We had the good fortune of connecting with Whitney Shay and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Whitney, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I feel fortunate that I have always known what I wanted to do with my life. I started singing as soon as I could talk, and told my mother that I wanted to be on stage when I was only 3 years old. I continued on this path studying in Theatre at San Diego State University, before forging a path into the music industry (where I’ve made my living the last 10 years). Performing is what gives me joy, and connecting with people through music is something I am blessed to get to do for a living.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My name is Whitney Shay, and I am a soulful vocalist born and raised in San Diego, California. Over the last 10 years I have maintained a career in music as a blues, jazz, R&B/soul singer and more recently a songwriter. I have been fortunate to win 4 San Diego Music Awards, reach #1 on the Billboard Blues Album Charts (in April 2020 for my newest album “Stand Up!”), be nominated for several national awards including a Blues Music Award, and tour internationally in South America and Europe. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would have accomplished all of that I might not have believed you; but if there’s one thing anyone who knows me could say it’s that I worked very hard to get to this point. Starting out early on in my musical career I learned mostly on the job; my first regular gig was a duo with a pianist playing at a speakeasy bar 3 nights a week for 4 hours a night. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to work regularly in San Diego- upwards of 200-300 gigs a year (pre pandemic of course). Over the years I developed my own style and sensibility as an artist, and learned that above all I wanted to write original music in order to be truly fulfilled (Instead of being strictly an interpreter of other people’s music as I had been before). I try to be a constant expression of gratitude, as I feel truly fortunate to get to make a living doing what I love. In life and my career I’ve always tried to make the best out of every situation, work hard, and bring others joy through music. The two taglines I’ve used have been #busylittlesinger and “Lover of Life, Singer Of Songs”, and I feel like both define me and my brand pretty well.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I always try to bring first time visitors to San Diego to the Zoo and Balboa Park. The San Diego Zoo (and the Safari Park) are world renowned for good reason, and with all the architecture and the museums there is so much to see and do in Balboa Park. Because everyone who comes to San Diego wants to see the beach: I would take them to Coronado for the beautifully manicured sand and the Hotel Del, La Jolla Cove to explore, and probably Ocean Beach because it’s got such a good relaxed vibe. A day trip to Julian for apple pie is a must after a hike up in the mountains. I would definitely insist we carve out an evening for wine and dinner at the Bernardo Winery, as it’s one of my fav places in all of San Diego! As far as eating and drinking there are way too many places I love to list! San Diego proper has a vibrant restaurant scene (obviously not as much currently). I mostly like to frequent the North & South Park, and Hillcrest areas for food options because there are so many choices (Indian, Thai, Japanese, Mexican, and Ethiopian being some of my favorites). As far as things to do during the evening hours, I would love to take them to see some live music (which in normal circumstances you can find any night of the week) or to check out some of the great theatre in our thriving arts scene. I truly hope that all the music venues and theatre companies will be able to survive this pandemic, as I’m proud of the amount that we have to offer in San Diego.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family of course first and foremost- my mother (Elisa), father (Troy), and grandmother (Zuzu) who drove me to all those rehearsals when I was growing up. Thanks for supporting me always! I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for you. John Reilly- Every blues musician in the world who knows this man loves him like family. John (known to most as “JR”) has been coming to see my shows regularly since I first met him almost 9 years ago. He has introduced me to musicians all over the world, supported and helped further my career, and has been a close trusted advisor and friend. Grateful to know you brother! Adam J Eros- Thank you for giving me permission to do the most vulnerable thing you can with another artist: write music together. Your talents and wit never cease to amaze me, and I’m glad we get to create art together! Archie Thompson- You produced my first album, wrote songs for me to sing, believed in my talent early on, and became a mentor to me in the music industry. I’m so grateful to you for taking me under your wing and guiding me on a soulful path. Robin Henkel- Thank you for sharing your wisdom in music (and life) with me. I’ve learned so much playing with you all these years. You are an inspiration to everyone who gets the opportunity to be around you. Kenneth Rexrode- Everything you do in life brims with exuberance and positivity, and it’s simply a joy to be around! Thank you for including me in your great quest to put San Diego on the map for live music. There are so many people in my life who inspire me everyday and have taught me so much, I’m sorry I cannot fit you all on this. I appreciate each and every one of you immensely.
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