Shurwayne Winchester still has a lot of music to share. That was the overwhelming take away after the Express spent a morning, last week, with the sometimes forgotten singer at his SW Limited studio in Arima.
Optimistic and energetic as ever, Shurwayne was abuzz with creative energy as he excitedly shared a sneak peek into his upcoming music and video projects. With Christmas and Carnival singles out and two new album projects on the way, there is a lot afoot in the SW camp.
“I was never one to brag. I would work in silence and just let you see the results. My dream in the near future is my concert. The concert I have in mind is not yet done. The journey I am on with the music right now is going towards that,” Shurwayne said from behind a somewhat painful smile.
An undeniable musical legacy
It hasn’t been an easy journey. The Tobago-born singer first beeped on the musical radar with his groovy hit “Get out My Dreams” in 1998. Since then he went on to win three International Soca Monarch (ISM) groovy titles with “Don’t Stop” (2006), “Carnival Please Stay” (2008) and “Murdah” (2010). He won the coveted ISM Power Soca Monarch title with “Ah Cyah Wait” in 2006. And also impressively claimed back to back Road March titles with “Look d Band Coming” in 2004 and “Dead or Alive” in 2005.
Shurwayne also featured on several hit crossover dancehall tracks including “Make It Yours” with UK-born reggae star Maxi Priest (Max Elliott) in 2008 and “Girl Born to Wine” on the immensely popular Jambe-An Riddim in 2015.
While widely lauded abroad the talented crooner finds his musical talents largely underappreciated at home in T&T. It’s a painful reality that he openly admits has at times weighed heavily on his broad shoulders.
“At times it will get to you. You’re a human being, you know the toil, the sacrifices you have made to get where you are,” he said quite candidly.
In truth he has constructed an impressive musical all-purpose facility that includes office space, a board room, music studio and band room just across the street from his home. Those physical fruits of his labour, however, do little to compensate for the thing he says he misses most, the stage.
“There were times when I sit down and I say to myself ‘Shurwayne, dais it boy? You really mean that not one of your songs good enough for the population’. I was questioning God and I was saying is that it? Is it that you just let me go? How come I can’t pen a hit again? That’s what happens when you allow the self-doubt to creep in,” he said with a knowing nod.
Those deep disappointments led to further introspection. By objectively assessing his work, he says, he was able to step away from his creative emotions and recognise the changes that were required for further success.
“Something dawned on me. When I look at the track records of all the greats: Marvin Gaye, Erykah Badu, Madonna even Michael Jackson. There is a time in everyone’s career when you need to stop and reassess the market and see how the taste of the consumers has changed. Some want more sugar; some get health conscious and don’t want so much sugar. Some want tempo. Some say ‘nah we want yuh to slow it down’.
“I had to do my homework I had to centre myself based on the artiste I am and think about what makes Shurwayne Winchester different from all the other brands and what makes me timeless,” he revealed.
Finding a new sound
Shurwayne decided to experiment with his sound and work with new writers and producers in order to do things differently. While this approach did bring him some level of reward, he was unable to duplicate his mainstream success of the 2000s, at least not at home in T&T.
“Somehow there was a disconnect between the studio, where you’re hearing the potential (of the music), and release where it’s not getting to the fans. But, as soon as I travel and start performing people know the songs and I’m getting huge reactions.
“That massive kick down the door hit was not happening at home, but as soon as I leave these shores and go abroad ‘Pussycat’, ‘Shake It’, ‘Roll that Bumper’ all those songs were receiving huge reactions. And no matter what anyone says you want the love of your home too,” he said.
Oddly enough, Shurwayne’s rejection by the local market came with open acceptance in Jamaica and so he voiced a number of crossover hits that trickled down the Caribbean islands onto the playlist of radio stations here in T&T including: “Wine on It” and “Born to Wine” which were huge club bangers.
“The soca riddims weren’t coming to me, but somehow all the riddims from Jamaica were coming to me. The songs would become hits out there and have to make all the rounds before becoming a hit here. If I released it here it was not be a hit.
“I say, ok Shurwayne, you never king at home. Stop putting your future and destiny in the hands of others. Get up and hit the street,” he said.
New found alliances with Farmer Nappy (Daryl Henry) and Vincentian singer/songwriter Jamsey P (James Morgan) also helped him reassert himself on the local market. He has since worked with hit making producers Ultimate Rejects on a parang soca called “Woman” and a fete pleaser called “Fete Boss”.
Shurwayne also has a number of tracks on upcoming riddims for the season including the XOXO Riddim from St Babbs, the Balcony Rididm from Barbados and T&T-born, Vincentian raised hit maker Stadic (Kevin Charles) hit Bottom Line Riddim.
“My love is performing. I want to be an entertainer. Soca is in my DNA. I’m excited about being back on the stage and sharing that passion. The dream I have is I want to help new artistes coming out. That is my legacy, that’s how my name will live on,” Shurwayne concluded with another one of his wide trademark smiles.