Shae Brock was born and raised in Arizona, and her state’s limitless landscape of desert and mountain has worked its way deep into her songwriting. There’s a self-made world of story, color and sound in every piece of music she creates – a process she describes in almost mystical tones: “I can become different songs and different stories and feelings and characters - like one big painting with all different colors.” Not just your generic pop singer, then.
She was 12 and living in Scottsdale (otherwise known as America’s 92nd largest city) when she asked her mother to get her grandpa’s guitar out of the attic. She had known that she wanted to be a musician since she was a Spice Girls-loving three-year-old, singing “Wannabe” into a Fisher Price karaoke machine, so 12 seemed high time to be getting on with it. Having quietly gathered dust for years, the Yamaha acoustic needed restringing, after which she had to learn to play the thing. “So I made my mom restring it,” she says now, a decade later. “And the guy who painted our house knew guitar, so he taught me a few chords.” The Yamaha, since swapped for a Martin that she’s named Hercules (there’s also an electric Fender Stratocaster called Romeo), was her gateway to unlocking the songs she had in her head. From that starting point, she grew into a pop singer-songwriter who’s the real deal.
Shae, who was born Taylor Shae Brock, has a rough-around-the-edges way of making music. Scottsdale can take some of the credit – her home town is on the fringes of both the Sonoran Desert and mountainous wilderness - a classic Southwestern landscape that has seeped into her bones. “Arizona formed me. It’s very calm, and I feel connected with nature,” she says. “I love the desert. Growing up here, the western feel, has influenced my writing and guitar playing.” And while she lives in Los Angeles now and makes pop music, she‘s never lost touch with the natural world – writing songs with the wooden-bodied Hercules is a tactile, organic process. Which, when you think about it, isn’t so different from being out in the desert.
Her roots are on her mind these days because she’s going through a change in direction – leaving behind the producer-led that defined her earlier music and focusing instead on her first love, - with her in the driver’s seat. But while she sees pop as “more who I am” – and has turned out to be both a terrific topliner and a lyricist who writes deftly about emotions and vulnerability - she’s still immensely proud of what she accomplished over the last year or two with collaborators like Gucci Mane and Phresher. Take her new single, “Transparency,” an arresting slow jam that gets its fire from the dreamy interplay between herself and Mane. “It brings both of our worlds together - there’s a flavor of pop and a flavor of urban. I like the way these polar opposites merge,” she says.
It was more than Brock had anticipated when she demoed the song. What young artist expects her track to be jumped on by one of America’s most influential MCs? It happened when “Transparency” producer Blaze Crawford sent the track to Gucci, who quickly replied, “I want to do this – it’s a hit.” Brock remembers the session as surreal. “I didn’t know what to expect when he walked in, but we hung out on the video shoot, and he was really sweet, really nice.” (Her videos have been consistently strong; Complex has noted that the “gorgeous visuals”, often filmed on beaches or in the desert, “will immediately make you feel happy.”)
She’s also been an ardent diarist since she was a kid. Everything goes into her journals and some of it ends up generating songs. The time recently when she ran into an ex and felt vulnerable could become one, she muses: “It’s beautiful to be able to create art from an emotion.” Arguably, she’s been doing that since the age of five, when she learned to play piano and found she could turn notes into melodies; once she added guitar to her skills, the lyrics began to flow, and when she started her own band at age 16, she learned to deliver onstage. Her self- titled group took up most of her free time in high school – every single day was band practice – and it paid off when they got club gigs in Phoenix and San Diego. They were one of Arizona’s bigger live acts, and who knows where they might have gone if Brock hadn’t met Crawford, who invited her to make some tracks in LA and shared them with record labels.
What’s in are songs that tell stories, like those of her inspirations, who include Madonna, Stevie Nicks and Lorde. Shae is currently working on a batch of new ones, and her guitar playing will figure prominently. She talks about what we can expect, she puts it this way: “I feel I have no boundaries. I like being myself in my work – it’s an organic way of developing.” Like the Arizona girl she is, she sees a limitless landscape.