Photo by Pearl Preis

Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Shyah Preis. Together we discussed growing up in a musical family, her approach to songwriting, her song “Paperboy”, collaborating with her sister Wesley Preis, and so much more!

1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today? 

I’m having a nice night! Thanks for having me, Mustard! 

It’s 2:30 am where I live, this is one of my favorite times to be awake. I know it’s not the healthiest habit, but I love staying up late and sleeping around 3 or 4 in the morning. I’ve been nocturnal my whole life, it’s in my DNA. 

2. You grew up in a musical family along with your sisters and parents who own their own guitar string business. When did you first start taking an interest in music? 

I began learning guitar when I was about 6 years old, I was singing long before then. I’ve loved music my entire life. My family has always supported and guided me through my pursuits as a musician, I’m incredibly lucky to have them. My dad has been my musical mentor my whole life. My sister, Wesley Preis is also a great musician and such an inspiration to me. 

3. Stevie Wonder and The Beatles were always playing in your house growing up. What music of theirs do you recommend humans check out? 

Say what you want about The Beatles, but the world as we know it today would cease to exist without them. Their impact on music was so immense, I think every musician could take away something valuable from carefully listening to The Beatles. Paul McCartney will always be one of my favorite musicians on Earth. He understood melody and songwriting in a way that was so profound and unique for his time, consequently his songs changed the world. 

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Beatles album. Besides Abbey Road, which is a perfect album in my opinion, I love Magical Mystery Tour and Rubber Soul especially. 

Stevie Wonder changed the world with his music as well, his genius is hard to comprehend. There are so many albums of his that are absolute masterpieces: Innervisions, Songs In The Key of Life, Talking Book, Fulfillingness, these are some of my favorites. 

4. What is your approach to songwriting? 

When it comes to songwriting, I always begin with a chord progression. I’ll find a progression on the guitar usually, but there have been periods of my life when I’ve been more drawn to piano. Guitar is my main instrument, but writing on the piano brings me into a different mindset than the one I’m usually in while playing guitar. Piano makes me think of new voicings that I don’t normally gravitate to on guitar. Regardless of the instrument, I believe it all begins with chords. Chords are the things that the rest of the song gets carved out from. There are limitless melodies one could carve out from a chord progression. Once I find a melody that I like, usually by using my voice, I then add lyrics. Lyrics always come last for me.

5. According to your Instagram profile, all you need is love. Why is it important that humans love not only themselves but each other? How do you define love? 

I will always stand by this statement because I think nothing in the world matters if you don’t love somebody. I’m not referring only to romantic love, I mean any love that you feel toward any person. No one can get through the journey of life without receiving as well as giving love. 

I define love as a deep affection for someone that completely overcomes you and cannot be stifled or ignored. I honestly think that not everyone is capable of feeling love the same way, or in the same amounts. Therefore, everyone defines the word differently. It’ll be open for interpretation until the end of time, I suppose. 

6. In 2017 you released “One Day.” Did you happen to meet up again one day with the subject of this single? What was the inspiration behind this song? 

Wow, I have not talked about this song in a long time. I wrote “One Day” when I was a junior in high school, though it was released a year later. I was 17 back then, I’m 23 now. It’s a long, complicated story, but the short answer is; no. I never met up with this person again the way I thought I would. Nothing about the situation actually ended up playing out the way I thought it would. Everything happened the way it was supposed to though. 

In short, the song is about knowing someone is going to leave in the not so distant future, but you hope you’ll see them again one day. You hope that maybe, when you see them again, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off. Now that I’m a bit older, I know things don’t always work like this and that’s fine. Time moves forward, you meet new people, have new experiences. The best parts of your life should be in front of you, not behind you. 

7. You get the opportunity to spend one day with any human in the world. Who would you like to spend it with? What are some activities you would fill the day with? 

I always wished I could meet my grandmother. I’d like to spend the day just talking over coffee. 

8. You followed up “One Day” with “Marmalade (Fly Me To The Milky Way).” What is it that you are seeking at the milky way? Could you share more about this song? 

“Marmalade” is a song about the strange, sad feeling I had when I graduated high school. People don’t usually guess this when they hear the lyrics, and I understand why. The song is full of metaphors. I think a lot of people think it’s a song about heartbreak or something like that, but it’s not. When I graduated highschool, I felt like I lost all my friends. Basically everyone I knew moved away to attend college, meanwhile I didn’t even apply to a single school. I felt like everyone was moving forward and I was stuck in one spot. I really didn’t know what I was supposed to do with myself, or what the future had in store. It felt as though everyone had something promising ahead of themselves except for me. As for the thing that I was looking for “in the milky way,” I suppose it was this; a place where I could escape the confusion and the empty feeling inside me. 

9. Have you exchanged marmalade recipes with Paddington Bear? 

No, the Paddington Bear blocked me on Instagram 😦 

(jk I’ve never met Paddington, but I know we would get along.) 

10. The cover art for your single “Paperboy” features two roads, an x-ray of a human skull and body. What do these symbolize? What role do they play within the song? 

The human skull and body x-rays on the cover of “Paperboy” symbolize the death of the person you used to be while in a relationship. They also symbolize the death of certain feelings you used to have. The roads symbolize the splitting of one path into two separate ones. 

11. Paper can be burned, crumbled, or come undone easily. What did the paperboy represent during this time? 

When I wrote “Paperboy,” I had envisioned an actual boy who rode a bicycle and routinely delivered newspapers to each door in his neighborhood. However, I think the title itself can take on a sort of dual meaning. The metaphorical significance behind a person made of paper is not far off from the meaning I’d intended. The song is about a person who was once very close to you but is no longer in your life. It’s about the headspace you enter sometime after you’ve accepted the fact that they’re gone, and you can now view the situation clearly. It’s about wondering where that person is currently and if they’ll be okay without you, but either way it doesn’t really matter now. Either way there is no longer a tie between you and them, the feelings that once ruled you are now hard to even recall. 

11. Mustard has observed that the Preis family are exceptional storytellers. What were some of the stories you were told growing up? Who are some storytellers that influence you? 

Thank you! I love a good story, there was a period in my teenage life when I wanted to be an author. I’ve always loved YA fiction, at one point I had a thing for dystopian literature in a big way. I was pretty invested in writing stories at one point. I had begun seriously writing a novel 

when I was about 15, but as I got older, I naturally started applying all my energy toward music. I may go back to my novel one day, but for now I have a lot of fun putting stories into songs. 

One of my favorite songwriters is Elliott Smith. I love the way he tells stories through his songs, specifically the use of personification in his lyrics. Smith has such an amazing ability to personify concepts which are often dark and deeply troubling, and weave lyrics from these ideas into beautiful songs. 

12. Mustard wonders if you and Wesley have discussed collaborating on a song together. What kind of song would that be?

It’s funny actually, even though Wesley and I have known each other our entire lives and are both musicians who hang out pretty much every single day, we’ve only ever written one song together. We’ve kinda just always done our own things when it comes to writing. The one song we wrote together turned out pretty well though, we wrote it about two years ago. There’s a really funny story behind this song, and we want to release it sometime soon. Stay tuned! 

12. What is next for Shyah Preis? 

New music! I’ve been working on a few new songs recently. All the songs I talked about in this interview were written a very long time ago, this new stuff will be a bit different. I am very excited to share my new songs with the world and perform them live in the near future. 

13. Where can readers listen to your music? 

Soundcloud, Spotify and Youtube (under: Shyah Preis) are places where you can hear my complete songs but I’m much more active on Tik Tok and Instagram where I often post clips of songs I’m writing as well as some covers. (@shyahmusic)


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