There's something to be said for an honest artist. Especially one as famous as songwriter/DJ SHIFT K3Y. Part Sam Smith, part KYGO, the British powerhouse has been making beats that stick to the delight of millions of millennials for the past few years now. His tracks draw on your favorite R&B and your favorite MTV beach party to make for music that is undeniably infectious. I'm pretty sure he's famous in England.
SHIFT K3Y's success is no farce. He started as Lewis Shay Jankel, a guy with a piano and pipes. Not exactly the freshly minted man that sat across from me at Miss Lily's last Friday. Rather, he is a backyard songbird at heart, who turned to DJ-dom out of necessity, "I didn't grow up with much" (It is important to note here that SHIFT K3Y is 22, and is by no means a grown up), "I wanted to make music, but I didn't have a studio, I didn't have the instruments I needed." So he started making beats. Operating under a less punny name, SHIFT K3Y's notoriety grew. Then came Columbia and Def Jam, a production collaboration with Tiny Tempah, and here we are.
Fame suits SHIFT K3Y. He possesses a candidness about the music business that is rare, even a bit intimidating. Here's the thing, he's frank about the cash. "It's a constant struggle," he said of molding his music to sell more records, "I feel its half what I want to make and half what I know is of the moment, what everyone wants to hear, will listen to." I braced myself for some 'It's all about the fans' pageantry, but it never came. SHIFT had simply said that the music makes the money, and the money makes the music. Nothing more.
Both ingredients, it seems, are battling for his day-to-day attention. "Oh right! The gig!" was SHIFT K3Y's second response when I asked about Greatest Day Ever, a music festival he was playing the following night. His first was the look of someone trying to remember what Greatest Day Ever was. Whether he had truly forgotten, was playing dumb, or had been referring to GDE only as 'the gig' for the past few months, we may never know. But it coupled a kind of "I'm-too-famous-to know-what-I'm-doing-tomorrow" mindset with an adorable unawareness. SHIFT K3Y certainly has a hand on each side of the line: singer and beatmaker, artist and producer, realist and optimist. He is our down-to-earth diva. Maybe it's what we've all been waiting for. If so, he'd be the first to know.