Interview with Bahrain-born Reggae Artist Elaine Lil’Bit Shepherd

This week we interview Canadian based reggae artist Elaine Lil’Bit Shepherd .  Born in Bahrain Lil’Bit was introduced to the Toronto reggae scene in 2009 in Vancouver, British Columbia. She received the Most Promising New Artist Award at the 2010 RMAA’s, and is now the recipient for the most prestigious award in the Canadian Music Industry. Her single “Likkle But Mi Tallawah” won the 2011 Juno for Reggae Recording Of The Year. With regular rotation airplay on community radio across Canada  Lil’ Bit’s name was working it’s way to the top.

You are originally from Bahrain. Did you get learn about reggae while you where there?
Well I am from a multicultural background of Filipino-Spanish & Anglo-Indian, but I was born in Bahrain.  Although there was some reggae played in our household, I didn’t learn about reggae in Bahrain.  I actually met some people when I was studying music in college who formed a reggae band in Vancouver called “Natural Flavas”.  I used to come to rehearsals and just hang out, and eventually got asked to sing in the group.  That was where I got my first start in reggae about 4 years ago, and then eventually went on to pursue a full time career in music as a solo artist.  Within those 4 years I educated myself a lot about reggae music and Jamaican culture as I was deeply rooted in the Jamaican community in Vancouver.  I had elder Rasta friends teach me about reggae music and Rastafari.  I even worked in a Jamaican restaurant for a while because I wanted to be exposed to, and learn more about the culture.  I embraced it as part of my own, and many of the people of the community embraced me and educated me thoroughly as well.  I am still learning every day.  Reggae music has truly changed my life.

Who gave you the name “Lil’Bit”?
I used to sing in an all female Gospel group in Vancouver called “JOY” that was run by Ray Carrol former member of the 60’s group “The Platters”.  I was the youngest in the group, and the smallest height wise so Ray used to call me “Youngblood”, or “Lil’Bit”.  “Lil’Bit” was a name that just seemed very fitting and it just stuck over the years.

How were you discovered?
I was discovered by my manager Carrie Mullings at the 2009 JUNO Fest in Vancouver the same year Humble, another artist managed by her won the JUNO that year, for the same category.  Even though Carrie and I knew of each other through myspace, it wasn’t until her arrival in Vancouver that we made a serious connect.  I had actually been asked by Vancouver band “MaCronix”, who backed Humble at the JUNO fest, to sing back up vocals because one of their singers, coincidentally, was unable to do the show.  Everything just sort of lined itself up from there.

You sound Jamaican. How did you get the accent?
Growing up in Canada, I have had the pleasure of being amongst many cultures.  In the last 5 years I spent most of my time within the Caribbean community, and picked up the patois.  I have always been a singer, but was challenged and inspired to test out the style of dj’ing in reggae and dancehall.  It was then that I was able to refine the patois through this art form and expression.

Have you ever been to Jamaica?
No, I have not yet been to Jamaica, but I will be heading there for work in the near future.

How does your family in Canada and in Bahrain feel about your career in Reggae?
My family has always been very supportive with anything I have done, or choose to do in my life, and more particularly where my music is concerned.  Me having come from an r&b, jazz and country music background, it was definitely a new concept for them to grasp at first, as they are not well versed in reggae music, but through me they have been able to learn about reggae, and are now big fans and lovers of reggae music as well.

Tell us about the music you write and sing. It is a reflection of what is going on in your life?
Well my music is inspired by life and everything in it.  Some of what I write is directly about my experiences, while others are based on experiences of others, or what I see and hear.  My music is a reflection of me and what I am passionate about.  Singing and writing is my form of expression and release.  It is truly powerful and healing.

Your single “Likkle But Mi Tallawah” won the 2011 JUNO awards. Did you expect the song to get so much acclaim?
You know what? When the “New Tek” riddim, produced by Danny Maestro was originally sent to me, I instantly got a fun vibe from it and “Likkle But Mi Tallawah” popped into my head.  People had started to give me that title and I thought it would be fun to write about.  I didn’t think it would be taken that seriously and get so much acclaim.  It was just meant to be a fun song, but I guess people were diggin the vibe.  It has sort of become my “theme” song, as it truly does represent my personality and who I am.

You have a few singles out there. Are there any plans for an album?
My debut album “Move Ya”, is in its final completion stages and will be released in the near future.

Who is your favorite Reggae artist?
Oh wow! There are too many to mention, but a few of them are Bob Marley of course, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Tanya Stephens, Marcia Griffiths, Gregory Isaacs, Culture, Shaggy, Barrington Levy, Capleton, Sizzla, Humble, Tanya Mullings,  Steele, Tony, Anthony, Blessed, Yellowman, Chezidek, Ras Indio, Glen Ricketts, Sugar Minott, Nesbeth, Queen Ifrica….you see what I mean? The list goes on..I cannot specify just ONE artist because they all inspire me in so many ways, and they are all so magnificent and talented!!

What is your favorite Jamaican dish?
Cornmeal porridge, plantain porridge and ackee & saltfish. HANDS DOWN!! Got my belly grumbling now…haha

The song playing in your ipod/mp3 right now is….
“Strong Will Continue” by Damian Marley & Nas off of the “Distant Relatives” album.  Listen! EVERYBODY needs to get a copy of this album.  It’s truly inspiring.  Very deep and spiritual!

Your favorite music artist is…
Haha! Here we go again…Okay here’s a few…MokaOnly, Fatty Down, Lady Gaga, Erykah Badu, Eternia, Guns & Roses, The Eagles, Mariah Carey, Lauren Hill, Mother Mother, Shania Twain, Christina Aguilera, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline…and the list goes on and on..

You are single and beautiful so you must have heard some great pick-up lines. What is the best one you have heard?
First of all…How you so sure I’m single? HAHAHA!!  I have heard some funny pick up lines though.  One of the best ones I have heard was, “You’re Father must be a thief…cause he stole the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes..” HAHAHAHA…It was sweet but didn’t work by the way..but it was a good effort, considering that it was coming from a 63 year old man. HAHAHA! I was very flattered same way… haha

Thanks for the interview. Any closing words?
Well first off all, thank you for interviewing me and giving me the chance to share my mind.  I also want to say THANK YOU to everybody that has showed me love and support, and all those who have BELIEVED in me and continue to do so.  Special thanks to all the FANS, radio djs, media personalities, educators, motivators, and everybody in the music fraternity. And lastly, but most importantly, my family who have been my backbone and my strength, my friends for all the laughs and good times, my amazing and hard working manager Carrie Mullings, and everybody on the TEAM that is responsible for the progress in my musical journey. Much Love & God Bless you ALL!