May. 1 2020
When you hear India Shawn, you turn up the volume. As a songwriter, she’s worked with everyone from Solange to Ludacris, and her recent performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series has over half a million views. But though India’s still in-demand as a lyricist and musician, she’s gone from sitting across from celebrities at a studio to recording DIY demos in her kitchen.
Here’s how India’s creative routine is playing out now, and her tips for staying inspired while staying at home. (Good news: they involve tequila…)
What’s the best time of day to be creative?
I wish I could tell you, “5 P.M. is my writing time,” or something, but it’s whenever inspiration hits. If a melody comes to me, I’ll sing it into the Voice Memos app on my phone. If I hear something on a movie while I’m Netflixing—like a line I like—I say, “Oh, I have to put that in a song!” It used to happen a lot while I was driving, and it still does when I’m coming back from the supermarket or something. I don’t pull over right away, but I definitely sit in the car in my driveway as soon as I get home to make sure I can empty my brain.
Speaking of empty brains, what’s your trick if you feel creatively stuck?
I’ll tell you what not to do, because I’ve done it and it sucks. Don’t think, “I can’t get this right! That must mean I’m not a great artist!” You will be great at what you’re doing, but if you don’t have any ideas, don’t force it. Look outside yourself, as much as you can in quarantine. Turn some other music on or have a phone conversation or grab a bottle of pinot noir.
What can we do during quarantine to help us be better artists after quarantine?
Use this time to study. I’m listening to old Stevie Wonder records. I’m listening to catalogues of old music. I’m finding more of what I like and seeing how I can take that into my next phase. And then there are YouTube tutorials for guitar, drums, things like that. Use this time to study and learn.
What’s one underrated aspect of creativity?
Being a good listener. And I know, because I used to be a really bad listener!
How did you change?
Self-awareness. I would be talking to my family and realize, “I’m not even present for this discussion. In my head, I’m somewhere else.” I even made it my New Year’s resolution to be present when I’m talking to someone or listening to something, whether it’s my mother, music, the trees, all of it.
Is there any connection between your clothes and your creative work?
I mean, right now, I’m in pajamas! But I started dressing up to record music, because I want to embody this new and more powerful era of India Shawn. Let me feel sexy and cute while I work!
What’s your favorite snack during the creative process?
Uh, wine is my snack and tequila is my snack.
What’s it like releasing an album or a song during the pandemic? Do you think the way we listen to music has changed?
Of course! This is a very serious time, and yet, here I am releasing these shiny-ass pictures of myself! With new music! I’m scared people will think, “Where are my priorities?” At the same time, we all need music right now. A lot of people are looking for entertainment. A lot of people are looking for things to make them feel whole, or powerful, or hopeful, and art is about perseverance. We have to keep making it and keep sharing it. And so I think in some ways, it’s a really special time for music right now, because it’s helping keep us together.