Q&A with British based vocalist/songwriter Bronte Shande, at the forefront of a new wave of stunning singers

“Music has the power to alter one’s mood, change consciousness, and to inspire change. Music is an essential aspect of all human civilizations and has the power to emotionally, morally, and culturally affect society. Sharing music amongst different cultures can provide valuable insight into another way of life.”

Bronte Shande: Heart & Soul Music

Bronte Shande is a Brighton based vocalist, songwriter and mentor with a wealth of experience. Singing and performing from a young age this soul-tress has graced the South-West music scene for over 10 years and with a BA (Hons) Professional Musicianship from the British and Irish Institute of Modern Music (BIMM) under her belt she continues to take both her music and teaching across the UK and Europe. Her debut album 'Re:Birth', Shande features some of the most exceptional musicians from Europe and the USA to create exciting original music fusing Soul, Hip-Hop, Disco and RnB traditions alongside her own igniting performance style. Taking influence from the likes of feminist greats Hiatus Kaiyote, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Esperanza Spalding. Shande expresses her past trauma’s with a plethora of complex melodies finding roots in her femininity; decorated with flourishes of dreamy, melancoly harmonies opposed with honest grit.  

(Bronte Shande / Photo by @balulugarms)

Alongside teaching, creating music and performing as an independent solo artist, Bronte is also vocalist and performer for: The Amy Winehuose Band - Amy's original band members alongside Bronte Shande who celebrate her legacy directed by Amy's close friend and musical director, Dale Davis. SØNDER - Gospel vocal collective based in Bristol. PHRESHA’S - An upcoming function collective based in the South-West playing all your favourite Pop hits from the 90s to present day. Agent Funk - Accomplished 8 piece Bristol based Soul and Funk function band. Bronte has worked and performed with artists such as Benaddict, EMERLD, Ile Flottante, Katey Brooks, Fraser Anderson, Sam Brockington, Circe’s Diner, Ruth Royall and more. Bronte has also written for commercial sessions such as Integrate UK, Rewise UK, Yogocop Records and SPACE Youth. Whether a featured Artist, mentor or performer in her own right, Bronte is sure to bring a dynamic and versatile approach to singing.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the R&B/Soul/Black music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Wow, great question! I've always resonated with these genre's - I'm incredibly grateful for my parents' music taste as they introduced me to Soul, Motown and Black music from an early age. I think it's very important to sing the stories of black musicians in this day and age, although I cannot fully relate as a white woman, I can sympathise with their struggle. One of my favorite artists is Nina Simone and the story she tells in her songs such as 'I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free' and 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' really resonates with me as a woman and I feel as though women are still overlooked in the music industry to this day. Artists such as this have further inspired me to make music for change.

How do you describe your music philosophy? What moment changed your music life the most?

Writing with intention and writing from the heart. I recently discovered that I have certain love addictions and am also diagnosed Bipolar, and this is something that has ruined relationships for me as well as my mental health and wellbeing. Without getting too into it and too heavy, I think that out of darkness the most beautiful songwriting can develop. Being raw is powerful. For me, singing and writing with so much sincerity moves my soul; Amy Winehouse had that power, and many of the Jazz musicians who inspired her. A moment that changed my music life the most was when I first wrote and released my original song 'Children' (produced by EMRLD) which is based upon my childhood and deals with notions of being groomed. It was the first time that I had been openly honest about an experience that happened to me, and I felt that this song reflected an open and honest darkness. However, it reflects a dichotomy of emotions whereby the music and the melody and lyrics are almost fantasizing, but hidden beneath the lyrics there is a lot of sadness and false hope. Writing from the perspective of someone that hurt you is really powerful and helped me understand what really happened to me in the moment. For me, music is therapy, and I will always utilize this in order to make sense of situations and provide art to others who may resonate with it.

“Unfortunately, not much has changed since James Brown sang those very words. Men are still running the music industry while working at the very top of the game. For me, as a female artist in the industry, I still feel overlooked due to the very fact I have a womb.” (Bronte Shande / @theamywinehouseband)

What´s been the highlights in your career so far? Are there any memories which you’d like to share with us?

I think my proudest moment to date is performing with The Amy Winehouse original band and touring Europe and beyond. I have so many memories with them and we're continuing to make more, but memories that stand out for me have been playing both Boomtown festival, Winchester to nearly 10,000 people as well as KOKO, Camden (Amy's Hometown). The reaction of the audience during these shows was phenomenal, there was so much love, respect and admiration in the space; the crowd lifted my nerves, and I embraced them all and we all celebrated Amy's legacy together - magic! There is so much power in singing together. Another monumental moment was performing at Ronnie Scott's Jazz club, London in 2017. I was a fresh face on the scene and had been working as a singer in a function band on P&O Ferries between Hull and Rotterdam; I ended my contract as it wasn't a sustainable way for me to live; incredibly isolating. I also experienced a breakup shortly after and so I found myself travelling to London to see a friend once terminated and all I wanted to do was sing that night. It was a Wednesday, I went to Ruby Sing's jam night, requested to sing 'Dreams' by Fleetwood Mac and the band and the audience were in the palm of my hand. It was a joint effort between us all as we were improvising our own original version of the song and I'm so glad it was documented (you can find it on my YouTube channel). That performance poured out of me, the lyrics, the timbre and tone, my whole body filled with energy and catharsis - THAT is when I first felt a spiritual connection to what I do.

Why do you think that Amy Winehouse’s music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Amy's music is raw, emotional and stands out from the crowd. She was the first artist, for me, who was unapologetically herself in the 2000s and her music still touches so many people around the world. She wore her heart on her sleeve, and it reflects in her music. Her truth and punkness in nature are also qualities that make her so likeable. I was 8 years old when I first discovered Amy, and what first drew me to her was her voice; her ability to sing like a saxophone particularly in the song 'Moody's Mood for Love'. It wasn't until I turned 18 that I started to really resonate with her lyrics, as I felt she was almost singing about my life- this is a powerful tool in songwriting as it provides validation for those who listen. I believe this is why her music resonates with people all over the world and furthermore her songwriting and the music she created will live on as one of the most adored and respected pieces of art.

“I've always resonated with these genre's - I'm incredibly grateful for my parents' music taste as they introduced me to Soul, Motown and Black music from an early age. I think it's very important to sing the stories of black musicians in this day and age, although I cannot fully relate as a white woman, I can sympathise with their struggle. “ (Bronte Shande / @theamywinehouseband)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I'd say what I miss most is musical freedom. I watch gigs from the 50s, 60s and 70s and see people purely experimenting and not worried about putting themselves in a box. I personally feel that restricting yourself to one genre, as so many artists have to do these days due to the nature of the music industry, restricts the artist from truly expressing themselves without the pressure of societal values. I hope that artists will be unafraid to experiment again and feel the freedom of doing so - I'd love to see a live show where multiple genres are experimented with and a fusion of music is created.

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Unfortunately, not much has changed since James Brown sang those very words. Men are still running the music industry while working at the very top of the game. For me, as a female artist in the industry, I still feel overlooked due to the very fact I have a womb! Nevertheless, there are so many incredible female artists at the moment who are not afraid to be themselves and this fills me with so much joy! I recently watched Raye's performance at the Albert Hall, and it was so refreshing to see an artist live and perform with such honesty. She also spoke about being mistreated within the song 'Ice Cream Man' and it is sad to say, but many men within the Music Industry can abuse their power in order to take advantage of a woman. However, women are making a stand and are not succumbing to this Male run world, and that is also not to say that many men within the Music Industry are not also supporting this, but I still feel that there is work to be done and awareness to be had. There are some amazing organisations supporting women in music such as GIRL GRIND UK, Women in CTRL, The Female DIY Musician, Girls I Rate and 2% Rising to name but a few. Here's a link to some great orgainstions to get involved with as a female working within the music industry in the UK.

"The most important lesson I have learned whilst working within the Music Industry is to truly be as authentically yourself as well as staying humble and kind." (Bronte Shande / @dont4getthesun)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Music has the power to alter one’s mood, change consciousness, and to inspire change. Music is an essential aspect of all human civilizations and has the power to emotionally, morally, and culturally affect society. Sharing music amongst different cultures can provide valuable insight into another way of life. Music essentially brings beings together and is tied, particularly within times of conflict or despair, when other lines of communication prove to be challenging. It is therapy; helps to heal and dismantle boundaries, reunites and educates people. Music is used as a vehicle for social change all across the world. I want my music to do exactly that! To resonate with people; to inspire, bring people together and create reflection.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

The most important lesson I have learned whilst working within the Music Industry is to truly be as authentically yourself as well as staying humble and kind. You won't get anywhere with an ego that is bruised, as to not climb ladders and step on other people's toes in order to get to the top. Music is for everybody; whether that be a listener or creator or a supporter. The awareness of being kind and considerate in this world goes a long way and I'm a true believer in making connections and lifting other people up.

Bronte Shande – Home

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