It’s not often that when I first meet someone I instantly feel that I am in the presence of a huge a star. I’m serious. When I met soulful singer/songwriter Shi Wisdom on February 4th, 2014, I came this close to asking for her autograph because she just seemed like a big star. Don’t get it twisted, she in no way acted diva-ish. Her star quality radiated from her quirky, artsy vibe coupled with a healthy dose of humility and gratitude – which was quite endearing. Her outfit on the other hand, was pure rockstar! Ms. Wisdom was clad in a long, green retro winter coat, badass leopard print high-heeled boots and her trademark oversize glasses. I couldn’t help but stare at all that awesomeness! She was the embodiment of the cool chick in high school that you’re dying to be friends with. And guess what, y’all? I got to have lunch and chat with her for an hour and a half!
Let’s backtrack; this meeting actually happened because of a suggestion made by a mutual friend (Thanks, Jill!). I nonchalantly told her that I was looking for people to interview for my new blog and she suggested I talk to Shi. I heard a couple of Shi’s jazz infused r&b songs on the radio: Easier, LoveSpeak, Take The L, and Monster, plus the many songs that she was featured on, but I needed to know more about the artist.
So I did my research. Checked out her Twitter account, her YouTube channel….. and then I heard her version of Beyoncé’s “Drunk In Love.” BTW, she killed it. It’s actually better than, dare I say, Beyoncé’s version. She completely won me over with her big, powerful voice. I had to meet this talented and fearless songstress.
I sent out the invitation for the interview, and in about a week, we made it happen.
We met at Yorkdale and dined on yummy Indian food at the newly renovated food court. In between giggling and having non-music related convos (Shi schooled me on the evils of student loans and spoke about her stint as a Collections Agent), I had the chance to ask her a few questions about her burgeoning music career.
During our convo I found out that her first “break” into music was when her brother suggested to his friends that Shi sing background music for a website that they were starting. Believe it or not, she was angry at her brother’s suggestion but only complied as a favour to him. Not surprisingly, his friends loved her voice and told her that she should get into music. She blew them off and continued on her path to becoming a ……. French teacher!
Real Name: Renee Wisdom
Hometown: Toronto (more specifically, Eglinton West, a.k.a – Jungle)
Fun Fact: Co-wrote R.I.P with Drake for UK artist, Rita Ora.
Astrological Sign: Aries
You really weren’t thinking of pursuing music back then?
No, not at all. I wanted to be a French teacher. I was in French immersion for all of my schooling except high school. I was accepted into university for French and I went for a while.
Why did you choose music?
I enjoyed music way more than I did French in university. Also, I was going through some crazy, crazy stuff and I stopped going to school. It was in that time that I decided that I was going to pursue music. Music was medicine for me at first.
What was it like jumping into music after leaving university?
I was doing music a bit while I was in university, so the transition was pretty easy. My time freed up to work so I could fund my craft and pay off all my debt. Once I saved enough funds and took care of my credit, I cut myself from the workforce and became a full-time artist. It’s been a wonderful experience.
A lot of singers say that it’s difficult pursuing music in Toronto. What has your journey been like?
The process of me pursuing music in Toronto has been relatively easy when it comes down to the music alone. I’ve always been pretty well received. But the industry is a totally different ball game.
It’s easy to lose yourself as an artist, trying to conform to what the industry wants you to be. It’s traumatizing and scary.
Part of the reason why I am perceived to be “rebellious” or “outspoken” is because I need these people [industry] to understand that I have two goals: I want to make phenomenal music and I want to be able to be MYSELF. With those goals in mind, I continue to make a conscious effort to hold myself in place and stay in line with my own career goals and not the goals of my peers or the heavyweights in the industry. I’m trying to keep my sanity and integrity!
Being a female artist, do you feel additional pressure to conform to a certain image?
Being a performer there is so much pressure in so many different ways. Things that I’ve been faced with the most is that I’m a bigger girl. That’s been a constant thing. Labels telling me to lose weight. It’s a very disturbing experience.
Were there times that you wanted to give up?
I’ve wanted to give up MANY times. This line of work is not for the weak hearted. People are blunt. People are cold. And God help you if you have emotions! I’m an opinionated woman, so I don’t necessarily fit their mold. Quitting has crossed my mind more times than I could count but I really love music. It never quit on me. I could never quit on it.
What was it like hearing your music on the radio for the first time?
Hearing my music on the radio for the first time was surreal! I just sat there, still, until the tune was done. Then I smiled and moved on. I don’t get excited about much, but that was a thrilling moment for me.
You’ve sung with countless artists. Who else would you love to do a duet with?
Omarion is awesome! I love Omarion- I don’t care what anyone says. I love Entourage. That’s my shit! Also Erykah Badu and Georgia Ann Muldrow.
What are 3 words that best describes you?
Unapologetic, that’s for sure….. sassy…I would say shy as well. Can I say more than 3? I’m emotional. I am very loyal. I’m artsy. I love creating things, not just music. I like to make chain masks. I like to doodle, paint, build things. I like to dress up. I like costumes.
Any projects that you are currently working on?
I’m working on about 3 projects at the same time and I have about 2 more that I have to work on after these are done. The first one – Intervention will be released this month [February], and the mixtape is called “Stranger Things Have Happened” will be released in April—my birth month. I have also just released my new video for No Sight Required.
What a busy girl! It was so much fun chit chatting with Shi. I already knew her voice was amazing, but her humility and appreciation made her star burn brighter.
Yo Toronto, looks like we have another one about take over the charts. So happy to see Shi on her way. She has the skills to go far and the humility to stay grounded. Do you, mama!