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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Shontelle Discusses Drilling Rihanna
Thursday, December 04, 2008

Even before Shontelle had a Top 40 hit, which is something she has now thanks to her single “T-Shirt,” she was in charge. Just ask Rihanna, Shontelle was her drill sergeant back in the day. With such a nugget of information piquing my interest, I caught up with Shontelle, who was most recently spotted on the Marc Ecko Rhino Mountain float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, to find out more. During our conversation the songstress opened up about her time in the Cadets program in her native Barbados, why she says musically she’s “a girl version of Wyclef,” and how incredibly close she was to actually joining the army.

Adam Bernard: I have to start this interview by asking how can you come out with a song called “T-Shirt” when it’s twenty degrees outside?
Shontelle: Well, you’re usually inside the house when you’re wearing those t-shirts and people are usually warm inside, but the song came out when it was a little bit warmer so I guess it’s still running its course.

Adam Bernard: Can we have a remix called “Sweatshirt?”
Shontelle: Yeah, why not! You should help me with it.

Adam Bernard: You actually don’t have to wear too many sweatshirts where you’re from because it doesn’t get very cold in Barbados. Other than the beautiful weather, what was it like growing up there?
Shontelle: Growing up in Barbados it was always very laid back, very chill, and we have a real vibrant culture and I miss all of that a lot. My family is very big. I have lots of cousins and aunts and uncles, so life was very family oriented for me in Barbados and we spent a lot of time at the beach.

Adam Bernard: Where are you living now?
Shontelle: New York City.

Adam Bernard: I heard that in high school you were a drill sergeant over Rihanna.
Shontelle: Yeah I was. Both of us were in this organization called Cadets. It’s very similar to ROTC over here, but it’s actually run by the army of Barbados, the Barbados Defense Force, so we actually train with the soldiers and do everything they do and we go through the ranks in a similar way that they do in the army, so yeah, I was the drill sergeant at the time when she was a young Cadet and that was actually the first time I met her, it was at a summer camp for the Cadets.

Adam Bernard: You didn’t make her clean any toilets, right?
Shontelle: No, I never made her clean toilets. I never made anyone clean toilets.

Adam Bernard: Is it true that you also have a degree in entertainment law from University of the West Indies.
Shontelle: Not quite. I’m just, literally, a couple courses away from completing my degree. I was pursuing my degree in entertainment law and then I got this opportunity which is my real passion. The law was really my backup plan because I knew that entertainment was what I wanted to do, but then I said hey, I might not get to be the artist, you never know what happens, but at least if I became an entertainment lawyer I could still work in the industry. That was my plan, but then this happened and the University of the West Indies was really nice to me and said we think what you’re doing is really legit and we want to support you and we’ll let you put this thing on hold. I guess with the success of Rihanna everyone in Barbados is really excited to see it again so everyone’s been really nice to me and they let me take a break, more or less, to do this. So I’m not quite finished, but almost there.

Adam Bernard: Are you going to find a way to take those last few classes?
Shontelle: Oh I am going to find a way. One way or another I am going to figure out how I can just bang that out. It doesn’t make sense going that far and not finishing it.

Adam Bernard: OK, so clearly you can read contractual fine print, now let’s talk about liner notes and sheet music. Tell to me about Shontelligence and what the album is all about.
Shontelle: I tell people Shontelligence is a feel good album. I wanted to be able to bring the sounds of the Caribbean, or my home, Barbados, and put it in a form that people anywhere can relate to. I wanted to the album to be a reality check, as well, something that made people think, but also it’s very colorful, it makes you happy, it makes you want to dance. It’s like a cocktail of different styles of music and I just tried to find a really creative way to blend everything together.

Adam Bernard: I noticed when I was at your show the other night you have both uptempo tracks and slow jams. Talk to me about the range of Sontelligence.
Shontelle: There are definitely power anthems, but then there are also club tracks like “Focus Pon Me” and “Roll It.” The power anthems are like “Superwoman” and “Battle Cry.” Then there are the ballads like “Cold Cold Summer” and “T-Shirt.” There are also songs on there that I call the reality check songs, like “Plastic People” and “Life is Not an Easy Road,” that are real conscious and address things that are going on in the world. Maybe it’s because I’m a Libra, but I wanted to put something out there that is well balanced so that people from everywhere can relate.

Adam Bernard: What do you think makes you totally unique in this music scene?
Shontelle: My ability flip it. As you know, you were at the show, I can definitely do pop, I can do R&B, but then there are also songs that are straight up reggae, or dancehall. It’s almost as if you can think of me like a girl version of Wyclef, where he’ll go real West Indian on some tracks and on others he sounds like he’s from any part of America. Like Missy Elliot, how she can sing, rap and write songs. That is what I feel really makes me unique and sets me apart from a lot of artists out there, my ability to mold myself to any character that I need to be.

Adam Bernard: So the female Wyclef… how many languages are you speaking?
Shontelle: {laughs} Well, there’s the dialect that we speak in Barbados. I can read and write Spanish really well. I’m not as good as speaking it. I speak English, of course. So maybe it’s 2 ½ languages.

Adam Bernard: Let’s have a little fun now. Everybody has celebrity crushes growing up. Can you reveal a few of yours?
Shontelle: Oh my gosh, who was my celebrity crush growing up? I really had a crush on Will Smith at one point, but then he married Jada and I was like OK, I need to behave myself now. And I really had a crush on Denzel Washington, but he’s the same thing, they’re both married.

Adam Bernard: You like em older, don’t ya!
Shontelle: {laughs} Yeah, and then I did have a couple young crushes. Zac Efron’s kinda hot. I guess I’m so focused I don’t even really get time to look at guys anymore and all the ones that I always like are taken so I kind of gave up.

Adam Bernard: Is there anything else that people should know about you as a person or an artist?
Shontelle: Yeah, I guess everyone should just know I’m a really cool, down to earth girl. I basically grew up on the beach, so I love surfing and I love being near the ocean. I paint and I draw, too. I was almost in the army. The army wanted me to become a full time officer and I almost did it. I went to all the training camps and everything and they were like OK, yeah, we want you. All I had to do was sign on the dotted line but I just couldn’t do it. I had no reason in particular why I couldn’t, I just couldn’t. I’m so glad that I didn’t because then I wouldn’t be doing this right now. As much as I loved it, and I enjoyed it, something was just bothering me. Other than that, while I was coming up through school I was very athletic, I was pretty much on every team. I represented Barbados in swimming and track and field.

Adam Bernard: It sounds like you were a borderline Olympian out there.
Shontelle: There was a point where that was one of my goals. I was on the track and field team and I represented Barbados and I’m like, you know, I could go all the way, but music was always the number one passion.

Adam Bernard: So is your tagline going to be “buy my album or I’ll kick your ass?”
Shontelle: {laughs} No. I’m just gonna be like hey, take some time, even if you don’t buy the album you can go to MySpace and check me out. Let it sink in, hang with me for a while, and I’m sure there’s gonna be some songs that appeal to everyone. Other than that I’m just an almost lawyer who loves the beach and is the oldest of three sisters.

Related Links

Website: shontellemusic.com
MySpace: myspace.com/shontelle


posted by Adam Bernard @ 5:20 PM  
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