The Dreamer: Shamir Is Carving Out His Own Musical Independence

The Dreamer: Shamir Is Carving Out His Own Musical Independence

Koury Angelo for Rolling Stone

After his grungy fall album 'Revelations,' the singer-songwriter is at the beginning of a second act

After his grungy fall album 'Revelations,' the singer-songwriter is at the beginning of a second act

Shamir Bailey has come far from where he was both musically and mentally just one year ago. 

Last spring, the 23-year-old Philly resident was ready to leave his recording career behind after a few years of feeling trapped in a label deal that left him creatively stifled. While his manager and the label wanted more of the electro-pop direction of his surprise hit "On the Regular," Bailey was ready to explore the indie rock and country music he was raised on and created early in his career.

"No one really prepared me for it," he recalled of his sudden fame. As a teenage musician, he had no major label aspirations and enjoyed playing in bands with his friends around Vegas. Over the couple years following the release of his debut album Ratchet, Bailey rebelled against his feeling that XL wanted to keep his image in a box.

"At the end of the day, I think they did me a favor."

After parting ways with XL, he released the messy, raw Hope on SoundCloud as a "last laugh" and final release. He would come to find out that while recording the project, he was in the beginning stages of a manic episode and deep psychosis. Thankfully, Bailey was aided by a visiting friend who helped him get to a hospital as his mental state worsened.

A bipolar disorder diagnosis and a return to his hometown of Las Vegas was the beginning of a new journey. Hope led to an outpouring of love from fans. He began writing what would become Revelations, his grungy fall album. Now, Bailey is at the beginning of a second act, one where he is better equipped to carve out his own musical independence and nurture his mental health in the face of the natural instability that comes with a career in music. 

"It's actually been how I imagined before things started to get hectic and crazy at a young age for me," he says, calling from his childhood home in North Las Vegas. While touring, he has found stability in the people he chooses to surround himself with, specifically his bass player Christina Thompson who has been playing music with him since they were both 16-years-old.

"She knows me inside and out," he adds, noting how important it's been for his mental health. "It's just great to have someone that close on the road, which I've never had."

For Bailey now, the future is full of possibility. He endured a creative drought towards the end of his time on XL but now is brimming with new musical ideas. He released a new 7" EP this March with a pair of country-tinged tracks titled "Room" and "Caballero." On the same day, he debuted an album on Bandcamp titled Resolution, a gorgeously large rock album that sees Bailey's Revelations vision even more fully realized. 

"I think just being around family and friends gave me so much inspiration," he says of how he created his latest full-length. Much like with Revelations, much of Resolution was written in Vegas. While that first Vegas writing period during last summer was more about coping and healing, this time was all about reflection.

"It was around the holiday season. It's me reflecting on the past year and feeling wiser at the end of 2017."

Alongside trips home, the ability to say "no" has empowered Bailey to feel more centered and optimistic. "I don’t feel as bad any more to be like 'Yo, I can't do this right now,'" he says. "I think beforehand, I just wanted to do everything all at once and not let anyone down. I just realized that's not fair to myself."

Shamir performed an acoustic set of "90's Kids" and "Straight Boy" for Rolling Stone's Take One series.