My name is Shayna, and I'm a gypsy, folky Americana artist from Long Beach, California, with lyric-loving original tunes. I suffer from a lifelong addiction of acoustic instruments and the scintillating sounds of 1960's and 70's folk music. I've been inspired by the storytelling of John Denver, Jim Croce, Joni Mitchell, Glen Campbell... My voice has often been compared to Stevie Nicks, Chrissie Hynde, or Neko Case. Currently a Bachelor's Student in the Online Songwriting program at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music, Boston MA, I have previously earned a Professional Certificate of Audio Engineering from Musicians Institute, Hollywood, California.
I was the mostly unlikely person to become a singer. As a child, I struggled with a motor disability that impaired the way I pronounced words. It was as if my tongue would just quit working. For me, trying to talk felt like trying to tap dance without feet, and it became easier not to try. After some years of speech therapy, I could pass for normal, and by the time I reached middle school I had achieved “average” and was happy to plant my feet and stay there. What was once a massive hindrance had devolved into the occasional slur or missed word. I grew up into this impish, awkward adult who’d barely greet the people I’d pass by on the street, and wouldn’t jump to introduce myself in social situations. To my detriment, I was even worse around people I admired. My anxiety became a heavy backpack I only wore when my mouth was moving. But when no one was looking, and when it felt safe, I’d indulge in my favorite secret; for better or for worse, I loved to sing. But there was nothing I feared more.
Opportunities did present themselves over the years to sing in the safety-net of a group, such as school choirs and musical theater choruses. Eventually I got “gutsy” and auditioned for the role of Marion Paroo in a middle school production of The Music Man. As soon as I stood alone before the class to sing “Till There Was You,” all I could manage were some half-hearted squeaks, and waited for my teacher to turn off the music and rescue me. I was mortified. Some of my prepubescent peers snickered, and the rest remained supportive but kept their opinions to themselves. An anchor had sunk my little dream, and insecurity rusted my love for singing...until it crumbled into boring community college classes, with little hope for the future.
I tried just about everything else there was to try that wasn’t a career in music. My love for horses (passed down to me by my dad) took me into horse training, blacksmithing and farrier work, and then eventually the office of a ballet school, costume sewing, archery coaching, espresso making, grocery store organizing, video editing and social media marketing, accounting, cheese mongering, laundromat managing, movie stunts, photography, and probably more vocations I’ve already forgotten. It took years of spinning my wheels and biting my own neck to realize I would never love anything more. Still, I had this black cloud hanging over me from that one annoying day in middle school where I let myself down. What may seem like an inconsequential moment to anyone else was a turning point where I thought I had proved to myself that I didn’t have what it takes to live the life of an artist.
Halfway into my twenties, my life began to distort. I found myself kicking the dust in the bottom of an empty barrel, with no way of filling it and no way of climbing out. I was financially distressed and emotionally rotted. I knew I needed to make a permanent change to end my vicious cycle of meaningless jobs, and dedicate myself to something real. In 2014, I left my marriage to become an audio engineer, by way of Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California. Immersed into a community of creative, like-minded musicians, I felt inspired. I secretly began to sing and write songs again. I was sure I had found my calling: that I was heading into the right direction, even if the rest of my life was still ripping at the seams. I was working two jobs, and either couch-surfed or slept in my car during that time. I sacrificed everything I had for a new career in music. Unstable, depressed, and without a place to live, I made some bad decisions: destroying friendships and relationships while struggling to climb out of that empty barrel. I was laid-off from my first real engineering job, my internship didn’t end up hiring me, and I was beginning to wonder if I had massively derailed myself from the life I had before.
A new opportunity to work in a private Glendale studio presented itself, by way of a friend. It was engineering-gold: a state-of-the-art building owned by a Rock N Roll Hall of Famer, with a legendary music producer running the show, and his collection of vintage gear. I was so excited to learn and have this unparalleled chance to build my career. Months into cleaning, wiring, assisting on recording sessions, setting up microphones, and doing all the things an assistant engineer does, I found myself with a moment to breathe and take it all in. The studio wasn’t in use, and the rooms were empty. I picked up an acoustic guitar and began to play and sing one of my original songs. My voice echoed through the 5000 square-foot building, with its colorful vaulted ceilings and its parquet floors. I hadn’t noticed that my superior had come to stand in the doorway and listen. Just as I had finished my song, he sat down next to me and said, “Shayna, you’re working on the wrong side of the glass,” he pointed to me, “this is what you should be doing.”
It took me over 20 years to find my voice. My love for singing has finally surpassed my fear of it. This coming year is full of recording my own music, embarking on tours, opening my own home studio, and new adventures that remain to be seen. Although I still have a long way to go, I have no intention of turning back.