Close your eyes, press play, lie back and listen. Choral echoes build into pulsing beats before a melodic hook takes hold, backed by dreamy vocals and captivating lyricism. You’re listening to the sounds of NYC-based singer Carly Shea.
Oscillating effortlessly between house-inspired synths and neo-soul rhythms, Shea is amongst a new wave of artists redefining the parameters of pop. “I’m grateful that we’re living in a time that ‘pop’ can sound like so many things,” she emphasises, telling me her latest track “Waste My Time” adds a new dimension to her discography. Replacing the hypnotic allure of her earlier singles with a vibrant, carefree sound, “ it’s a song meant to make you go ‘fuck it’ and dance ‘til all hours.”
The self-directed video for “Waste My Time” takes us on a Lost in Translation-style night out through the streets of New York, after Shea and her best friend abandon dinner at a fancy restaurant to follow an anti-tourism guide to the city. Their erratic fantasy adventure takes them from dancing on tables in busy restaurants to handing out treats from the famous Ray’s Candy Store to sceptical East Village strangers. “It’s colourful and plain weird,” she explains. “Two things I love about New York.”
“In New York music stopped being a fantasy; it became a possibility I was able to pursue,” Shea adds, telling me the city has inspired her creatively and, ultimately, shaped her sound. “Since moving there I’ve had wild experiences and met people both spectacular and detestable, straight out of a movie. These experiences [were] transformed into songs of highs and lows.” Watching back the visuals for “Waste My Time” now, she says it reminds her to celebrate this. “Especially now, at a time when the world has ground to a halt and cities have shut down, this video reminds me of the energy and specialness of New York and its people. That isn’t going away.”
After keeping her talent secret for years, Shea is ready to make her own mark in the city that made a career in music feel possible. “At some point I realised I was looking at it all wrong,” she says when I ask how she overcame her fears of failure and judgement from others to make her fantasy a reality. “And that wanting to go into music means wanting to create — without validation.”