Tune Into: Sheani Gist

Since 35 years already, Tommy Hilfiger is conveying an idea about diversity, style and free expression - and obviously this rings true with Tommy Jeans’ current collection and its connected campaign as well. Aptly titled “Tune Into“, the brand’s latest range offers a forward-thinking approach to fashion via freshly interpreted all American classics that got manufactured from innovative materials and denim that’s completely recyclable.
For the second time in a row the accompanying campaign and lookbook is carried forward through a handful of carefully selected up-and-coming artists and creative cats that even had the opportunity to photograph themselves in their very own personal surroundings - and one of these talents is New York-based Sheani Gist. Having originally started as a dancer, Gist managed to let this year’s surreal lockdown situation work in his favor, as it allowed him to explicitly focus on his musical craft as well. With a new EP and his debut album being in the pipeline for 2021, it was time for Lodown to reach out and learn more about this up-and-coming artist.

 How’s things at your end, Seani... how did New York City treat you in this very weird year 2020?
It’s alright, I’d say. I mean, I live right in the city, so this obviously feels good regardless how strange this particular might be for each and everyone of us. Obviously, it’s weird that there seems to be half as many people on the streets than it usual would be on a day like this... it’s something that just feels wrong in a city like New York. On the other hand it’s kinda nice that the city is a lot quieter than it would be under normal circumstances.
For me, personally, I took the opportunity to get much more in tune with my creative side - I was able to focus a lot more on making music than my schedule would usually allow. (laughs) It also helps me a lot to keep my sanity. I actually learned a lot about myself that I didn’t necessarily know before.


 Was it mainly pleasant things you’ve found out about yourself during that time?
Yeah, I’d say so... it actually was really dope to do that. I learned how important it is to really focus on things. I put a lot of effort into elaborating certain parts of my life that are important to me, like music, and I’ve seen progress. I’ve been really busy and there’s lots of stuff coming out. So, yeah, I’d say it’s all good.

 Please tell me a bit more about your music...
I really am a lot more confident about my own sound now... it was a bit of a struggle to get to this point, to be honest. I mean, I’m just doing music for two years now, so obviously it’s a journey that basically has just begun, right!? It would be foolish to believe that my wordplay is a flawless one right from the start. You know, I grew up on music - my dad always playing oldschool hip-hop and a lot of old R&B, my mom introducing me to Gladys Knight and a few other legendary artists which I now love. Any my sister actually sings as well, so it feels a bit like a band at home. Oh, and I actually dance as well.

Would you say that one can hear these kind of oldschool influences in your music, or do you try to basically exclude obvious references?
I think I try to shut these influences out in my music... mainly because I don’t want people to put me in a specific box, you know. Having said that, it obviously is pretty hard as a young artist to not have your influences on display in one way or another... in my case you might be able to hear a reference to Chris Brown or Michael Jackson.
Which other artists do inspire you these days?
It’s mainly artists where I see a little bit of myself in them... you know, guys like Drake or The Weeknd or J. Cole. I think it’s because I sing and rap, too. To find the perfect balance between these two art forms, that’s what I’m aiming at.

You’re one of the faces of Tommy Jeans’ current fall campaign... please tell me a bit your experiences while shooting it and how this gig came together.
Well, I am working for Tommy for quite a while now - so wanting to get involved in the new campaign obviously was a no-brainer. I think the first time I worked with Tommy Jeans was in 2017, and they’ve always been great to me, everyone involved actually was super cool. (laughs) At this point, it almost feels a bit like family.

Did shooting particular campaign offer you the opportunity to bring in your very own personality to a greater extend since you’re able to shoot with your very own phone as well?
Definitely. It allowed me to be free - you didn’t necessarily have to use your repertoire as a model this time around. The whole experience allowed me to be more in tune with myself, since I was allowed to dance and showcase my talents, you know.
Did you already have a connection to Tommy Jeans before you started to work with them on a professional level?
It definitely was one of the brands that I was growing up with, one of those whose advertising I already saw as a kid. At one point my dad actually already dressed me completely in Tommy when I was a kid.

So things have basically come full circle for you, right?
(laughs) Yeah, and it actually feels kinda crazy! You know, I never thought of being a model in the first place. I told you earlier that I basically started as a dancer before I turned towards making music, right? Years ago, I was dancing on the train, and I got scouted... that was when I was seventeen. I’m twenty four now, so I’m modeling since quite some time already. (laughs) It’s almost as if it was meant to be.

Since this year was a slightly surreal one for each and everyone, and 2021 doesn’t seem to be a smooth ride as well at this point - can you nevertheless already see what the next year will have in store for you?
Well, if possible it would be fantastic to tour a little bit. First of all it’s fun, but more importantly it’s because I’ll have a new EP and my first album coming out next year. It’s pretty much a solo-thing, there won’t be any kind of major collabs happening. It’s supposed to be a showcase of my artistry in the first place. I know it’ll be harder that way - but I’m definitely up for the challenge. /  /