Houston-born, New York-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Shelly Bhushan is the daughter of Indian and Mexican immigrant parents. When Bhushan grew up, she left her native Texas to pursue her own American dream — of being a singer. After answering a Village Voice classified ad by a New York-based soul rock band seeking a lead singer, Bhushan relocated to New York with just two suitcases and without a job or a place to live to pursue her dream.
With Bhushan, the soul rock band started to receive attention from labels and an Independent Music Award but shortly after that the band split up. While some aspiring artists may have given up on their dreams, Bhushan got herself together and decided to start off on her own musical path. Although she had no prior songwriting experience and lacked the experience to be a band leader, the Houston-born, New York-based singer/songwriter taught herself the guitar. Luckily, she found a group of musicians, who first became collaborators than family that were willing to help her realize her dream. And over the course of the next decade, Bhushan wrote and released four albums that saw her and her backing band crafting a sound that drew from elements of funk, soul, R&B, pop, alt rock and indie rock paired with introspective lyricism and powerhouse vocals. And its all underpinned by Bushan’s ability to express vulnerability, longing brassiness, swagger, defiance and soulfulness within a turn of a phrase.
Locally, she’s played Rockwood Music Hall, Joe’s Pub, The Bitter End, The Shrine, Apollo Theater, DROM and countless others while receiving coverage and praise from the likes of The New Yorker and others. Now, it’s been a few years since I’ve personally written about the Houston-born, New York-based artist but in that time, she’s been busy raising a family and writing new material that she plans to release throughout the next few months — including her latest single “Heat.”
Featuring a strutting and funky bass line, swelling organs, swirling synths and squiggling wah wah pedaled guitars, “Heat” manages to sound indebted to 80s funk and R&B. And over the upbeat and anthemic arrangement, the Houston-born, New York-based artist’s soulful, powerhouse vocals sing lyrics fueled by personal, lived-in experience. In “Heat,” we have a narrator, who’s misunderstood by others but who has always known who she was and where she belonged, even if others didn’t want to accept it. The song’s is underpinned by the relief and joy of finding your tribe and having the support of your people in an unforgiving and cruel world to anyone who doesn’t allow for easy pigeonholing.
As Bhushan explains, the song was inspired by her own experiences maneuvering the local music scene as a woman and a a woman of color. One night after a set, a woman walked up to the Houston-born, New York based artist and said “You’re a star! Do you know what you’re problem is? People don’t know what you are,” the Houston-born, New York-based artist recalls. Throughout her career she has often been considered too this, not enough this, not enough that. But instead of listening to what may be bad advice for her, Bhushan has continued to forge her own path in her own terms.