Shamir Bailey Is Just Warming Up

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Shamir Bailey

Shamir Bailey never planned on a career in music. “I honestly always thought I was a mediocre singer,” the 19-year old singer-songwriter, who goes by Shamir, admits over the phone from his hometown of Las Vegas. “The fact that people are now gravitating towards my voice—that that’s the first thing people notice—it’s crazy for me to think.” The lanky teen, who grew up listening to Nina Simone and holds down a job at a Topshop on the Vegas strip by day, got his break after emailing a few tracks to the Brooklyn-based punk label Godmode last summer. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision and, despite the unspoken vow Godmode’s Nick Sylvester’s made to work only with artists from New York, one that got immediate results. Godmode brought Bailey to New York to record Northtown, an EP that was released this June. It’s a strange, vulnerable dance compilation influenced by early ‘90s house and pop-country, and set apart by minimalist production and Bailey’s fluttering, androgynous voice. Shamir is fast receiving attention for sounding unlike anyone else. DJ Michel Gaubert featured two Shamir tracks in the FW 2014 Chanel Couture show soundtrack; Vogue took note, as did Pitchfork and Nowness, who declared him “a new voice of androgyny in America.”

This weekend, Bailey, who taught himself to play guitar, will travel to New York for only his second-ever performance, showcasing his homegrown sound at MoMA PS1’s Warm Up party on Saturday, August 23. “Sometimes in Vegas, you feel alone because everyone is kind of the same, way out here,” says Bailey. “But when you’re not like everyone else, you find other people who are going in the same direction as you, and it’s really amazing.”