From now until the 2021 Juno Awards are presented on May 16, we will offer this weekly column to help you get to know some of the nominees in all categories a little better.
Meet the 2021 Juno Nominees:
Nominated in the category Contemporary R&B Recording of the Year
Shay Lia felt her life was going to revolve around music from the age of four, the first time she heard Janet Jackson. Singing soon became her method of coping with the cultural shifts she was forced to adjust to as her family first moved from France—where she had been born—to Djibouti on the coast of north-eastern Africa, and then after she turned 18, to Montreal.
Within weeks, she had connected with a fast rising local producer and DJ known as Kaytranada, making her recording debut in 2014 on their collaborative single Leave Me Alone. However, Lia chose to finish her education before fully embarking on her musical career, waiting until 2019 to release her first EP, Dangerous, which included contributions from Kaytranada as well as Toronto jazz-funk outfit BadBadNotGood.
Building on the international acclaim doled out for Dangerous—it even got a shout-out from Michelle Obama—Lia released its follow-up EP Solaris in September 2020, featuring her efforts with producers based in Haiti and Nigeria to incorporate more elements of Reggae and Afro-Beat for an overall sound she hoped would evoke “a place of joy, dancing, sensuality, confidence and warmth.”
She added in a press release at the time, “I took my second project as another opportunity to explore and discover. I’m discovering myself while you’re discovering me. I’m trying new things, changing my approach, and committing to my vision.”
That commitment has now paid off with a Juno nomination for Solaris, further acknowledgement of Lia’s place at the cutting edge of Canadian R&B, and her unlimited potential in other areas. She’s shrewdly hinted at moving into fashion or other media, although she remains grounded in the reality that there are still a lot she wants to accomplish in music, especially when the opportunities to perform live come around again.
But with Solaris, Shay Lia seems to at least share a significant part of her identity, one that anyone can relate to. “I really tried to translate all the things that I felt when I was in [Djibouti] with my family by the beach, living my best life,” she says. “If you live in a sunny place, then this is the perfect soundtrack for it, and if you don't, then the sound can be your sun. That's why it's called Solaris—it's music of the sun. It's all about warmth.”
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