10 Questions With Shaun Ross, as the Model Turned Musician Releases his Debut Album ‘Shift’
Kicking off his milestone 30th birthday with his debut album Shift, is none other than Mr Shaun Ross. And well, what better way to celebrate? Though, a long-awaited album filled with future R&B, club-ready disco and atmospheric ballads isn’t all Ross has achieved. He was the first male model with albinism to operate widely in the industry, fronting campaigns for Fendi and Alexander McQueen and starring in music videos alongside the likes of Katy Perry and Lana Del Rey.
While most of us may be familiar with Shaun Ross’ face plastered across the glossies, it’s time to let his remarkable voice take over. Since 2017, Ross has been cooking up a storm in the studio, thanks to a push from his friend Rush Davis. Four years later, Shift has finally been born; a 10-track personal journey that is sure to have you ‘shifting’ through every emotion. From muses of paranoia to the unmissable love stories, Ross has it all. But we wanted to get our hands on the man behind the music and ask him about all things Shaun Ross.
1. After modelling for all these years, what made you want to make the leap into music?
“Just like the title of the album, I was in need of a Shift. The fashion industry is great and can seem progressive from the outside, but it moves very slowly in pace internally. I wanted something new. I’ve made my mark in the industry and it can’t be taken away from me; therefore why not?”
2. How would you define your sound in a sentence?
My sound lives in a future soul soundscape world of colour.
3. You’re a native New Yorker. When the clubs re-open, where should we be partying in the nocturnal city?
“To be very honest with you, I talk about this a lot with my friends [about] how New York City has lost its touch. I never thought that I would be saying this as a native New Yorker, but I feel like I experienced the ending of an era. When I lived in New York City, especially as a Black gay man, there were so many options daily. Now, most of the LGBTQ+ clubs that existed no longer are there, from places like Culture Club, El Morocco, XL, No Parking and so much more. There used to be so much to do in the city. So to be very honest with you, even from an industry standpoint, I don’t really know where people are going these days but I find myself at underground parties, which is now only because the music is better there. I love meeting people from a non-pretentious standpoint.”
4. What artists do you think have shaped your genre-hopping sound today?
“I listen to tons of music just like most people, but if I would have to pick a few artists that shaped my ear it would have to be Lalah Hathaway, Rush Davis, Amel Larrieux, Meshell N’Degeocello, Björk, Jamiroquai, Erykah Badu, Moses Sumney, Boards of Canada, Maxwell – just to name a few.”
5. Where does your ear for soul come stem from?
“It stems from my parents. They’ve always had an eclectic ear when it comes to music. I still find myself going back to things they played when I was a child.”
6. As the first professional male model with albinism, do you think the industry is more inclusive of models with albinism today?
“I think the industry is more inclusive than it has ever been because of some of the things that I have contributed. Today we can see the beauty of models like Winnie Harlow & Jillian Mercado, for example. The industry definitely has more work to do but it’s heading in the right direction – as long as they take the time to understand the people they are casting, rather than using them for a momentary success.”
7. What’s your fondest memory from recording your debut album, ’Shift’?
“I think this moment would have to be when I created ‘WX5’, simply because at the time I wasn’t writing everything by myself and I wanted to push myself to do so I did just that.”
8. Why was ‘WX5; the perfect single to launch the album with?
“I decided to launch the entire campaign with the song ‘WX5’ simply because it was winter and I felt everyone and their loneliness from the pandemic creep through the streets. I thought this way myself and I wanted to set the tone of what people will hear moving forward.”
9. If you could only perform one song from Shift for the rest of your life, who would it be?
“I would perform ‘Blue Ego’. Because it means a lot to me and also it’s very energetic and fun. I hope it pushes the listener to find a way through any hardship in life.”
10. How should people listen to ‘Shift’?
“I would love each person to listen to it where they feel most comfortable. This album takes you on a ride and one also is to feel each single in a different space.”
Photography by Lex Gallegos. You can stream Shaun Ross’ debut album ‘Shift’ on all major platforms now.