By Lindsay Wallace
MTV News caught up with the Barbados-born artist Shontelle just after her return from Japan’s Spring Groove. The talent-filled show was a landmark in her very quick rise to stardom, as she performed with John Legend, T-Pain, Akon and TLC. This wasn’t her first star-studded collaboration, however, as she has previously performed with both Akon and her fellow Barbados-born pop-star friend, Rihanna.
Her relationship with Rihanna began in Barbados, where they went to different schools but were involved in friendly competition in the cadets. She admits that her friend was especially influential on her in many ways since Rihanna made it in the music industry first. Her fellow former cadet, who she refers to as “Rih,” gave her advice on the ins and outs of the music industry. “I definitely got a lot of tips from her,” Shontelle said. “I tend to pay attention to successful artists and she’s certainly one of the most successful artists in the last few years.”
Of course, the inevitable question arose regarding the Rihanna/ Chris Brown situation. Shontelle had nothing but support and sympathy for her friend. “Yes, I have spoken to Rihanna since the incident. It’s just a matter of me and everyone on the team being there for her. It’s a horrible thing that happened and it shouldn’t happen to anyone — male or female, old or young, famous or not. We pretty much just gave her time to recover, and she is definitely good now and moving on — and we’re definitely happy about that!” she exclaimed. “At first I was extremely annoyed and upset,” she added. “It’s hard to see that happen to anyone, but when it’s someone you actually know it really breaks your heart — I was literally in tears. It was just horrible. And lucky for her, she actually went home recently [to Barbados] and I was like, ‘Rih! I’m so jealous of you!’ I miss home. I miss the beach and my friends and family, and the food — fresh grilled fish straight off the boat!
“One of the biggest challenges is finding yourself and finding your direction. It’s very difficult to break, especially in these times — and there’s only one other artist from Barbados, so you have to make sure that when people listen they’re not going to be able to say that you’re the same thing. There’s only room for one — if you’re the same thing, it’s not going to work,” Shontelle said about being from the same small country as Rihanna. Although the pair have performed together twice, Shontelle made sure to distinguish herself. Refreshingly, she has a voice, sound and style all her own.
Most recently, Shontelle has been featured with labelmate Akon on the soundtrack for “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” which she considers to be a highlight of her career. Not surprisingly, another highlight of her career occurred when her song “Battle Cry” was featured on a tribute album for President Obama. “There were so many greats on that album, from Stevie Wonder to Jill Scott to John Mayer and Kanye West,” she said. Although she couldn’t vote in the election because she’s a Barbados citizen, she noted that she was extremely proud and excited to be a part of this album “because I really wanted [Obama] to win.”
Now, Shontelle couldn’t be happier and has loads to be thankful for. Only three years ago, she was a normal girl living in Barbados and studying law at university, and now she is living in New York and working with prominent artists around the world. She has certainly found her own way in the music industry and hopes to have future collaborations with fellow artists such as Ne-Yo and Alicia Keys.