Shai Nowell, a 24-year-old Atlanta-based indie and neo-soul artist, offers a luscious visual for his song “Sunkissed”. Nowell receives soothing assistance from Nai Br.xx, and the two exchange words over an initially uplifting instrumental that quickly subdues itself. The video plays out like a daydream filled with lush colors, ensemble group shots, and cameos from the comedian Miles Hampton and rising artist 6 dogs. “Sunkissed is a depiction of adultery told from that 5-second window where you decide nothing matters and you aren’t thinking about the consequences,” Nowell told The FADER over the phone.
“Sunkissed” is the opening song off of Nowell’s Please Tame Me, a project where every detail was fine-tuned exactly to Nowell’s liking. Not only did the young artist produce and write everything himself, but he also took a directorial approach to all the features on the tape — every guest verse was written by Nowell and even the performances themselves were curated. This process is indicative of how Nowell functions as a musician: everything goes through him, usually starting with the construction of live instrumentations in his bedroom and ending with the supervision of whatever features are set to be on his project.
There’s usually a lot more to unpack in Nowell’s music underneath the surface level of introspective production and intoxicating vocals. On “I love you Jarrod”, we hear acapellas that were sent from the hospital while the actual Jarrod, a close friend of Nowell’s, was in the hospital with cancer. “Red Eye” was meant to prove a point, that he could produce a rattling beat more in line with the conventional Atlanta sound. A majority of the production involves self-recorded guitar tracks: “I look up to Prince,” Nowell expands over the phone: “No one is ready for some black dude with a hairy chest and a chain playing guitar.”
Nowell answers my Facetime as he’s getting out of his car, the only way Atlanta residents take calls. We talk about his creative process when it comes to rolling out a music video while he shops for vegan ice cream and snacks at Whole Foods.
Watch the visual for Sunkissed, premiering below on The FADER, followed by an interview with Nowell about his creative process when it comes to both videos and actually crafting music.
Written By: Will Gendron