“Don’t stand in your own way” we’ve learned that mentality and attitude can get you far in the music business. It is great to be talented but beware of self-sabotage, it will tell you you’re not good enough or that you’re too good for something. It will stop you from taking wonderful opportunities or have you doubting whether you’re deserving. We’ve learned it is much better to self-check — What are my intentions and how can I make a positive impact on my day as well as others?
As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing The Shindellas.
Beatnik group The Shindellas are a female band formed under the belief that when women come together, powerful things can happen. The Shindellas are comprised of three brilliantly talented women, Kasi Jones(Singer), Stacy Johnson (Singer/Guitarist) and Tamara Chauniece(Singer). Each member was introduced by multi-platinum, Grammy- nominated, songwriting and production duo, Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly, also known as the progressive band Louis York. The Shindellas explore Jazz, Soul and true R&B to create a unique genre of music for their audience. They are proponents of self-love, empowerment, and elegance, which are tenets they work hard to spread through their music.
Meet Kasi Jones- who hails from Seattle, Washington, where her childhood hobby progressed into an adult passion. After high school, the self- proclaimed storyteller and safe-space, moved to LA to pursue a career in music, while attending American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
During her incredible journey at AMDA, the young phenom was able to tap into and explore her other gifts such as acting, writing and directing. While cultivating her musical and theatrical career, she joined the cast of Big Band Beat at Tokyo Disney Sea. While in Tokyo, Kasi began writing original music and attending open mics and jam sessions, building a solid fan base. Encouraged, she returned to the US where she recorded her first EP. While touring the world performing, Kasi met Chuck Harmony and the rest is history. She is now a proud member of The Shindellas living by her favorite quote, “Think thoughts of joy, speak words of peace and always find your light.”
Meet Stacy Johnson — a Northern Chicago native of Jamaican descent, who at 15 began her musical quest with a family-owned production company called Joy Art Music. They provided a safe space for her to learn all aspects of the entertainment industry. She fearlessly dove into a career as a jingle singer and voice over artist. It was during this time that she was able to learn guitar (self-taught) and first used her voice and sound to express herself through writing and releasing her own music. While on this journey, she developed an infinite love for the arts and was inspired to take her gifts to Los Angeles where she met Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly. Divinely aligned with the two, she joined their expedition to Nashville, TN where she was key in helping to establish a hub for development and creative freedom and commenced her greatest endeavor as a live performer. Under their leadership, Stacy was able to further refine her skills and is now following her dreams along-side not only her bandmates, but sisters for life.
Meet Tamara Chauniece — A Texas bred Singer/Songwriter, who got her start in church at the tender age of seven years old. Her innate and prodigious abilities launched her into a career as a young Gospel Recording Artist, which continued well into her teens. Driven to reach a broader audience, Tamara auditioned for NBC’s The Voice, Season 5 and earned a Top 20 spot. She utilized this platform to build a substantial social media following by posting short clips of herself singing covers. One of her viral videos caught the attention of Claude Kelly, who was led to reach out to her. Without hesitation, Tamara made the decision to take her talents to Nashville, TN and the best is still unwritten. She believes that joining Weirdo Workshop as a Shindella has been a supreme reward and with the incredible light and force of her two sisters, the greatness and possibilities are immeasurable! Go, God!
The vitality of their three voices blending in effortless harmony coupled with their alluringly graceful and poised disposition, will put you in a trance. Since forming, The Shindellas have graced stages across the country, including Essence Festival 2018. Their three recently released singles, “Reconsider”, “Ain’t that the Truth” and “Happy To See You”, are the perfect preface to their debut album, soon to be released under Weirdo Workshop. If you haven’t already, it’s in your best interest to familiarize yourself with The Shindellas, as they are bound to steal hearts and few top spots on the charts!
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
The Shindellas all come from different parts of the U.S. — Chicago by way of Jamaica, Seattle, and Dallas. We grew up with very different cultural backgrounds that are heavily present in our music. From the countryside, to the caribbean, to the city, you’ll get some soul-stirring church, some good ‘ol island vibes and a healthy serving of quirky theater. It’s the perfect marriage.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
At the age of 15 I, Stacy was welcomed into a production company and family owned business called Joy Art Music. In this colorful and imaginative place, I learned about singing, songwriting, recording and much more. I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wrote songs, sang jingles for radio shows and commercials. I did voice overs, live performances and productions of all sizes. I dived into a world of music that allowed me to travel all over the country and ultimately led me to Los Angeles, CA where I met production duo, Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly, founders of Weirdo Workshop along with the Vice president of Weirdo Workshop my husband, Mike Johnson. Together, we all moved to Nashville and officially planted our heels to create our very own creative hub and home of my band The Shindellas.
Hi, I’m Kasi, and I always knew that I loved stories; reading them, watching them, telling them. I grew up on movie musicals and I can still remember seeing Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen Jones, dancing on a table singing — Dat’s Love, and thinking, “I want to do THAT.” That magic…that transcendence…that joy…I wanted to be able to give that to people. One of the reasons my band is so special to me, is that it has really allowed me to lean into multiple gifts, and share — not just my singing voice — but my emotional voice. My writing, my acting, my bookishness & my eccentricities are all being pushed and explored right along with my voice. It feels good, the growth. It feels like the kind of living I want to do!
Hi, I’m Tam! My family recognized pretty early on that I had a musical gift. At 7, I was finally able to share my gift publicly at my home church. The response to my performance that night solidified my destiny. From that moment on, singing became my life. I began performing all over the country. From church conferences/conventions, to talent shows and competitions. By the age of 14, I was a Singer/Songwriter and Recording-Artist with dozens of accolades. I knew I was meant to do this for the rest of my life. Fast forward to 2016 when I was presented the opportunity to become a Shindella, I was overtaken by that same feeling again. That feeling of rediscovering your “why”. The music, the mission and the vision of The Shindellas resonated with me so strongly. I knew my gift would have a home to grow, to develop and to breathe. And it has done just that and so much more!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting story just happened two weeks ago! We were in the live room at Weirdo
Workshop, working out parts for a Christmas medley, when Claude Kelly starts laughing maniacally and say’s “listen to this, listen to this…” and then proceeded to read us an article from The Sun, that, to paraphrase said, ‘Beyonce is making new music inspired by Dua Lipa and The Shindellas’. You can imagine, we didn’t believe him at first and had to each individually read the article ourselves! Mind. Blown.
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
One of the most interesting stories is probably that of our first public performance. We had just came together and were still working out so many things, but the opportunity to perform at the legendary Bluebird Cafe arose and there was no way we were going to miss it. We didn’t have
our signature sparkling wardrobe yet, honestly we were still arranging parts and vocal ideas, but we showed up and it was like a movie. We gave everything we had to that audience! And it reminded us to trust our gifts. What a magical moment. We never take for granted that our Nashville’s debut was at the Bluebird.
Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.
Our label Weirdo Workshop is one of the best parts about living in Nashville. This creative hub is a safe space for us to get out all of our dreams. Our projects, our music, our garden, our book club; It’s all an immersive experience that draws people from our community together. In our first book club we were joined by 20 other people from our community. We read Animal Farm by George Orwell and learned that empathy is key to any lasting relationship and we will never forget that intimate and eye-opening experience.
We also really love getting to be country mice with city mice benefits. Nashville has such a relaxed vibe but is still super creative and productive. There is a quiet excellence to the musical community here that is undeniable.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake we made was HANDS DOWN driving to Chicago for the Magnificent Mile parade and realizing we had left our costumes at the studio in Franklin!! If you know us, you know that we don’t show up without some shine, so this was devastating. Luckily, we weren’t too far out for someone to meet us and bring them along. But, I’ll tell you this — we’ve never forgotten our wardrobe since! In fact the first hour of any road trip is basically just us
shouting “DID WE PACK THE COSTUMES?!” over and over again lol, you gotta love the indie/diy life!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
We’ve all had a lot of support along the way, but our guardian angels are definitely the gentlemen who introduced the three of us, Claude Kelly & Chuck Harmony. They created our
artistic home, Weirdo Workshop, and without them, we quite literally wouldn’t be The Shindellas! Also, as cheesy as this might sound, we have become guardian angels for each other, as well. We showed up as individual women and became a unit…a three-headed-monster, if you will. It took our villages to get us to the gate, but it’s taken the love, trust and bond we’ve built with one another to kick that sucker open and boogie our way down this unpredictable path that God has entrusted us to travel. We also have an incredible team at Weirdo Workshop that go above and beyond to help us make our wildest dreams a reality. Special shout out to Mike “Guru” Johnson & Nina “Teapot”Owens who, on top of their regular company roles, have also been our editors, therapists, sounding boards, directors, co-conspirators, the list goes on. & on. To say we are blessed is an understatement.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We just dropped a holiday single with Jimmie Allen & Louis York and it was added to Spotify’s “Country Christmas” playlist which is super rad. And we are currently in the studio working on our debut Album which we are SO excited about. The possibilities are endless!!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a
story or example for each.
1. “Don’t stand in your own way” we’ve learned that mentality and attitude can get you far in the music business. It is great to be talented but beware of self-sabotage, it will tell you you’re not good enough or that you’re too good for something. It will stop you from taking wonderful opportunities or have you doubting whether you’re deserving. We’ve learned it is much better to self-check — What are my intentions and how can I make a positive impact on my day as well as others?
2. “Be courageous” My (Stacy) fearless little sister was so inspired by my work she decided she wanted to join the party and become a solo artist. When she told me, I encouraged her because I want her to be happy. Well, not only did she do it, she created a plan, worked really fast and hard and is glowing up right in front of my eyes. Well one thing she has that I didn’t is the courage to say what she wants and to go for it without anyone’s permission.
3. “It’s a marathon not a sprint” we tend to create timelines for how and when we want to accomplish goals as artists and creatives. However, you learn very quickly that time is a merciless and persistent entity you can’t wield. So give yourself more grace. Set reasonable goals and dream big. But understand that the ultimate gift lies not in the end reward, but rather the lessons, the relationships and memories you’re blessed with along the way. So be at peace with the process, find joy in taking the “scenic route” and always, always be grateful!
4. “Favor will always find you where your faith takes you” This mantra is my (Tam) heart’s song. In looking back over my journey to becoming a Shindella, I realize just how much weight these words have carried. It is true that big dreams require big faith. And so many times we’re paralyzed by what we seemingly lack, when everything we need already exists within. Literally everything is already right where it needs to be. It’s just a matter of putting your faith to work by setting your intentions, writing your vision, creating a plan and moving accordingly. And when you’re operating from that space, in and on purpose, you won’t have to beg, compromise or chase a thing. Instead, favor and opportunities will chase you down. So take that leap and keep running!
5. “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides” This is so important ESPECIALLY in this social media era. As an artist, it is too easy to get excited about an accomplishment, only to look on instagram, see someone else’s news and start picking yourself apart/ comparing your career receipts to theirs. Everyone’s life/journey/timeline is different! I remember once (pre-shinnies) being super jealous of a friend who was touring in London. He seemed to be everywhere and at the time, I (Kasi), was in LA struggling to book slightly bigger rooms then the ones I’d been playing. Anyway, I saw his posts, and went down a rabbit-hole of beating myself up and listing all of the reasons why I was actually trash and would never get to tour in London, *sidenote: WHY DO WE DO THAT TO OURSELVES?! What a waste of creative energy*, but I digress. After my emotional self-mutilation session, I had the bright idea to just ask him how he booked the tour. And you know what? He told me and connected me with two club bookers and I got to go play shows in London too. That space between? That comparison space? That is where joy goes to die.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Write everything down!! When you’re overflowing with ideas and creative energy grab a pen and write down every thought, no matter how crazy or whimsical! Get it out of your head and onto a sheet of paper. That is you manifesting your destiny. We can’t even begin to tell you how many incredible opportunities have come from us literally writing it down and putting it into the atmosphere. Also, set reasonable goals and celebrate your achievements!
When I (Kasi) feel like I am growing, I feel alive. I feel energized. So my advice would be to regularly self-audit — be radically honest with yourself — and find those places where you feel
stagnant and where you feel overwhelmed. Those two places are energy annihilators. If you’re stagnant, figure out where you need to allow yourself to grow. If you are getting overwhelmed, break down why so you know what help you need to ask for. Oh yeah, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. This is probably the most important tip, but (if you’re anything like me) the hardest to implement.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Stacy- I would inspire everyone to drastically stop using plastics and non degradable products to change our habits and lifestyle to make this world liveable long after we are gone.
I, Kasi, would inspire a movement of critical thinking and non-defensive listening. Tam — I would inspire a movement that sought to defund propaganda and eradicate group-think.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You are allowed to be yourself without fear” The Shindellas came up with this quote after we
realized that we all told ourselves things that didn’t exactly make us feel deserving of our blessed lives. We told ourselves to hide our unique attributes or that we weren’t good enough just being ourselves, we had to conform, to play it safe. Well, those are lies and we say this quote to remind ourselves that we are deserving just as we are.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
We would love to have a private conversation with Rihanna. She’s a brilliant artist and businesswoman with an incredible story. We’d love to pick her brain!
How can our readers follow you online?
@TheShindellas on all music and social platforms.