Featured Artist: Shay Lia

Shay Lia just broke one million monthly listeners on Spotify. It’s not a surprise, though, as the singer-songwriter’s career has been growing steadily for seven plus years. (In addition to the fact that she’s a beautiful and captivating talent.)


A Star From the Start

Based in Montreal, but born in France and raised in Africa, Lia is a Djiboutian-French musician. Her career took off when she collaborated with a fellow Montreal artist, DJ Kaytranada, in 2016. Together, the pair has created R&B-infused hits that have helped Lia’s own career skyrocket.


In 2016, she was featured on Kaytrananda’s single “Leave Me Alone” from his album 99.9%. Her electric personality brought Coachella to life in 2017, cementing her as a star on or off the stage. Not too long after, they came together again for “Chances” in 2018. The DJ’s song brought on a second wave of success to Lia, who’s featured on the track. “Chances” currently sits on Spotify with over 41 million streams.


Before, during, and after working with Kaytranada, Shay Lia was an outstanding solo artist. Her solo career includes multiple singles, an EP, and a debut record. The debut, Dangerous (Deluxe), dropped in 2019 much to fans’ excitement. It was her latest EP, 2020’s Solaris, that solidified her place in the industry.




How Shay Lia Has Grown

While the soulful, glittery tones of R&B are ever present, Solaris gave Lia the confidence to shake things up. The performer has always been proud of her East-African roots. (She grew up on the coast of the Horn of Africa, afterall.) It wasn’t until now, mid-global pandemic, that she allowed herself to express.


As a lover of music more than anything else, Shay Lia didn’t want creating music to get in the way of her enjoyment. In the October 2020 issue of Elle Canada, the rising star broke that down. “The second [music] becomes your job, you also have to do a lot of things that you don’t want to do. That’s a part of life. But I want to protect the fun I have when writing songs. I want it to be organic, I want it to be about pleasure.”


It was through her own personal reconnection to Afrobeats and bossa nova that Solaris was able to come to life. The groovy tracks were reminders of her roots just as much as they were the soundtrack to her own writing. Those sounds reminded also Lia of her creative direction, which she has full control of as an independent artist. 


The “Irrational” singer wrote about the love behind this career-changing release on Instagram. “This EP has been a creative journey for me and it was important that you all got to know the real me and the joy and warmth I seek.”


Leaning further into an exoctic Afropop sound was heartwarming for Lia and a moment of pride. R&B is smooth and slick sounding, but global beats are fun and whimsical..

Shay Lia: To the Top

It also paid off, because not even three months after Solaris released, she won Socan’s Breakout Artist of the Year. Her success is well-deserved, but she’s more than grateful as written in an Instagram caption. “Such an award is a first for me and I am so happy and proud to say that it’s a national prize from Canada and the Socan. This is where I have been living for the last 8 years and where everything started for me from graduating University to choosing this career path in the music industry 2 years ago!”

Clearly, Shay Lia is well on her way to super stardom. Grammy wins and international awards could be in her near future, too. She’s forever humble, though.

Solaris might have been a lockdown record and it might have only been Shay Lia’s second EP. If anything, that makes it even more special. The indie, Afropop meets R&B singer-songwriter has reached new heights in this era of her career. She’s coming into her own as a globally inspired star and an immensely talented East African icon..

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