Shura interview on Women’s Soccer United
Shura: ‘Football has affected my character and my work ethics which definitely affects my music’
Two years on from the release of her hugely successful single ‘Touch’, Shura’s long awaited debut album ‘Nothing’s Real’ will be released on Polydor Records on 8 July – and you do not want to miss it!
The rising star has already achieved success many can only dream of, including surpassing 30 millions plays, and is now just days away from the release of her debut album. Ellie Goulding described Shura as “Breathy, grungy and arresting”, whilst the Sunday Times said “Dreamy, melancholic… sit up and listen”.
What is more, the talented artist with an infectious personality has a strong link to women’s football. Shura is a former player having worn the boots for none other than Manchester City and her love and passion for the beautiful game has not faded even though football was one of the things she had to sacrifice for a career in music.
I literally could have spoken to Shura, real name Aleksandra Denton, all day about her debut album, the sensational reaction to her first track release ‘touch’ and her genuine love of football.
Women’s Soccer United: Your debut album is called ‘Nothing’s Real’ (out July 8th). How did you come up with the title and why does it fit the music so well?
Shura: The title of the album is inspired by one of the songs on the album called ‘Nothing’s Real’, which is about having a panic attack. I’m not sure whether you have ever had one before, but one of the ways in which people and certainly the way I would explain having a panic attack is that your heart races and it feels almost like you are having a heart attack. I remember the first time I ever had a panic attack I went to hospital and I had loads of tests and they said everything’s fine! Which made me think ok I get that, so my heart is saying everything’s fine but then why do I feel like this?! I felt like I was being told that what I was feeling was not real in a way and that it potentially was all in my head.
So that’s what inspired that particular song and my album title, but also a lot of what my debut album focuses on is feelings of nostalgia, whether it’s being young or innocence, lust, relationships that used to be brilliant but are not anymore or you’re not together anymore. I think the message is that nothing’s real and the album title fits not only that specific song but also the idea that time is absurd.
WSU: How would you describe your music style?
Shura: It’s a really difficult one to describe yourself but I think a lot of the time I would say old pop/alternative pop. If I were to differentiate between myself and Taylor Swift, she’s hugely commercially successful whereas I am on the fringe of making pop music headway.
WSU: Your first track ‘Touch’ achieved massive success, 100,000 plays in its first week and becoming a viral sensation having surpassed 30 million plays. How did it feel to receive such an overwhelming reaction to your music, was it what you were expecting when you released it?
Shura: No it absolutely wasn’t what I was expecting; I think I would have planned a lot better with regards to having more of my records made if I had known just how successful that track would become. As soon as I put that song out, I received a lot of attention and I think people expected very quickly that ‘she must be signed’, ‘she must have a record deal’, ‘there must be an album’ – but it wasn’t like that at all. For me, the song ‘Touch’ was like a demo essentially that I put online and I guess that with the video it became popular which was really exciting and I was really happy that it happened.
WSU: Did the popularity and expectation put you under pressure at all to complete the album?
Shura: No, I have been very fortunate and been allowed to take my time over the record and make something that I am really happy with and proud of. I guess I was aware that there was probably a greater weight of expectation around how good the record is compared to if I hadn’t had that reaction but in a way, I relish that, it’s exciting and I like the challenge to impress people.
WSU: Were you still playing football when your music career took off? How did your team-mates react, were they aware of your passion for music?
Shura: I don’t think they were aware at all, I wasn’t actually playing football when I started to make music really, it was something that I kind of kept secret. There are a couple of girl’s who used to play at (Man) City who have since come to shows, and a girl called Lizzie who we were defenders together and it was really nice to see her. She was at Glastonbury and a show I did in Sheffield so it’s really nice now to reconnect with some of them and I think they are just excited for me. It also means that they can come to shows and get on the guest list so it’s quite fun for them too I imagine.
WSU: Do you still keep in contact with your former team-mates?
Shura: I’ve kept in contact with a couple of team-mates, I’d say three or four, but it’s a bit like school I’ve kept in contact with three or four people from school, I think that’s just how it is, you go through life and you have new friends and you keep in touch with the ones you got on the best with. So, yeah I am still in touch with some of my team-mates thankfully – Facebook is a wonderful thing in that sense, you suddenly find a friend you haven’t spoken to for ages!
WSU: At what age did you start playing football and how did you get to play for Manchester City?
Shura: I started playing football when I was 8 years old, I was first introduced to it by my dad’s girlfriend who was a massive West Ham fan! It was my first experience because my dad didn’t really like football at all and my mum was not interested either, so suddenly I was like ‘what is this really exciting game?’ and I started playing.
It was while I was playing in a (mixed) tournament at school when I was around 9 or 10 years old and I didn’t realise there were scouts there. These two women came up to me at the end of the tournament, in which I had scored this goal – it was a pretty sick goal to be fair! They said do you want to play for Manchester City and my jaw just dropped to the floor! Even as a United fan, I was like yes I want to play! That was it really and I started to play for the under-11s and progressed up to the under-16s. I still try to play football, I miss it all the time and the good thing about going on tour actually in America is that I take a football with me and when there’s a lot of waiting around we do keepie uppies and play headers and volleys.
WSU: And when did you first start writing music?
Shura: At 13 I picked up a guitar and started to write but I would say it was when I was 16 that I really got into the swing of it and started writing songs properly. It was at that age that I started doing open mic nights in Manchester, where I was performing to middle-aged guys who probably didn’t care – which was really excellent practise for later in life!
WSU: How has your experiences gained whilst playing football helped with your music career?
Shura: I do think that there’s something about that feeling of scoring a goal or winning a game/tournament, which is so difficult to explain to someone who has not had the experience, that installs a desire to achieve the perfect goal, or the perfect record/song. Playing football has given me this competitive urge, not necessarily against anyone else, it’s just a desire within myself to always do the best I can do.
I can compare it to when I find a beat that is perfect for that song, it’s the same feeling as scoring a goal and it’s like you can’t really remember how you got to that point as it becomes a bit of a blur but that moment when it finally clicks is so euphoric!
Football has affected my character and my work ethics which definitely affects my music.
WSU: Your football career has been sidelined since your music career has taken off. Do you see yourself ever returning to the sport in the future?
Shura: I don’t see it happening professionally but I do see myself playing a lot of 5-a-side football. I think I have been a bit too long out of it now to ever go back, maybe I’ll play in a charity game for fun.
WSU: Are there any similarities between football and music?
Shura: Definitely, I think that football to some people is like a religion in the same way that music can be. You can be really passionate about them both. I remember when I used to watch (Man) United lose it would absolutely kill me – luckily I can now watch football with a bit more distance so that when England get knocked out of the EUROS, I am not too surprised or gutted! People who love football are very passionate people and it’s the same for music.
WSU: Could you describe your experiences playing for Manchester City?
Shura: I say this on the week that my debut album will be released but I can genuinely say that playing for Manchester City was one of the most exciting things that I have been a part of. It goes back to that feeling that I spoke about earlier of scoring a goal and winning the league and I did all of that with City, a feeling that is incomparable. If I watch football now, or any sport, I feel I can just cry because I can understand what they’re feeling – the joy, the euphoria and it makes me very emotional.
WSU: How would you say the game has progressed since your time playing at Manchester City?
Shura: The game is played at a much faster pace than when I was playing. In the last five years it is getting stronger, which is so exciting to see and there is more coverage and more people are attending matches. That just didn’t happen when I was playing, the people that came to the matches were mainly our parents, whereas now especially for a major tournament people are interested in a way they were not five years ago.
It’s really exciting to see the women’s game slowly getting more attention – you can now have a career. When I was growing up and playing football, I dreamt of having a football career of course because I was a kid but it really was not a reality at that time. Football was not even an option for me at my school, it was Hockey or Netball. It’s so important for children to grow up active and not be held back or told what sport you can and can not play.
There’s still a long way to go, we need to see more women coaches, more women referees, more female commentators and we need to see more women integrated into football as a whole.
WSU: Are you still able to follow the women’s game, how often are you able to watch it?
Shura: I would say for the major tournaments I will definitely watch it. I haven’t even been unable to follow the men’s game these days, I am a huge Manchester United fan but the first time I have watched a football game in the last year has been the EUROS because the last two years we have been making the record and one of the first things that I had to sacrifice time wise was following football because it was so important to me to finish this record. Supporting a team is almost like a full-time job it feels, you get so emotionally involved and every weekend you need to watch the game – every weekend for me at this time, I have been performing at shows.
Now that I have finished my album it will be nice to get involved in the EUROs and I can actually watch more football this year.
WSU: Finally, which women’s football nation do you think will win Gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics?
Shura: That’s really tough! I feel like I have to say USA. They always seem to perform well.