Detroit’s own White Bee, also known as Shannon Barnes, has been serenading the ears of future soul and jazz lovers here in the city for almost ten years.
“I want to combine [pop and jazz] to create hooks that people can sing-along to, but I also want to combine complexities.” – White Bee
She is part of a wave of new Detroit musicians who are fusing different genres of music that have inspired them throughout their life. Contemporary artists like Hiatus Kaiyote, Janelle Monáe, and Robert Glasper are pushing the boundaries of music by melding styles like jazz, soul, hip-hop, pop and rock, into one style that defines the music of today.
White Bee’s sound is a blend between her studies in jazz as well as her love for soul and pop appeal.
“I love pop music, like I think it’s great, but I love jazz and I love a complex sound,” says Barnes. “I want to combine those two things to create hooks that people can sing-along to, but I also want to combine complexities.”
Click on the player above to hear an interview and performance with White Bee, and watch the performance below.
Connecting the Past and Present
Barnes was born in a small town in west Michigan called Morley, and moved to Detroit in 2011 at the age of eighteen. She attended Wayne State’s school of music for a few years before transferring to Eastern Michigan University to study music therapy. During that time she started studying the guitar and created White Bee.
Her sound is complex, and shows connections to the long lineage of the Detroit sound. Soul, pop, and jazz are the foundation here, from Motown to Marcus Belgrave.
“What drives me the most to actually sing [were] vocalists like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, Sarah Vaughan, and all of those jazz vocalists.” – White Bee
Barnes vocal style also blends past and present. Melodies can be inspired by artists like Erykah Badu and Hiatus Kaiyote, but with a vocal tone that is reminiscent of classic jazz singers.
“What drives me the most to actually sing [were] vocalists like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, Sarah Vaughan, and all of those jazz vocalists, Judy Garland and stuff,” Barnes says. “I think the reason why I learned how to play guitar [was] so I could figure out a way to accompany myself in that style of singing.”
White Bee has been releasing new music and gearing up for live performances.
To promote her new album, she has been releasing a new song on the 27th of each month, from December through February. Her latest single, “Borough of Churches,” is available everywhere online. Her new album, “Psychedelic Flight Attendant,” drops on March 27th.