Shelita Burke is a woman on a mission to be a true musical citizen of the world, one gig at a time. From doing intimate backyard performances in the Pacific Northwest, to world tours around the globe, Shelita is making us all appreciate music in a new way. We had the chance to catch up with Shelita before she takes off for her #DreaminKindness Tour, happening this summer.
Tell us about your song writing process.
Before a song, there is a feeling (I suspect this is universal). My goal is for my words to become others words. The sounds of the coffee machine. The cash register. The door closing- that is all music to me. The sounds of people- it all has a pitch. It is very much a part of my song writing process. I want to incorporate it into my music. I also want to write about things that are pulling out of my body, and let it express itself. My songs capture my expression.
What's the most challenging song you have ever written?
Gold- because there is a lot of emotional content in those words. It was difficult to pick a concept. The story was about someone who idealizes a person. It can be disguised as love, and it doesn't matter what they say. It's gold. This need and desperation and longing is what we are capable of. A lot of people sent me emails and comments that they liked the song. That is the most valuable thing for me to hear. When I was recording the song in my apartment in Paris, the neighbors heard some noise happening in apartment. There's a part with a bit of screaming. They started banging on the door, concerned for me. I left it in the recording. It literally is in the recording. If you listen closely, you will hear it.
Why did you get into music in the first place?
I have been playing music since I was seven-years-old. I was aware of it. I got my start with gospel in church. I was dangerously off key. My sister took pity on me and trained me. I eventually became lead in the choir. After you find your inner voice, once you feel comfortable in your skin and your voice (we all have a unique one), your key finds you. Every key has a different feeling.
When did you start performing in public?
I started street performing in Capitol Hill, Seattle when I was 16. Musician Jordana Lesesne (aka 1.8.7.) heard me play, and we started playing metal music together. Another thing that got me started was when I heard a guitar playing melodies that I had never heard before. The next day I got a guitar and have been playing ever since. We started creating music improvisation on the spot.
How do you connect with the #HumanAgenda?
Someone planted a seed for me. They said, "If you want this seed to grow, you have to find a way." Always understand that to be human, you need to be independent. Dependency should always be voluntary. Dependency, It is beautiful, but only when it is voluntary. When I learned that, it freed me. This person said I was in charge of my happiness. That is when I discovered I was a tomboy.
Who has inspired and influenced your career?
Maya Angelou has contributed a lot to my word thoughts and process. She would invoke thoughts in me. She presented me with ideas on how to think. Also, Toni Morrison. I appreciate the art that she has contributed to humanity. She basically is responsible for book paintings in such a beautiful and captivating way.
What's next for you?
I am in the midst of recording another album. I am trying to reinvent myself with every EP as a body of work. My last album was jazz/world folk music feel. With the new album, you will be turning up your stereo and really grooving. Turn it on at a party and have a really good time, but still feel things.