We all have different versions of ourselves—masks that we wear—whether the code-switch is intentional or not. How we act and talk is rarely fully consistent between home and work, or even just between two different groups of friends.
This might sound like being “fake” to some, but Long Beach artist Shy But Flyy would say that we all have different versions of ourselves and that different settings allow each of them to surface. As you can guess, she considers herself to be very shy, but when she gets on stage, her performance self-emerges as she becomes a soulful blues singer.
“They’re all parts of my personality when I’m on stage rocking out and when I’m just super shy and introverted when I’m off stage,” she said. “I feel like it’s all me I just feel more like I’m in my natural habitat when I’m on stage because I feel like that is what I was born to do.”
Shy But Flyy has become a regular feature around Long Beach, performing in local venues like Que Sera and At The Top as well as community events like First Fridays. She’s a workaholic, performing all nights of the week for blues-loving audiences of all sizes. However, despite having been on stage hundreds of times, she still says she gets butterflies from time to time, and usually, it’s the small crowds that affect her.
“In an intimate setting, you can look out in the crowd and make eye contact with everybody in the room and it’s like, weird,” Shy said. “But for me, after that first note, after that first song, then I feel confident. I’m at home, I’m in my zone.”
When she’s not in “rock star mode,” she’s on her work grind. Shy says to make it work as a full-time artist, you have to be working at it nearly seven nights a week. She’s an event coordinator, has her own band, and sings with others, and when she’s not, she’s home practicing.
“It’s a music business, you know? I feel like a lot of people don’t focus on the business aspect of it,” Shy said. “You have to go about it as a business and your brand. You have to go in and represent yourself and show them your business plan.”
Shy used to work for Long Beach Unified School District, but she reached a point where she was performing almost every night then waking up at six in the morning to work with kids, which she loved. But, after crunching the numbers, she realized by taking on a couple of extra shows a month, she could focus on music full time, which she says is surreal for her.
“I think the hardest part is transitioning from working and performing to just performing,” she said. “Of course it’s work all the time but it becomes your main thing so it’s a lot more pressure and it’s not as fun as initially but I’m to the point now where it’s fun and it’s work.”
The age-old adage says if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. However, even when you love what you do, putting that much time and effort into something can be exhausting. There’s no time for hobbies and no time to date.
“You have shows, you’re traveling, you’re practicing, you have irregular hours… you sacrifice a lot for the music and for your passion,” Shy said. “So I think I chose this, but it was meant for me, because I have the passion and I put so much into it and I sacrifice a lot to do what I love.”
Shy was born in Texas but moved to San Pedro when she was seven and to Long Beach in 2012. Though many blues greats have come from Texas, she doesn’t credit it for her love for the genre. She says she is an old soul—a lover of Muddy Waters and Billie Holiday. She likes to sing blues and listen to jazz all hours of the day.
“It was just born in me,” she said. “Being in the blues community, I’m surrounded by a lot of older people, a lot of older musicians, and they’ll be like, ‘What you know about the blues?’ and then I get up and I sing and they’re like, ‘Oh, okay, you know about the blues.’”
Shy But Flyy has plenty of upcoming shows for anyone interested in hearing her soulful vibrations, including some exciting opportunities for Shy too. She just performed a Rock the Vote show, and she has upcoming benefit shows for the Los Angeles Food Bank and the SoCal Divas of Blues Festival in Temecula.
The Divas of Blues Festival is an exciting event because she gets to contribute to breast cancer awareness and be a part of an all-female lineup. In her experience, women in blues are few and far between. But even though she’s in a field of predominantly men, in a genre living in the shadow of LA pop, Shy But Flyy is never deterred from pursuing her life’s passion.
“I just feel like I always was this person. The first time I did it it was like ‘This is what I’m supposed to do,’” Shy said. “And then I just practice, I work hard, I study. It’s not like you just wake up one day and you’re booked for the month, you have to practice, you have to plan, you have to network. You have to make it happen, nobody’s going to give it to you.”