Looking at the intersection between fashion and music, it's not uncommon to see artists that exist in both spaces. What is very uncommon to see is artists that are able to truly excel in both spaces. The transition into music was seamless for Shaun Ross, who started from a heralded modeling career that saw him appear in magazines such as Vogue, Nylon, and GQ and work campaigns with Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, and Nina Athanasiou, just to name a few. Ross' career as a model has been well documented since his start nearly 13 years ago, but what still very much remains at large is his budding career as Shaun Ross, the artist.
photo credits: Lex Gallegos
"My parents always had a very eclectic taste in music" Shaun shares with EARMILK as he details his Bronx upbringing and early relationship to music, "I wasn't allowed to listen to the music that was played on radio. That made me appreciate the oldies and develop an eclectic taste myself." After already sustaining an internationally recognized career as a model, Ross was initially hesitant to pursue music due to the additional judgment as a creative, but he eventually gave in to the calls of close friend Adiv and producer Rush Davis. "I've been in the fashion industry for 13+ years so I figured why not do something new" Ross confesses. Shaun released his debut single "Symmetry" near the end of 2017, a sweeping neo-soul ode to body acceptance and self-love assisted by Lizzo on background vocals.
"I think my sound has definitely evolved since (Symmetry)" Shaun says, " I feel like I have more control over the narratives in my music. I think (my sound) has moved into something that's more soultronic or future soul in its genre." Many of Ross' compositions involve heavy synth use, minimalistic drums, and place a heavy emphasis upon his marked vocal range. Always striving to stay cutting-edge and futuristic, Ross cites the Matrix trilogy and Blade Runner as two notable visual influences on his music. The clean, cutting-edge futurism has provided an obvious reflection in all his music and visuals thus far. Artists in which he currently finds inspiration include Solange, Moses Sumney, and whatever his parents had playing in the house growing up. Artists like Madonna and Bjork fascinated a young Ross and provided a strong artistic foundation from which his music career has blossomed.
Before even beginning to involve himself in music professionally, Shaun worked with and appeared in iconic music videos alongside superstars like Beyonce, Lana Del Rey, and Katy Perry. When asked about the profound effect of having the chance to work with these already established queens of the industry, Shaun said, " If I hadn't had the experience from working on these massive sets, I would not be able to execute the things I'm doing today. It definitely helped me have an eye for how productions are supposed to work and how I need to go about my work even on a smaller scale." This eye for detail has noticeably carried over to his current visuals, where every frame is coordinated and packed full of meaning and nuance.
Making his message accessible for all people is something that is a central tenet to Ross' music. His recent video for "YOU CARE" (directed by frequent collaborator Anastasia Lebedeva Delmark) was shot using American Sign Language in order to more deeply convey the importance of communication to show empathy and love. "I met Anastasia through her husband, he directed a lot of my early videos and he recently passed away from cancer" Ross confesses, " A lot of our conversations revolved around communication and being a great communicator. So when Anastasia and I came up with the concept for the video, I wanted it to be about complete bareness" Shaun says " But I still felt like it was missing something, so I really thought about what I wanted the visual to convey and listened to my lyrics." Shaun relates the idea to do the video in ASL to a past relationship where communication was more of an afterthought as opposed to being a central part of the relationship. "So many people in this world don't take the time to learn alternative methods of communication, I just thought doing the video in this way was so much more powerful than words can describe."
Ross' new single "LIVIN" is a danceable and synth-laden cut that feels almost Kaytranada-esque. Fitting closely with the themes of positivity and acceptance, the new single functions as a more upbeat cut than "YOU CARE" in its message and delivery. The visual (also directed by Delmark) features Ross dancing along the nearly desiccated L.A. river in a brilliant sepia-soaked romp. Elements of surrealism pair with Ross' infectious energy in a special and fun visual that certainly lends itself to repeat viewing. Shaun Ross plans to release his debut album SHIFT (executive produced by Michael Tritter and XRaytheBaby) in May via Jex Records, a project that includes singles "WX5", "YOU CARE" and "LIVIN" as well as future singles planned for release.
"I want people to see my evolution when they listen to my music" Ross says as he ponders the effect he wants his sound to have on his listeners. "I want to help people around the world find themselves in other people. My whole career has been about setting an example for people that don't see themselves in certain rooms or certain spaces." Ever since becoming the first male model with albinism over 13 years ago, Shaun Ross has inspired thousands and made a career from learning self-acceptance and the beauty in holding yourself to a higher standard. Now with polished music that relays complex emotions and ruminations on communication and self-love, Ross has achieved something that is deeply connective and profound in everyone. "When people listen to my music, I want them to be able to find themselves in at least one song; if people can listen and relate with at least one song, then I'm happy." In a time when people seem to be more disconnected than ever, Ross' music is a much-needed injection of unity, and love, into our world.