Shaznay Lewis on recording her first solo album in 20 years

HUNGER sits down with Lewis ahead of the release of her upcoming album, ‘Pages’.

In any career, 20 years is an excruciatingly long period of time – but in music 20 years can almost seem like a lifetime. Fans are incredibly fickle, trends shift at a relentless pace and unfortunately there often comes a time when we, as listeners, just stop caring. But in the case of Shaznay Lewis, her return to the limelight after two decades has been met with enormous enthusiasm. 

As a part of the iconic girl group All Saints, Lewis would find huge international success. The group, formed in 1993, peaked at number two with their self-titled debut album in 1997, which has now gone on to be certified 5x platinum by the British Photographic Industry (BPI). Meanwhile, their sophomore effort (a hurdle which plenty of artist’s fumble over) saw them land their first No.1 record, cementing them as one of the defining groups of their era. And eventually, as so many do, Lewis would try her hand at a solo career, releasing her debut album, Open, in 2004.

Now in 2024, the musician announced her forthcoming album, Pages, releasing May 17th and today shares the latest single for the record. Titled ‘Good Mourning’, the track sees Lewis join forces with BRIT and two-time MOBO winner Shola Ama alongside jungle and raga icon General Levy. Both Lewis and Ama’s vocal performances dominate the track, with their powerful, crystal clear deliveries making for a goosebump-inducing listening experience. Meanwhile, General Levy provides a rapid-fire and vibrantly expressive verse halfway through the track, rapping as though his life depended on it. It’s a track readymade for the dancefloor thanks to anthemic strings and pounding bass, while Lewis’ lyrics points towards a sense of optimism, describing a break-up as an opportunity for self-improvement rather than something inherently negative. It’s yet another wonderful return to form from Lewis, and it has us even more excited to see what the star has coming on the horizon with Pages.

Here, we sit down with Lewis to discuss her upcoming album, returning to music, and her advice for up and coming musicians…

Your upcoming solo album, Pages, will be released next month, what can fans expect from the project stylistically and thematically?

When I started working on Pages, I wanted to incorporate specific instruments and sounds. I’m obsessed with strings, and this became the thread which runs through the Album. I wanted the style to be lush and lyrically bold with a cinematic theme. 

How did you land on Pages for the title?

My debut album was titled Open, and at that time, whilst writing that album, I was an open book. Now, in truth, I think writing Pages has been a 25-year process continuing the journey into this open book. There have been many experiences and transitions, especially over the past two years, that have fully allowed me to fill the pages and grow creatively and as a person into the writer I currently am. 

It’s been 20 years since your first solo project, was there any reluctance from you to put solo music out there again? Or was it just a matter of time?

I hadn’t previously thought much about writing another album. For a long time, I felt that it wasn’t an option. But once the thought entered my head, I couldn’t unthink it. Without me realising, it was just a matter of time.

How would you describe your creative process for this project – anything you’d done differently compared to your previous solo and group work?

The creative process for this project was different. I worked on this album without a record label and management, with producers I’d never worked with. I was able to let the song be the main focus point. When writing for a band or other artists or projects, many requirements are on the list before getting to the song. For the first time in my 30-year career, I was able to put the song first. It gave me freedom and allowed me to give the writing process all the attention it deserves. I felt liberated and excited every time I entered the studio.

What’s something you hope people will take away from the project?

I hope people take away a body of work that they enjoy listening to. With Pages, they create new memories, fall in love, dance, find comfort, and get inspiration from the songs. I’m so happy these songs can be a part of people’s lives.

You’ve been in the music industry for over 30 years now, why do you think you’ve managed to sustain such success over the years?

I have no idea, and I’ve been writing for over 30 years, sometimes at the forefront of the band and other times behind the scenes for different bands, artists and projects. I love what I do now more than ever, and I’m grateful to continue doing it. 

Do you feel as though the industry has improved in regards to the treatment of artists since you first started?

I think the industry has changed in many ways. The treatment of songwriters has become grossly unethical since streaming platforms have taken over, and many changes need to happen within the law in how songwriters are paid for their work.

Are you glad you didn’t rise through the industry when social media wasn’t a prominent factor? And how do you feel about the integration of social media and music in general?

I am pleased social media didn’t exist when I entered the industry. The relationship between social media and music can be quite pigeonholed. The energy that goes into reaching a lot of people is demanding. Millions of people don’t use social media and, therefore, may not know their favourite artist or band has released a record or is doing a tour. There are practically no music TV shows that showcase bands and upcoming musical talents. Unless you have an exceptionally substantial following on social media, many music lovers won’t even know what’s going on in the world of music. I’ve missed seeing many concerts because I haven’t looked at a band’s social media account, which is now the primary PR outlet for everything today.

Are there any creative avenues you’d like to explore in the future outside of music?

I fell in love with what Labrinth created for the series Euphoria and became so inspired. I want to write a score for a series. I’ve done a few things, but to work on a complete score is a dream I’ve had for a very long time. I’m currently working on songs for a film, which has been a wonderful experience alongside some incredibly talented writers, producers and composers, and I’ve greatly appreciated the process. I love learning new things. 

What’s one song in your playlist that nobody would expect?

I have no songs that people wouldn’t expect on my playlist.

What was the last song that made you tear up?

I was tearful when I watched the video of Kiss Of Life. 

What song are you playing to get a party started?

I’m a massive lover of old-school hip-hop, 80’s music and Jazz. It would be a toss between ‘It Takes Two’  by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock or ‘I Feel For You’ by Chaka Khan when getting into the party spirit. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a musician who’s just starting their journey in the industry?

My advice would always be to be one hundred percent their authentic self when creating and to be truthful to who they are as an artist. 

WriterChris Saunders