Nadine Shah’s rise to fame has been almost fairytale-like.
The Sunderland songstress moved to London as a teenager, dropped out of art school, cut her teeth as a jazz singer and found her voice in the process.
Now, several years, and several hundreds fans later, Shah is topping the review lists as one of Britain’s emerging talents.
Accolades range from her being the ‘face to watch’ to a ‘singularly unique artist’ and demand for live shows is reflecting this - her tour schedule is jam-packed.
Her debut - the idiosyncratically entitled Love Your Dum and Mad - has been hailed as one of this year’s best debut albums.
The album is named after a painting by her late friend who suffered from mental illness and it charts the stigmas society has with mental health.
“Love Your Dum and Mad was the title of a painting by my friend who died two and a half years ago. A lot of lyrics on the album are about mental illness and the stigmas people attach to those who are suffering. The title of the album is meant to be a statement about that.”
But it’s untrodden territory, in society, let alone a soul album, according to Shah.
“Mental issues are one of the major issues that society faces yet it seems to scare people because it’s ‘the unknown’. It was only recently that the ‘insane asylum’ was re-named ‘psychiatric unit’.”
“I only started writing my own stuff about three and a half years ago and before that I was in musical theatre and singing very embarrassing pop songs. But then I got into jazz singing and that made me more confident as a performer.”
Her delivery is solemn, strong and bold. Music on the album is primarily driven by keys and vocals – although live Shah is armed with a band.
“It’s been a lot of fun touring with the band and we’ve really nailed the sound now.”
But in spite of all this the Sunderland-born singer is still aghast at what’s going on around her. And the acclaim of the first album makes the sophomore appear all the more daunting.
Is Shah scared of starting the songwriting process for the second album? “Yes, totally,” she says.
But she’s laid back in equal measure.
“I’ve got a big back catalogue of songs to be working with and I don’t want to leave it too late. With Love Your Dum and Mad everything took so long. I completed it quite a long time ago and have been sitting on it for ages and in that time you can stew too much - you just need to put out a record sometimes.”
And with huge critical acclaim, fast-selling shows and a growing fan-base, it’s a good job she got round to it in the end.
Nadine Shah brings her band to The Harley tonight as part of an intense UK tour.