The music of homegrown artist Undine Shorey is a familiar sound at the Bradenton Farmers’ Market, in the Village of the Arts and at countless community events and hangouts.
For years, the multi-skilled musician has brought her talents on guitar and violin and behind a mic to Bradenton and Sarasota.
Shorey also has a gift for crafting words.
After graduating from Manatee High School, she went on to study writing at the University of Tampa and now works as a freelance writer. She also has a screenwriting hobby; one of her scripts recently placed in the top bracket of a national competition.
The artist admits that one area of wordplay that she has been less sure of expressing herself through is songwriting. Shorey has dabbled in it previously, though much of her live performance repertoire has consisted of well-executed covers of songs from artists such as The Pointer Sisters, Smokey Robinson and Sam Smith.
But while past writing and recording projects fell through, Shorey, 32, says she’s finally reached a point in life where she knows what she wants to say with her music.
Sparked more than a year ago, the idea for her first collection of songs about striking a balance in the chaos of life comes to fruition on Friday.
“Quality of Life,” is the EP’s title.
On it, expect to hear Shorey’s honeyed vocals woven neatly into catchy chord progressions and emblazoned with sweet flurries of violin.
An EP release party and concert set for Friday night at coworking space Connect Bradenton quickly sold out — a testament to Shorey’s strong community fan base.
Shorey spoke to the Bradenton Herald ahead of the release about the inspiration behind the new music and what it took to find it.
Here’s what she had to say.
How did you find your love of music?
I started playing in middle school. There was an option called “Wheel” where you went through different classes like cooking, music and band. Just to try things out and see.
My sister was playing cello in orchestra at the time. So when orchestra came around, the orchestra teacher noticed that I had these nice long fingers and asked if I would consider playing the cello too. And I said, “no — no thanks. My older sister wouldn’t like that too much.”
So I ended up choosing the violin, and honestly it just stuck. It wasn’t like it called me by my name or anything. It was more like, I’m just going to play it and see how it goes, and I happened to be really good at it.
So you learned music through the violin?
Yes. I got my start classically. Learning music theory and notes and all of that stuff that you learn in the early stages. It grew from there, and I wound up falling in love with it.
Oddly enough I wanted to play guitar first. I don’t know if my parents didn’t take me seriously — I was only 5 or 6 years old when I asked for one. I didn’t get a guitar though.
So I learned the violin because I had free lessons at school.
Guitar came many years later. I’ve been playing it for about 10 years.
Was it easy to pick up a second instrument?
It was different. A lot of people would think that the transition from a four-string instrument to a six-string would be a little more smooth, but it was honestly just like starting over. It didn’t really come smooth.
But I was determined because I always wanted to learn. And it worked out.
Do you have a favorite?
That’s not easy. Guitar was probably my first love, I’ll say that. A lot of people probably don’t know that. Because they’ve always seen me with a violin in my hand. I’m known as the violinist or the violin girl, so I think more people would be surprised that I would say that.
This EP is going to be your first original music project. Why now?
Yes; this is my first completely original project that I’ve seen all the way through. It’s been over a year in the making.
I think I’m just older and I’m in a different place than I was when I tried to do those other projects. So I’m glad they didn’t work out, because I wouldn’t be as proud of the work as I am now.
This is totally me now after having lived a little. Even though I’m still in my 30s. Seeing things from different perspectives; learning to like different styles of music — that’s played a huge role in my sound now.
That ties right into to theme of the EP. It’s called “Quality of Life.” Would you say it’s about being more confident in what you want out of life?
Yes. Again, staying on that subject of getting older, the things that I value in life have changed. Some things don’t matter as much as they used to, and some things matter more.
So when I say quality: I want to have quality people in my life; I want to make quality art; I want to make quality relationships. So those are things that really matter to me more than ever before. And it just made total sense to name it “Quality of Life” because of where I am in my life.
So, despite how hectic most people’s lives are these days, you’re saying: take the time to do right by yourself.
Yeah, exactly. And you don’t really think about when you’re younger. It’s when you get older and you experience more and you lose people — sometimes it’s friends or relationships. And that’s when you take a look at your life and start to evaluate, OK, what’s important? So you have to kind of live a little bit to really appreciate it.
I’ve worked with some really great people on this project, from different musicians to my producer, and I’m very proud of it.
Who are some of your collaborators?
The most local person is a battle rapper from the Tampa Bay area named Loso. He tours and travels.
And then some other people from the Orlando area.
There’s a bassist named Justine Tompkins that killed it on two of my songs. We met at an event here locally, but she’s from Tampa.
What are some of the songs that you are really excited for people to hear?
I did a jazz version of “Amazing Grace.” That’s featuring Loso.
I’m really proud of that. It’s just a totally different take on the song.
I remember when I played a friend of mine the bare bones of the song one day on the beach. She said, “You managed to make that song not sound depressing.”
And I kind of stood there and thought, when did “Amazing Grace” become this depressing song?
It does play at so many funerals.
Right! And that’s why. And it’s like, was it always meant to be depressing? I don’t think so.
But I took that as the ultimate compliment when she said that.
And no ... you can’t play my song at a funeral.
Probably the most personal song on the album is called “Going Back.”
It’s about me visiting London, where I was born. At the time when I was writing the song, I hadn’t gone back since we moved here when I was one year old.
And then I finally got the chance to go back after 30 years. Visiting my family; my cousins; their kids; seeing the neighborhood and walking the streets that my mom grew up on; where my parents lived right before we left.
There’s even an “Undine” street in London. Spelled the same way.
Is that what you were named after?
It’s not, funnily enough. My mom didn’t even know it existed. It’s a family name.
Undine means “of the wave.” It’s based on a water spirit.
Someone recently pointed out how aquatic and tropical my name is, because you’ve got the water spirit part and then my last name is shore with a “y.” Of course, the irony is that I can’t swim. But what would life be like without a little irony.
It must have been a big change when your family moved to the U.S.
My mom was just at a time when some things mattered and others things didn’t. Her idea of quality of life changed to wanting to live in better weather and a better climate. She was just ready for a change. So I was one and my sister Samantha was four and we hopped on a plane to Bradenton, Florida. Been here ever since.
I think that she was very brave to do it. She left her all of her immediate family in England. They still live there to this day. She had my dad and his family at the time. That was probably the only thing that carried her through the transition.
Have you found Bradenton to be a supportive place for making music?
Yes. People are just really kind, and they love music here. I hear people asking where there is to go for live music all the time. People will mention that they saw my events on Facebook and say “we’re glad that we found you.” It’s a big music community here.
What’s the songwriting process like for you? Does a melody usually come first, or lyrics?
Mostly melody. Because I like to just sit on the couch and play music. Not for any particular reason. So an idea will come through doing that, and then it will blossom into something. Possibly a first verse or a chorus. A lot of times I come up with a chorus first for some reason. And then I’ll work around the chorus and add verses and then a bridge and that kind of stuff. But it usually starts as a melody that I had in my head or something I’m just fiddling around with.
What’s next after this project?
A full album. I’m already getting my ducks in a row and thinking about who I want to collaborate with next. I definitely want to keep it local and do the whole recording process in Manatee County, as much as I can. I’m already crafting some songs for it.
What was the recording process like for the EP?
It wasn’t an easy process. Usually when you see something through there are always going be hurdles ans setbacks. But I really was determined to finish. I wanted to do it for myself, but also for my supporters and my listeners who have asked me over the years if I have any music, if there’s something available online or if they can buy a CD. And I always had to hang my head in shame and say that I didn’t have anything.
So I saw it through for that reason. To complete something for people to actually have that they can listen to and say, “Oh — that’s Undine’s music.” And I can listen to it and say, “That’s my music.”
How would you describe your music?
It’s hard to pinpoint. I would say acoustic-R&B-soul would be a good one. I like the jazzier side of things. But who knows. I wouldn’t put off writing a pop song one day.
Any big musical influences?
I love Lianne La Havas. She’s a U.K. artist who does R&B-type stuff. Corinne Bailey Rae also. Marc Broussard — he does Louisiana soul.
And Tori Kelly. She got her start mainly on YouTube and then her stuff went viral.
Any other hobbies?
I’m an aspiring screenwriter. I’ve written a few scripts actually. One placed not too long ago in the top 15 out of 2,000 scripts in the AT&T Filmmaker Mentorship Program with Lena Waithe, who’s a showrunner in Hollywood. So that’s definitely a passion of mine.
What was it about?
It was called “Citizen,” and it was loosely based on a true story about, let’s just say, a young girl who has to help her dad study for the U.S. citizenship test.
The caveat is, the daughter and the father are estranged. So the daughter was, in a sense, forced by another sibling to help in that realm. But it helps mend their relationship.
“Quality of Life” comes out Friday. Can’t wait to hear it.
Yes. It’s been a very personal project, but something that I’m also so proud of, and I can’t wait to share it.
“Quality of Life” will be available to download on streaming platforms on Friday; physical copies will also be available.
Catch Shorey playing live at Ortygia in Village of the Arts on Nov. 2, enRich Bistro on Nov. 5 and Central Cafe on Nov. 9.