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Meet Whitney Shay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Whitney Shay.

Whitney, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Hi there! I’m a blues/jazz/Rhythm & Blues/soulful singing vocalist.

I’ve been doing music with bands in San Diego since 2010. I started my performing career doing musical theatre at the age of three. I did theatre up through college and graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelors Degree in Theatre with a Performance Emphasis.

When I started swing dancing in 2009, I fell in love with swing and jazz music and shortly thereafter started working with a pianist doing a few local gigs.

Fast forward to about nine years (and a lot of hard work) later: I perform 20 (to sometimes even 30) times a month, have toured playing festivals internationally, have songs in films and TV shows on NBC, Bravo, BET, and HBO, have won two “San Diego Music Awards” (2017 &2018) and a “Best Of San Diego” Award (2018) from San Diego CityBeat all for “Best Blues Artist”. I was also just recently nominated for 3 San Diego Music Awards for 2019 (“Best Live Performer”, “Best Blues Album”, and “Artist of The Year”), and for a prestigious national 2019 “Blues Music Award” by The Blues Foundation for “Soul Blues Female Artist”.

Has it been a smooth road?
I feel very grateful and lucky, although I may have had some minor setbacks and personal struggles, for the most part, I’ve been very fortunate and I feel that I am proof positive that hard work absolutely pays off.

I have known I wanted to be a performer since age three, and have never faltered from that. I adore what I do, I try to be professional and have a good attitude, and I’m not afraid to work hard, so I think that has helped me a lot along the way.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I feel like I’ve kind of created myself as a “brand”, and have found somewhat of a niche here in San Diego over the last few years, primarily just by doing music that is meaningful to me. My music lives somewhere between soulful rhythm & blues and bluesy jazz.

I feel like the combination of my stage presence, and my energy & serious passion for the music that I love makes me unique. I’m not about comparing myself to others, as I think that’s a dangerous game to get into on all fronts. I always feel like San Diego has such a diverse network of talent, and we should all learn from each other’s differences and share the wealth of opportunities.

Last year, I released a new record on the Little Village Foundation record label. It was my first record in six years (following up from the great record “Soul Tonic” I did with Producer Archie Thompson in 2012) and really I felt like it’s the first record I’ve ever sung on where I really knew myself as an artist. I wrote original songs for it with my friend Adam J Eros, and that was such a rush (albeit also a somewhat frightening and vulnerable experience) making music that came from me. Having people hear and like the songs I wrote is the best feeling ever.

The record has been getting some truly fantastic reviews internationally, and I’m very excited to get to share my music (and myself as an artist) more with the world this year.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Yes, I feel like San Diego provides a wealth of opportunities and places to play. I know so many people who can make a living as full-time musicians here and even people who can support families just by teaching and playing music. I feel like that’s pretty rare for such an expensive city. In places like Nashville and Austin that are more known as music destinations, it’s a bit harder to make a living as a full-time musician because there’s such an overwhelming abundance of great musicians. But on the flip side, as there are a lot of opportunities here it’s somewhat easy to get comfortable and complacent; so it’s important to not take what we get paid to do for granted. I always try to remind myself to go into every gig (whether it’s a giant festival or a small gig playing background music at a restaurant/lounge) grateful for the opportunity to get paid to do what I love with talented people I respect.

If someone is just starting out in the music scene in San Diego my advice is this: go to jams and meet people, play with musicians better than you and learn all that you can, and find music that really speaks to your heart. One of my friends told me years ago that you should never sing anything that you don’t really love, and I think that’s completely true. Be genuine and show your heart to the world, and it’ll reward you with abundance in return.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All shots have photographers watermarks except, white background is Chuck Fedalizo, laying down crowd shot is Sergio Lopes, and the standing posed (with runner in background) and also the crowd full band shot are both by Eiji Fuller

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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