Shye is game for even the trickiest of stances. On set, she’s being suspended from metal cables and large carabiners, leaning backwards precariously while standing on a single foot and swinging a white leather Chanel Camellia bag—all at the same time. But instead of appearing flustered, she’s all ease and smiles. Shye is multitasking personified.
She brings that same delicate, expert sense of balance to her music endeavours. Having just turned 21, the home-grown multi-hyphenate also known as Shye-Anne Brown has achieved results of immense breadth over just five years: winning the Vans Musicians Wanted competition in 2018; releasing her debut album, Days to Morning Glory, in 2020; performing at the South by Southwest music festival this March; and emerging a finalist in the recent Chinese reality television series Youth π Plan, after facing competition from 29 other musicians including Elkie Chong, a former member of South Korean girl group CLC, and Yanan, who debuted with the K-pop boy group Pentagon.
With Youth π Plan, Shye has arguably stepped the furthest away from her comfort zone, in front of an audience that wasn’t well-acquainted with her breezy brand of English-based electro-pop, to express herself and communicate in a language she wasn’t fluent in, through songs she was just faintly familiar with. “It was even harder to connect with the audience and have them understand who I am,” she says of her experience.
To Shye, the three-month-long journey was a bold departure from her music style, and as eye-opening as it was daunting. The massive scale of its production, the intensity of the local fan culture, and the gruelling nature of the creative challenges and eliminations pushed her to train herself in skills she hadn’t exercised before, such as singing and executing choreography simultaneously. “The K-pop idols make it look easy!” she says with a laugh, relating how she would practise singing while running every day.
At the same time, she worked into her performances the opportunity to showcase her songwriting and producing capabilities, by writing a verse in English for a Chinese song and composing a new guitar solo for the dance break of one of her stages. Shye even got to perform her original song Welcome Back with full choreography, a feat that she calls her biggest triumph on the 12-part series. “It was most satisfying—I really felt fulfilled to see my own song come to life on such a big stage,” she shares.
“I’m really happy I didn’t give up. My goal on the show was just to stay for as long as I could and learn as much as possible. To have reached the finals was more than what I could have hoped for.”
Through her music releases over the years, from the 2018 extended play Augus7ine to the 2021 mini album Hello Trinity to the 2022 record IDK It’s Complicated, Shye has been on a mission to explore novelty and experimentation with different genres and even styles of mixing, and her music captures the quiet thoughts and subtle emotions of a self-described introvert navigating life’s ups and downs from the age of 17 to 20. “I’m not very good at expressing myself, but working on my music has allowed me to [express myself more]—and through them, my feelings during those years will now live on and be forever immortalised,” Shye explains. “My music journey is never-ending and there’s still so much more for me to learn and discover. Writing and producing my own original music was completely unexpected, so I’ve learnt to trust the process, to let passion and hard work lead me, and see where it all takes me.”
Having started out writing her own material and teaching herself production at home, “as a way to pass time during the school holidays”, Shye considers practice fundamental to her development as an artist, along with the wisdom to recognise when rest is more advantageous than persistence, and maintaining her perspective and vision. “I’ve had many moments of creative block and I used to force myself to keep going. I’ve since learnt that taking time away to rest and to look at yourself from a third-person perspective has helped me realign myself with what it is that I need to work on,” she says. “But I think it’s equally important not to lose sight of your love for doing music in the first place, and not to get too caught up in the numbers game, because that could result in burnout.”
It may come as a surprise that given how much Shye has attempted and accomplished over five years, she has only just crossed into legal adulthood, and she’s espousing a lighthearted attitude to the milestone that tends to inspire grand blowouts or anxious introspection. “To me, turning 21 is just one year from turning 22, when I’ll be singing Taylor Swift’s 22 every day,” she quips. And seeing where she came from and how far she’s come since she was 16, Shye holds a clear view of where she is going, and the quest and community it represents. “For the listeners who have been with me since I started, it feels like we’ve grown up together, and for those who have joined me along the way and whoever may join in the future, I’m really excited to be able to share so many memories with them,” she explains.
“Every year is special because others have embarked on this journey together with me. I hope to continue being guided by my passion and a sense of purpose as I look forward to more milestones, discoveries and adventures in the coming years.
When Shye first began writing, recording and producing, did she ever imagine she’d arrive at this point of gaining national and international reach and recognition? “Never in my wildest dreams! I always say this is a happy accident, since I did not set out to have a career in music in the first place. I feel like this has shown me that there’s no fixed formula to doing music,” she says. “I’m just very happy to be able to do what I love, I think it’s really a privilege. It is encouraging to get the support I’ve gotten and I’m thankful for every opportunity. For a fully independent artist, that’s everything.”
PHOTOGRAPHY ZANTZ HAN
STYLING GREGORY WOO
ART DIRECTION MARISA XIN
HAIR JUNZ LOKE, USING GOLDWELL
MAKEUP SHA SHAMSI, USING CHANEL BEAUTY
PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANTS DENNIS ER AND MICHELLE YAP
STYLING ASSISTANTS YULIA SEE AND VANESSA GRACE NG
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