Shamir Bailey: Desert Son

by James Jolliff SOURCE Nowness
Photo Credit: Joe Leavenworth

On the trail of the enigmatic teenage musician Shamir Bailey in his native Nevadan landscape.

Shamir Bailey: Desert Son on Nowness.com

North Las Vegas, known as Northtown, seems an unlikely musical inspiration—yet the area’s apparent absurdities and contradictions seem almost quintessentially American. A sprawling gambling resort surrounded by industrial parks and strip malls are all set against a backdrop of beautiful but unforgiving desert. Shamir Bailey, is himself a similar anomaly and a new voice of androgyny in America. “Shamir has the self-assured swagger of any kid who’s always known he had a ticket to ride,” says Will Abramson, co-founder of the bi-coastal Yours Truly film collective and co-director of today’s short. “Shamir could be from anywhere, the fact that he came from nowhere is a footnote in his story. Where he can go from here is what makes him so exciting.” The 19-year-old singer and musician’s debut EP was released on Godmode Music earlier this year, and immediately garnered praise from Vogue, Pitchfork and Dazed. He blossomed under the influence of a musical aunt, and it was his mother who bought him his first guitar, which he would string upside down, learning to play in the idiosyncratic way he still does today. “Driving around Northtown it’s all chain stores and cookie-cutter housing developments,” says Abramson. “The fact that anyone as unique as Shamir could have come from there shouldn't surprise any of us, but it does.”