The Sophisticated Mr. Mykals

Tuesday, 03 March 2009 13:30 Written by  Tiffani Alexander

You might not know his name yet, but I bet you a dollar fifty you will very soon. Shaun H. Mykals is a DC-based R&B singer with a sound that is reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross and a look that is, well...tasty. Ok, putting my professional face back on, Mr. Mykals is on a mission to bring real singing to the radio and he’s doing it on his own terms –– on a computer near you. He’s “digitally independent” and he has a new album, Urban Sophistication, available online only (like your favorite magazine). Shaun tells GMO about his musical journey, taking the time to give us a few stories about the people he’s met on the way. Trust me, this is a trip you want to take.

GlossMagazineOnline: Your bio describes your sound as reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross – how do you describe your sound and where does it fit in today’s R&B scene?

Shaun H. Mykals: My sound, to me, is just real singing. I’m not really into a lot of auto-tune and things like that, I’ll use it for affect, but I like to emote using my voice. It’s a real vocal-based sound.

GMO: Is that real, vocal-based sound something that’s missing from today’s R&B scene?

SHM: I think it’s [vocal-based singing] lacking from main stream R&B, but there are definitely singers out there that are still giving you their voice. But as far as the radio is concerned –– there’s not a balance with that new age kind of sound that’s out and I want to bring some balance to the industry.

GMO: I know you’ve had a few label deals – including one with hip hop artist LL Cool J. Can you talk about the doors you have been able to break down and those that have been closed during your musical journey? How did you come to be signed by 710 Muzic?

SHM: I was signed to LL Cool J’s record label. It was a good experience in that I got to work with him and hang out with him and stuff like that, but unfortunately it wasn’t moving the way I needed it to move for me and my career. I think it’s important for each artist to have their own vision for what they want their career to be. If you find yourself in a situation that is not necessarily fitting into your vision –– it is not necessarily that the person is a bad person or the company is a bad company –– but if it’s not part of your vision then I think you might want to consider removing yourself from it. So that’s pretty much what happened in that situation. It just was not fitting into the vision that I had for myself as a singer.

SHM: I came up with 710 Muzic, my manager and I started the company, and I’m also part owner.  I went to college and did all that stuff before I started pursuing my music career so it’s more than just wanting to hear myself on the radio –– it’s a business for me.  

GMO: Are you working with other artists?

SHM: We’re first trying to build upon my project. I don’t want the other artists to come onboard and have to go through the grass roots kind of way that I’m going through now. So, before we sign other artists we’re building up the company, which is going very well and I am very pleased with it.

GMO: How are you building your label?

SHM: Right now I’m in school, taking business courses. My first degree is in music performance and I have recently gone back to pursue my MBA. So I’m learning about the business aspect. I talk to a lot of people and they say that music is 90% business and 10% music and I’m finding that out to be true. I’m also reading a lot of books and trying to get experience from other people in the business world and not just on the music side, but the business world period. We’ve also hooked up with a couple of investors who believe in what we’re trying to do.

GMO: Like many up-and-coming artists you have gone the digital route in getting your music out there. There seems to be tremendous opportunity for all artists, independent and signed to major labels, to expand their reach online. How are you doing this and what advice would you have for other young artists trying to do the same?

SHM: The digital age has definitely opened up a whole new area as far as artists being able to be seen and able to put their stuff out there. I developed a slogan –– digitally independent –– because I’m an independent artist and most of what I’m doing is digital. Like right now, my album is only available on iTunes and Amazon. I would tell each artist to just use that, because right now, the industry hasn’t figured out how to get a hold on that part of technology.  It’s still very new, you can put your own stuff out there, your own songs, produce your own music and put it online and have people that are going to be buying it, pretty much judge and tell you if it’s good or not. You can find your audience that way without going through a middleman –– people really need to embrace that as much as possible. They [the fans] become a part of it; they are not just a number as far as just buying your CD at the store because you can interact with them. That’s the part that I really like, the fact that you can communicate directly with the people buying your record. Through blogging and email and all that kind of stuff you can actually keep up with people who are investing in your career and I think that’s very important.

GMO: Tell me about Urban Sophistication. It looks like you had some unique ways of producing this album (from your letter to fans on the website). Please let our readers know about this closet/recording studio?  

SHM: [Laughs] I can’t really say all that because some of my producers will kill me! A few of my songs were done in Los Angeles with a very good friend of mine –– I call him my brother, his name in Dontae Winslow. He’s an up-and-coming producer who has done a lot of work with like Jay Z, Mary Mary, and a whole bunch of other artists. I recorded three or four songs with him. But when I decided I was going to make an album –– when I was working with him I was still doing demo type stuff –– but when I decided I was going to do an album, I started recording from my house. He encouraged me to get my own mic, pro tools, Mac, and record at home. And that’s how I recorded the vocals for most of my project, in my house… in my closet [laughs] …  in my little makeshift booth. It was cool though and I really enjoyed it because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my vocals, like I really need them to be right. I know what I want to hear so therefore I will take the time to continue to try to find that. And so recording alone gives me the opportunity to do that without having to annoy someone else. 

SHM: As far as Urban Sophistication, music right now, pop music is really urban music, what we used to call urban music is really popular music. Like, Jeezy –– he’s very popular, so like pretty much the tables have turned and the urban brand of music is the new pop music. I just want to bring some sophistication to it.  I think that there are many sides to the African American experience and right now, we’re embracing the side that is pretty much the  "coming up from the bottom, coming from the hood side," which is wonderful that we have the opportunity to be able to still make great people out of ourselves, no matter where we come from. But for me, you know, I’m a suburban cat –– I’m not from the hood. I’m pretty educated, I went to school and I was afforded great opportunities. I want to bring a sophisticated brand to meet urban music and so that’s what Urban Sophistication is about.

GMO: You have sung back-up for one of the biggest names in R&B, Ms. Patti LaBelle. Um, hello! When did that happen and how has that experience shaped you as an artist?

SHM: There are three letters to express how that happened: G.O.D.  It had to be God –– it was just such a divine intervention. Patti LaBelle has been one of my role models since I was a child. My mother used to play her and I used to be amazed by her vocal ability, even before I knew I could sing. It was just something about when she would sing that would make me stop and stare at the TV. And I my mother would be like ‘I think my son might be crazy.’ [Laughs] I used to listen to her incisively, like over and over again.

SHM: I heard about an audition that she was having and I was going to go to the audition, but I didn’t get to go. That was about two years before I started singing for her. Then, I was doing a play in New York City and the guy that was head of the play was like, ‘Shaun, Patti Labelle is having auditions tomorrow morning at 9o’clock in Philly, you should go.’ I was like, I’m in New York, how am I going to get to Philly tomorrow morning? And so he arranged for me to be able to get to Philly. I ended up auditioning for her and they liked me. The thing that got it, you know that song “On My Own?” They were pairing people up to sing “On My Own.” For every man, they had a woman to sing with the man. When they came to me, there were no more girls left so I was by myself. The musical director, Bud Ellison, who has since passed, asked ‘Shaun, do you think you can do this by yourself?.’ And I was like, I can try it and so I ended up singing both parts and that’s what kind of clenched the audition for me.


SHM: I went on tour with her to promote her tour, A New Day –– Timeless Journey was the name of the CD. It was really a dream come true, I could not believe that I was on stage with her.  It was unbelievable. She was very nice and accommodating and she would talk to us before the show. She was just really down to earth and regular and I couldn’t believe it.

GMO: Who else have you worked with and who would you like to work with in the future?

SHM: I have worked with so far, in my small career, of course LL Cool J. Through LL, I got to work with 50 Cent, I worked with Patti of course and I did background for Will Downing.

GMO: How was it working with 50?

SHM: [Laughs] You know what? I couldn’t believe it, 50 was so funny! I went to his house to record, when he used to live in Mike Tyson’s old mansion. I expected him to be like this hard dude, that wouldn’t say much. But he was talking about his kids and he was really a regular, down to earth, family kind of guy. I hope I’m not destroying his image by telling this but he had me cracking up talking about how his son invited friends over, and the house was so big that they would hide from him when it was time for them to go somewhere. He said he would have to run around the house looking for them like 'I’m not playing with ya’ll!’ [Laughing] He was very cool and I was very impressed by his spirit.

GMO: Who do you want to work with?

SHM: I would love to work with Fantasia. She seems to be that type of singer that I want to sing with, that real voice kind of singer, she might be at the top of the list.

GMO: You studied music and have toured throughout the United States, the Caribbean, Japan, and the Czech Republic. What is like being on tour? Tell me one of your craziest tour moments –– I know you’ve had a few overzealous fans being such a cutie!

SHM: A lot of people have crazy tour stories –– I don’t want to say that I’m boring, although my friends do tell me that I’m boring. [Laughing] But on tour, I like to be in the best shape that I can be in when I get on stage. First of all, because I am my worse critic, it kills me to be on stage and not be able to perform up to my full potential. So after the show, I’ll go out to eat, but then I’m going to my room. It’s not like I’m trying to hang out and party –– for me, touring is work, it’s not for me to see the world, it really is work for me.

SHM: There have been times where female fans have figured out where I was staying –– this was when I was in Germany. Here [in the states] no one knows who I am yet. But in Germany, they don’t care about a name. If you can sing and they saw you on stage, you’re Michael Jackson, you’re Usher –– you’re whoever the top-selling artist of that time is. [Laughs] So I had this experience where I was at a hotel and I lost my keys and so I was going to get them from the front desk. When I get down there, there’s this girl standing there and she’s like ‘hello.’ And I’m like ‘hi’ and I don’t recognize her from the show.  Apparently, she had been standing there for like 45 minutes to an hour. So I go and get my key and she’s right behind me. And so I’m like ok, maybe she’s on the same floor as me. When I go to my room and open the door, she’s trying to get into my room. I’m like excuse me lady go away! [Laughs] And she’s like ‘yes, yes.’ The only thing she kept saying was yes. [Laughs] I was like ‘who are you,’ and she keeps saying ‘yes.’ I had to call one of my friends who knew German to figure out what she was trying to do and well, we know what she was trying to do! [Laughs]

GMO: Where can we find your music now?

SHM: You can get my music right now on Amazon and iTunes. The hard copy of my CD will be coming soon. We wanted to do all digital initially. There has been a request for the actual CD, which I’m thankful for, so we’re working on that now.

GMO: What’s Next for Shaun H. Mykals?

SHM: Next I will be doing what I enjoy most, which is doing shows. Right now, a promo tour is being planned for me to do shows in different areas to promote the project. I love to sing live, that is the best thing ever. I did an album release performance on January 16, in New York and it was just like heaven –– I loved it.

GMO: Are you getting positive responses to the album?

SHM: I am! I want someone to say they don’t like it. [Laughs] You know how you think people are lying to you? There are so many people like, ‘I love the album’. I get text messages, emails and they are all positive and I’m like somebody didn’t like this album! [Laughs] I’m a people pleaser so I want to like please everybody so I can know what to do for my next project. So I’m like ok, what was wrong with it?  What should I do different for next time? So those are questions that I’m going to have to answer for myself. [Laughs] People are enjoying the project so I’m happy about that.

GMO: Any last words for your fans, your future fans, and those who want to pursue music as a career?

SHM: To my fans, thank you for supporting Shaun Mykals and supporting my music. I really appreciate it. It’s something that I’m trying to do to just build upon the industry. I think that the industry is kind of imbalanced and a lot of kids that inspire to things in the arts are being discouraged because a lot of things in the industry are not artist-based -- they are based on a formula. I want to give you guys the opportunity to know that you can be a real artist and still be successful in 2009.



** Click here to view Shaun's new music video for "Rolla Coaster" now! **

Tiffani Alexander

Tiffani Alexander

Publisher and Editor in Chief of (GMO), Tiffani Alexander came to Chicago in the fall of 2004 to pursue her Master's degree in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management at Columbia College Chicago. Tiffani earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of
 Maryland, College Park. She has worked for both Cygnus Business Media and Maher Publishing before embarking on her dream to start her own magazine. In addition to publishing GMO bi-monthly, Tiffani freelances and works as an editor on a legal journal in Washington, DC.


Tiffani can be contacted at

Follow her on Twitter: @TiffaniGMO