Shaelle Etienne
Edited by: 
Kristin Hanson

Q: How did you begin in the performing arts?

I saw the Sound of Music in Connecticut, I grew up there and went to this theater called the Bushnell to see it. I was seven years old. It was a big deal, my first show. I remember every time it would stop I would think I hope it's not over. I remember I would look at my godmother to make sure it wasn't ending. That opened my eyes to something I never knew could be done on stage. It was amazing to me. I signed up to do a talent show at my school. I sang a song from Annie (which I also got to see around that time) and I remember after performing it was so well received and I was eight. My mom milked it, I had an outfit on and a bucket and sponge. The next day at recess my friend said “My mom said you were the best one!” It really hyped me up, I guess, and that was the little bit of encouragement every artist needs to remind you or confirm that you can do what you think is possible. That is when I decided this is what I would do. It is so cool.

Q: What has performing arts taught you that you have applied to your everyday life and how you engage in the world?

Flexibility. You can show up to a show, like doing solo stuff in LA, and you might still not know the order or the order switches of the lineup. You have to remember why you are doing it in the first place. Also teaches you teamwork. It takes a village even if you are a solo act, it takes a team to help you push out your music and share your stuff. I’m so thankful for my community and my team.

Q: Has music helped you overcome any hardships in your life?

Yes, for sure 100%. Every hardship it has helped me overcome. There is a song for every season of my life and is nostalgic and takes you back. I have written stuff to get out emotions, it doesn't always need to be shared. That has helped me just to articulate how I feel and sometimes speaking it or writing it in a journal is not enough but writing and creating music in hard times is therapeutic.

Q: What other interests and passions do you have outside of music that influence and inspire your artistry?

Yoga. Sanity, I think mental health is so important especially in the music industry. Maybe because that is because I'm in LA and I see so many people struggling with mental health issues. Yoga helps me keep a good routine and helps me remember what my morals are what I stand for and I think that is so important as I pave my way throughout these LA streets. I also have a full time job that is really important. I had a studio and it was dope and we had instagram poppin but it wasn't stable and didn't support me enough. That is fine to an extent, but if you don't have backup capital to keep your dreams going you’ll need to find that elsewhere. Now especially I work from home and I'm so thankful I don't have to worry about making an income to keep making music. If I don't have a solid foundation or a place to lay your head or enough money to buy good food you can't create or it's harder to create. You need something sustainable. My goal is to be able to continue creating. Having multiple streams of income is so important, it’s something every artist should be proud of, there is almost a shame in having backup, but I think you should do it.

Q: How can music be a platform for social justice issues?

How can it not? As cliche as it sounds, music that succeeds is music that is authentic whether it is rachet or classical it is authentic to whoever created it. I think that is what people really mess with. I think naturally as time goes on it's natural for a musician to write about their reality and through that it opens up dialogue. I think there is a pressure to have the answer when you create, but you can just pose a question through music and spark dialogue or state your opinion and rally by it. Seperate from art, you can use that to get you to a status where you have influence over a lot of people on a separate topic like politics or pandemics. That is true influence and that is something music can help you achieve.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as a musician?

Well at the beginning of the year I was performing every other week and now there are no venues to perform at. It is ok, honestly that was my focus - to like get in front of as many people as possible. I have very specific goals for myself and for music I just wanted to perform. Obviously I can't perform right now. It has made me more creative as far as how I can use my phone to make a video or practice my guitar more - just creating here. I haven't released a full body of work yet and now this is the perfect time to lock that in and solidify what I want. If anything it has given me more time and different exposure and forced me to be more creative and I'm honestly here for it. This is low key in some ways, aside from people passing away and being so sick and not having resources, having to stay at home is low key what I've wanted so I can focus on things I have been wanting to do. I know that to do many things well you need time, discipline, and focus. And once you are at work for 40 hours plus performing and meeting we have eliminated that. I can take a yoga class for an hour and then hop back on where I couldn’t do that at the office. I feel it has made my music better for where I am at right now.

Q: What is a message you would like to say to health workers on the front lines if you could?

Thank you. Your work is not unnoticed. Please be vocal on what you need from us and your community. Please be vocal about your boundaries and limits, you are human and you deserve rest. Thank you, just thank you. Know you are not alone.

Transcription courtesy of