becoming an exhausted and detached artist, but Shamir has avoided falling into this and remains one of indie’s darlings.
Playing 33 shows so far in 2016, most of them festival dates, Shamir’s time is occupied more with interviews and performances than, well, normal 21 year old things.
“It’s still weird,” Shamir replied when asked about being a young performer. “I’m still not mentally together about it, I still feel like the same teenager except that people know me better now.” Shamir isn’t far from the age of most of the DJs here at WLUW and the students at Loyola, yet he has a platform and visibility that most of us will never even come close to. Maturing in the limelight is something that we have seen artists go through in the past, and keeping a level head about it is important to staying true to artistic integrity and individual personality.
As with anything, this can be a struggle at times. “I can be very introverted some times but not necessarily when I do my music,” Shamir said, not with dejection but more as a statement of fact. “Even before then I was singing, music has always been a part of who I am and it’s helped me be a more open person and not as closed off.” The guitar that Shamir received at age 9 was imperative to his musical journey, which he found solace in during alone time.
“I get a lot of friend crushes more than actual crushes because growing up I didn’t have too many friends,” he said. “Now every time I see someone cool I’m like ‘hi, be my friend’.” Shamir went on to talk to us about the one song he’d definitely put on a mixtape for a crush: “Friend Crush” by the now defunct band Friends. Immediately after the interview, Shamir said hello to every fan who greeted him with the enthusiasm of someone seeing their best friend after time away from each other. A man of his word.
Individuality is the one area that Shamir will never struggle with. With a voice that is part Michael Jackson, part Nina Simone, and all Shamir, there is an unmistakable quality and immediate identifier that sets Shamir apart from every other artist at the festival. Watching the music video for perhaps his most famous song “On the Regular”, the visuals are vivid and eccentric, yet it feels exactly as it should feel: normal. No matter what Shamir does, it will always be completely and unmistakably him.
Wanna see more performance photos of Shamir and other artists from Pitchfork 2016? Head on over to our Facebook page to check em out!