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Music Interview

Shontelle

By
Shontelle
Avoiding the comparison between Shontelle and Rihanna is about as difficult as resisting the urge to pop bubble-wrap. Both singers hail from Barbados, they both trade in radio-friendly R&B tunes and they attended the same summer camp as teenagers. But who exactly is Shontelle? As her debut single 'T-Shirt' climbs up the charts, we hooked up with the lady herself to find out.

What's the story behind 'T-Shirt'?
"It's kind of a girlie anthem. When you've got a special guy in your life, sometimes you get a little depressed when he's not around. When you're really missing him, you want something that belongs to him to keep his memory going. His T-Shirt's one of the best things because usually it smells like him and you can put it on and curl up with it."

Have you had a good reaction to the song?
"Really good. I knew that a lot of girls were going to relate to this song and that's exactly what happened. A few guys have even come up to me saying, 'I love that 'T-Shirt' song. I know it's really a girlie song but I like it because any guy wants to see a girl in his T-Shirt. That's hot.'"

Is 'T-Shirt' a good representation of your album?
"For the most part. My album has an overall pop/R&B feel to it and a lot of the songs are very melodic and easy to listen to. At the same time it's very versatile and I've showcased a lot of different types of music. I come from Barbados so I wanted to share with the world the music that's in my blood - reggae, soca, dancehall."

Your album has a fairly incredible title: Shontelligence. Who thought of it?
"Shontelligence? It wasn't me! One day we were hanging out in the studio, things were getting a bit silly and one of the guys said, 'How about we play a word game with your name? Whoever thinks of the most words using "Shontelle" gets a free lunch'. We were like, 'Shontelevator, Shontelevision, Shont-helicopter, all these silly things!' Then my engineer turned round and said, 'Damn guys, that's some real Shontelligence'. A little lightbulb went on in my head and I was like, 'That's a great album title'."

Being an attractive young woman from Barbados who sings R&B songs, are you fed up with being compared to Rihanna?
"It doesn't bother me at all. There's so much curiosity and intrigue surrounding us because a lot of people didn't know about Barbados before Rihanna. People are so fascinated that this girl just came out of the blue, and then not too long after I came out of the same place. Also, if you're going to compare me to Rihanna, how can that be a bad thing? She's gorgeous, she's on top of her game and she's the biggest popstar in the world right now. I don't mind being compared to that, it's a compliment!"

Is there any sense of healthy rivalry between you?
"Not really, we've never really talked about anything like that. She's only ever been really supportive to me. She'll say, 'I'm so happy for you, I can't believe this is happening for Barbados'. She'll tell me which of my songs she likes best and she'll sing them for me - she's so cute! From my side of things, all I can do is aspire to get to the level she's at. I want to be winning Grammys right alongside her!"

The story goes that you made her do push-ups at cadet camp...
"Yeah, we were in cadets together and it's a military organisation so that's what happens. I remember when I first met her at summer camp. She was taller than the other girls her age and she had such striking features and these amazing green eyes. I was like, 'That girl's going to be a supermodel'. One day Little Miss Rihanna and her friends showed up late to an important meeting and I happened to be the drill sergeant on duty. I wasn't a beast of a sergeant or anything, but my superiors were watching so I had to discipline them. I was like, 'Drop and give me ten'."

Has she forgiven you?
"Yeah, we laugh about it all the time now. I say to her, 'You're the big boss now, I have to look up to you!'"

Finally, is it true you're obsessed with The Little Mermaid?
"God yes, I know every word of the script by heart! When I was a kid I really related to The Little Mermaid because her voice was so beautiful that the evil queen wanted to steal it from her. I remember thinking, 'Wow, I wanna have a voice like that'. Also, her dad was very strict with her so she'd find creative ways of doing the things she was passionate about. I was kinda like that."

How were you "creative"?
"Well, most teenagers say to their parents, 'I'm going to a sleepover with the girls' and end up in a club. But I'd say, 'Mum, I'd going to a club' and end up sneaking into recording studios. I used to work on my music behind my parents' backs because I thought they'd discourage me. Fortunately I don't have to lie to them these days."

'T-Shirt' by Shontelle is available to download now.

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