Return to Her Roots
Born in Chattanooga, TN and raised in Dallas, TX, singing in church and school choirs, Shaylen (born Shaylen Carroll) seemed destined for a career in country music. Instead, an audition for a Christian pop group launched a 10-year career in pop (that included contracts with Cash Money, CAA and Universal Music). A move to Nashville on the heels of being released from her label, Shaylen’s sound has pivoted back to her country roots, and she has never felt more authentically herself.
With vocal, piano, and guitar lessons from an early age, and filming The Wannabes television show from age 14 (as a member of the pop group Savvy), Shaylen moved to Los Angeles at 18 to grow her career. Unfulfilled by the music being released, 2020’s lockdown brought an opportunity to reevaluate her unfolding career, and a trip to Nashville to write for other artists brought clarity. Co-penning debut country single, “What If I Don’t,” Shaylen left the studio sobbing, recognizing that she was finally singing and writing the way she wanted to. “It's funny when you step out and let go of ego,” shares Shaylen. “I came here for other people, and found myself.”
Returning to Los Angeles, she asked her label about switching genre, but ended up being released from her contract. Without a label or management, she moved to Nashville to start over independently.
“Your big breaks are at the most detrimental, uncomfortable moments of your life,” says Shaylen. “Record deals have been awesome, but I think the most uncomfortable moments—making the choice you are terrified to make—level you up. You do it and create the next stepping stone for your path. Those are monumental. The stepping stone is just evolving as a person.”
Her experience with cadence, melody, and writing in Los Angeles helped to open doors in Nashville. Refraining from doing research on people before sessions helped Shaylen navigate Nashville less fearfully while pitching songs for writing rooms. Powerhouse trio Seth Ennis, Phil Barton, and Lindsay Rimes formed her first session. “I didn’t realize who I was in the room with,” Shaylen admits. After writing “What If I Don’t,” she knew it was big (it reached over 2.2 million streams in two months). Looking back, she had been writing country melodies all along. “I got more support than any days doing pop,” she says. “This is what I’m supposed to be doing.” Follow-up singles, “Roots” and “Do It Right The First Time” followed, each garnering over 500,000 DSP streams in month one.
“Other genres have become such a character-based thing,” says Shaylen. “It’s about the clip you post on TikTok that you hope becomes a trend. Country music… I love it. It’s just about the damn song. I respect everybody in pop that’s killing it. You have cracked a code that is hard. I fell out of love with it, but the knowledge I gained from writing pop? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Reframing the loss of major label validation, Shaylen says she now gets to choose how things look. Inspired by people in coffee shops, long drives, and Pinterest quotes, her music is all about building chords, confessing, “I’m a big melody girl. The lyrics come later.” A tattooed reminder on her hand about temporary feelings helps her navigate the conflicting ups and downs of being an artist. “I remind myself that maybe it’s not right now, but it has to be out in the world,” she says of her art.
Referencing Kate Bush’s success with “Running Up That Hill,” she adds, “It doesn’t mean it’s not going to work one day.”
Shaylen says her new management is incredible. “My work ethic has never changed, but it’s like a vintage car,” she says. “somebody sees trash, [but] somebody [else] thinks it‘s the coolest thing. Sometimes you have to put yourself in a different setting with different people to realize you’re valued.”
Latest single, “Cowboys Never Cry” is out now. Additional tour dates and an upcoming full-length album follow shows in San Diego, Tucson, and Las Vegas.