“I’m a Virgo,” Montreal-based musician Shay Lia says with a laugh, as if that explains everything you need to know about her. And, in a way, it does. “I like to plan everything, I always want it to go well,” she says over Zoom. “But [when the music is out], it’s not yours anymore. It’s for people to judge now.”
We’re talking about her career generally, but Lia has her new EP Solaris (available now) firmly on the brain. When we speak, it’s the day before the project drops and she’s feeling nervous about it. It’s the first time the Djiboutian-French artist – who first made waves when she was featured on Montreal DJ-producer Kaytranada’s hit 2016 track “Leave Me Alone” – is straying away from the smooth R&B roots she made a name for herself with. Instead, she’s exploring a whole new vibe, leaning into a global, Afropop-inspired sound.
It wasn’t originally intended to be that way: After wrapping up a U.K. tour last year with Mexican-American singer-songwriter Omar Apollo, Lia headed to the Ivory Coast, where her family lives, with a bunch of demos meant to make up her second EP. “They were good songs, but they sounded cold, very mellow, and I didn’t connect with that,” she says. “But working on them felt like homework. Something was off.” At the time, Lia was listening to a lot of bossa nova, Afrobeats and Cuban music, and had Beyoncé on repeat thanks to her 10-year-old sister. Inspiration struck.