Whatever box you ticked for the referendum, or indeed if you stayed at home and watched Homes Under The Hammer instead of voting, we can surely all agree these are immensely troubled times. And at a time of national crisis we are most in need of artists of interest and songs that mush around in our feelings. Pop is for prosperity. Rock is for recession. In properly scary-shit times we require something more nuanced and meaningful.
Which is why the debut album of Shura – released this Friday after a two year gestation – is to be thoroughly welcomed. With Nothing’s Real the 25 year old Mancunian singer-songwriter has created a collection of songs that pull at the heartstrings, remind you of your flaws yet through hypnotic synthetic beats coated with a honeyed voice make you feel better about everything all at the same time. In short it’s ace and highly recommended and it seems there is no end to the tiny songstress’ talents: not only did she write, produce and sing on the album but Shura – real name Alexandra Denton – also played for Manchester City Ladies until the age of sixteen.
Oh and she’s funny too. And likeable. And yeah we’re a little bit in love.
The Cutter caught up with Shura this week to discuss the summation of her life’s work so far and how, on the fields of Manchester, she was a cross between Giggs and Jaap Stam….
DC: As the album’s release date approaches how does it feel to present the world with your life’s work so far?
Shura: I’m not really nervous anymore; I’m just excited about it. I’ve been waiting for this for so long that I’ve exhausted any sense of nervousness and now I’m looking forward to people hearing it for the first time.
DC: This album has been a while coming. Was that all about getting it right?
S: Absolutely. I’ve had people ask why this album wasn’t released a year ago but first of all it would have been about seven tracks long. It also wouldn’t have been as perfect. I’m not saying it is perfect but it’s definitely the best I can do at this stage of my life.
There are songs that I’ve had to cut out which I love and that’s when you should be putting out an album. That’s when you know you’re in a good place.
DC: The reviews so far have been extremely positive but why should people buy or download Nothing’s Real?
S: They should definitely hear some songs just to see if they like it. I’ve put years of my life into this but I wouldn’t want to make anyone buy it. It’s up to them (laughs)
DC: Are there themes that recur in your songwriting?
S: Being shy and feeling anxious runs through it. Whether someone likes you. Also confusion about the passing of time. I’m not a child anymore but I definitely don’t feel like a grown up.
DC: These are very personal themes that are also universal…
S: I hope so. It would be a very boring album if it detailed only what happened in my life.
DC: Who would be your dream collaborator?
S: I’d love to produce a Madonna record. That would be really exciting because she influenced so heavily my musical upbringing. Also Frank Ocean.
DC: How important is pop to you?
S: As a teenager I was very resistant to anything with a chorus and there was a part of me rebelling against that and not wanting to write that kind of music. As you grow older you realise you’re only cutting yourself off from some amazing songs. You’re cutting yourself off from Prince, Madonna and Fleetwood Mac.
DC: Who is your favourite well-known person in music you have met since starting out?
S: I haven’t met that many. Mumford and Sons were really lovely. I met Katie Ware in the queue to a Patti Smith gig at the Roundhouse and she was really nice.
When you meet them you forget they’re famous anyway. Joel Pott produced Touch (Shura’s single from 2014 that has so far had 20 million Youtube hits) and he was the lead singer of Athlete but I’d forget he was part of that. He is literally the nicest man I’ve ever met and he’s just Joel.
I don’t know if you know this but I haven’t gone out much in the last two years! I’ve kind of stayed inside my room.
DC: Is it true that when you play Touch live fans start making out in the crowd in homage to the video?
S: Yeah it definitely happens. It’s funny because immediately they want to start making out but then they think ‘Actually, I want to hear the song’. It’s funny seeing them go through that process of realisation: of wanting to copy the video but also wanting to watch the song for a bit. I encourage it though. It’s nice to go to a gig and have a snog.
DC: What does the rest of 2016 hold for you?
S: Lots of gigs and hopefully less mud than Glastonbury. We played on the other stage on the Saturday but camped as well. I’ve gone twice before as a punter but this was my first time playing.
DC: When you were coming through at Manchester City Ladies what was your position and if you were to compare yourself to any City player in terms of playing style who would it be?
S: I played left wing – there was one time when I scored five goals for the under 11s and Joe Royle gave me a football signed by all the players – but later on I was a left-back because I had a really mean slide tackle. I was a stalwart defender but I’m a United fan so for me I wanted to be a combination of Giggs and Jaap Stam. I wanted to go forward and be an attacking threat but also be that mean defender you really didn’t want to fuck with.
I really miss it and wish that I’d carried on but I don’t think I’d have much time to write pop songs if I did.
DC: With your mother being Russian were you conflicted when England played, well, your motherland recently at the Euros?
S: It was a bit strange but purely by default of always living in the UK I supported England though I wouldn’t have been too upset if they didn’t win. I was willing England on but that’s mainly because I tend to support the underdog and we’re so shit despite having such good players.
DC: Like the rest of the UK are you Welsh now?
S: I was with Iceland until they lost to France but they can still hold their heads up high and I feel like I shouldn’t declare my support for anyone because they then start losing.
Now though I have to support Wales. Ronaldo annoyed me because he was such a dick when he left United and then baiting Rooney in the World Cup. I have a lot of Portuguese friends but he makes my skin crawl so I can’t get on board with Portugal.
DC: Who is your favourite ever player
S: Peter Schmeichel and David Beckham. I really wanted to be a goalie but as my team-mates got bigger and the goalposts got bigger I stayed small. Then with Beckham he was so exciting because he was brilliant but also really beautiful. I remember that goal against Wimbledon from the halfway line and thinking ‘Who is this beautiful man?’
DC: As a Red you must be excited about Mourinho’s arrival?
S: I’m not especially excited about it to be honest but that’s mainly because I spent so much of my energy hating him. It feels very strange now to strip that emotion. I know he will be a brilliant manager and it will be good for the club and if the results go our way you can forgive and forget in football.