Shamir, music’s accidental pop star, is finally back in the spotlight

On the release of his 5th studio album, ‘Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw,’ the unpredictable singer-songwriter tells Document about his personal rebuilding process and his love of cold leftovers.

“I love shocking people.” This is certainly the effect that singer-songwriter Shamir had five years ago with his 2014 release “On the Regular,” the zingy pop single that ruled the airwaves—and the summer. “Haters get the bird, more like an eagle / This is my movie, stay tuned for the sequel” were the defining lyrics sung through Shamir’s penetrating countertenor, sounding off to listeners like a siren call to the dancefloor. It’s the same voice that greeted me for an early morning chat with Shamir a few weeks ago. Now 24, the Las Vegas native has undergone a musical and personal rebuilding in recent years following a psychotic episode and a period where he thought he might quit music entirely. In 2017, he released Hope and Resolution, records that still captivated with his signature soulfulness, but incorporated both the grit and dulcet melodies of indie rock. In the same year, he founded Accidental Pop Star records, his record label for “real pop stars.” Throughout all the highs and the lows, he has remained an open book, which is why he’s been able to resonate with listeners, regardless of identity or background. As he releases his 5th studio album, Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw, an eight-track release out today on Bandcamp, Shamir continues to show why the spotlight is his rightful place.

Kaylee Warren—I’m so excited to be talking to you this morning, you have no idea.

Shamir—Oh my god!

Kaylee—You recently celebrated [the debut single from] Southwick, the first release from your record label Accidental Pop Star Records, which is amazing. What does this moment mean for you?

Shamir—It’s been so crazy. Like, I cannot talk about or explain how it even happened. Literally, after this interview, I’m doing my first shipment. This time last year, it was just a dream. It was just a concept basically and this thing I was just flirting with. For it to be a full operation so fast and have everything work so smoothly—because it’s just me and my artists—you know, luckily they all have the DIY spirit, too. So it’s really just kind of the fact that I love to work and they love to work, and that kind of work ethic put together has really just been moving things along.

Kaylee—You mentioned how, a year ago, this was all just a dream. What fueled this dream of yours? What inspired you to create a record label of your own?

Shamir—Well, I get to meet artists, right. [laughs]. Also, the artists are people I already had relationships with, and I kind of want the label to be that way. Not necessarily to have that longevity within the relationships, but more so I want to meet my artists throughout all sorts of avenues, and not really scout like the normal A&R. I’ve just always been the type to attract other artists. When I talk to other people and meet new people, I’m like “What do you do creatively? What are your passions, what are your hobbies?”

Kaylee—I love that. In an article for Wussy Magazine, you were talking about how a lot of your songs are about the struggles of finding connection with people who generally exist on the binary, and how, often, queer people are exotified and seen as “experiments.” I’m curious how this ethos defines itself in your work with the record label?

Shamir—Yeah! I think that plays a big part, especially in how I form relationships in general. I think one thing that kind of brings everyone together is a shared love, you know. Like a shared passion. That’s why I think I’ve always been really quick to reach out first. Knowing our artists are on the same page makes the creative process so much easier. It just flows. There really isn’t any stress. People are like, “How are you doing this, a thousand things at once,” and I’m like, “Yeah, it’s a lot, but it’s so natural.” It flows. There’s no machine behind it. It literally is just us. We’re doing what we want to do, how we want to do it. It’s hard to find that in music right now.

Kaylee—Absolutely. There’s also been a bit of press about how these past few years have been a rebuilding process for you, both musically and personally. That comes across in the musical and lyrical departure your most recent albums like Hope and Revelations have taken from your breakout record Ratchet. How does this rebuilding process look like today versus a year ago?

Shamir—Yeah, I actually have a record coming out on the 19th, it’s kind of an unofficial thing. A lot of people kept worrying, you know, that with all of the label stuff, how are you still working on your own stuff, but I’m probably writing more than before because when you’re doing so much you’re constantly inspired. I get inspired by my own artists and everything. I knew I wanted to do a big project as a part of my rebuilding process. You know, I had toured with the new record, but I just feel more confident in myself and the production and everything. I kind of wanted to do a bigger project to distract me, but I never thought that taking on this label would make me more productive in my own music. It’s really cool.

Kaylee—You talk about how the artists in your label inspire you. What else is inspiring you these days?

Shamir—Right now, I actually just started writing a TV column.

Kaylee—That’s so cool. What is it called?

“There’s no machine behind it. It literally is just us. We’re doing what we want to do, how we want to do it. It’s hard to find that in music right now.”

Shamir—It’s called RatchetTV on Talkhouse. So that’s also been another good thing. I’ve always loved screenwriting and TV, so it’s really cool to have a job in it now. It’s my first steady professional writing job so its been helping my writing chops, and I get to watch TV for work [laughs]. It’s really cool, it’s really fun. So yeah, I get inspired by just about everything and just try to push myself.

Kaylee—What are your favorite TV shows at the moment?

Shamir—So right now, the next column will probably be about Shrill, it’s so good. I love Aidy Bryant. It’s just so great [laughs].

Kaylee—What is something that not many people know about you?

Shamir—That’s so hard!

Kaylee—I know, you are so open.

Shamir—I’m such an open book. What would be shocking? When I’m not working, I’m literally just a hermit in my house, you know. Just working on label stuff and everything. Yeah I mean I’m kind of just an old lady [laughs].

Kaylee—You are the people’s person. We’re all grandmas, you know.

Shamir—Yeah! I mean, everything you see on social media, that’s real. That’s what I’m doing. I don’t know what would be shocking to people because I love shocking people [laughs].

Kaylee—[Laughs] It’s just natural for you to be shocking.

Shamir—Yeah! Like, I was telling people a few weeks ago, that I like to eat cold leftovers and they were like, ‘I love it.’ I think the thing that’s shocking to people is the normal, weird things when it comes to musicians. I don’t know what people think musicians do or what they are, but the shocking things to people are, like, the normal shit they thought I would never do.

Kaylee—I feel like people imagine that musicians just have this secret society where they come together and perform odd rituals or something.

Shamir—[Laughs] Yeah, we don’t.

Listen to Shamir’s new album, “Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw,” here.