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Family affair: Labrinth's sister stepping into the spotlight

ELECTRONIC SOUL DIVA: ShezAr

TO SAY Hackney-born singer ShezAr comes from a musical family, would be an understatement. Music, in fact, comes from her family.

Her famous bloodline, which includes brothers [UK producer and singer extraordinaire] Labrinth and Britain's Got Talent drummer McKnasty, have helped shape the sound of the UK’s urban scene with top production, vocal and instrumental credits to their names.

With nine siblings in total, each involved with music in some way, the Mckenzies give The Jackson 5 a run for their money.

Shezar, who is wedged between Labrinth and Mcknasty in terms of age, laughs at the comparison.

“My mum and dad grew up in the church, they were part of the choir. My dad used to play guitar and mum would sing,” she explains. “Throughout all our births, she was always around music, so from within the womb, up until now, we've been around music.”

“It's been passed down from generation. Most of the time, I end up going to gigs and festivals and seeing my cousin, my aunty, my brother or my sister. It's like a family affair. The family are taking over the whole music industry.”

Case and point was at the 2012 Hackney Weekender, the inaugural musical festival to celebrate the Olympics in east London, when she shared the stage with many of her siblings.

“My brother Mac1 performed with me on the day, McKnasty was playing drums, my brother Steve was on bass and my two sisters - one who is my manager - were doing my backing vocals.”

It's important to note here, that brother Labrinth was performing on another stage at the festival at the same time.
“At one point I was doing his version of Express Yourself. It was a way we could share that moment together”.

Describing herself as an 'electronic soul diva', ShezAr - who lists Chaka Khan, Adele and collaborator Wretch 32 as some of her musial influences - has spent years in the music industry acting in the capacity of a vocal coach, session singer and backing vocalist for some top names.

Stars including Natasha Beddingfield, Terri Walker, Bashy, Omar, MPHO and The Guillemots have sought ShezAr, known affectionately as the singer 'with the big voice.' for backing vocal duties.

Commenting on her journey to date, she says: “I would describe it as an artist development type of growth because within all the stuff I've done as a vocal tutor, session singer and as an artist myself, it has allowed me to gain the knowledge and experience of what an artist's life is like and what a musician's life is like.

“It allows you to question yourself. Is this really what you want to do or would you prefer to keep it as a hobby and just do a 9-5 and enjoy life?”

Thankfully, she chose the former and is on the cusp of releasing her debut EP #ShezArsTheName, with single Forever - which features brother Mac1 - serving as a tantilising taster.

“I love the vibe of the whole EP,” she says. “There's a memory with every track. To see the development of each track from the most rough form to the finished mastered version is just crazy.”

Listeners will also be treated to features from her famous siblings, who have also given her work their blessing.

“The majority of my family have been involved in this project, I'm quite happy to say that. We grew up together and are quite tight as a family. We always take each other's opinions into consideration because it helps us build ourselves as individuals and musicians.”

She adds: “Mac1 also serves as the executive producer on the EP. He's also the one who engineered it and helped give it that extra bit of quality.”

Does she feel any pressure having to live up to the expectations of Labrinth, who under the mentorship of Simon Cowell has two No.1s under his belt - one as an artist (Beneath Your Beautiful) and as a producer on rapper Tinie Tempah's groundbreaking track Pass Out,.

“Pressure? No, his success is a help to me. My brothers have paved the way. They're showing what a talented family I come from and I'm happy about that. We all support each other.

“I'm quite confident and comfortable with the type of artist I am, so until you come and witness it for yourself, you have to take my word for it. The proof is in the pudding,” she laughs.

With parents so heavily involved in the church, has her choice of secular music been a bone of contention?

“We are all very God-fearing, we walk with the understanding and knowledge of what we've been taught from young and despite stepping into the mainstream world, we still walk with God in our heart.

“We feel the faith side of it is always going to be with us no matter where we go and we acknowledge God in everything we do. It hasn't stopped us from going into the secular world, but we know our boundries. At the end of the day, if we're sharing our gifts and talents with the world, whatever that person receives from it, especially if it's coming from a positive place, is good.”

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