Setting the tone at the start of your day with the right song isn’t always a simple task. A mellow, ambient groove can serve as the soundtrack for a calmer morning, one where you can take your time getting out of bed and there’s no need to rush. A more upbeat electronic playlist can get the juices flowing when you’re speeding out the door, while funk can put a pep in your step. There’s a genre for every mood, and your choice of music plays a big part in how you make your way through the day.
For Shura, the British singer-songwriter who’s built buzz over the past few years with synth-brushed singles “Touch” and “2Shy,” music is an essential part of getting into gear—after one thing. “The first thing I do is obviously have a cup of tea, because if you’re British, you don’t naturally wake until you have tea,” she jokes. But when it came to putting together a playlist for waking up, she went with a wildly eclectic assortment of songs spanning Canned Heat and Tame Impala to Lykke Li and Don Henley.
Though the playlist is an “insight into my mad brain that never stays on one thing for very long,” she says, it’s tied together by her liking for more percussive fare, inspired by her love of drums and bass lines. “There’s something about rhythm and bass sections generally, how the bass and drums interact that’s basically the soul of any song,” she explains. “It’s normally that the rhythm section is the music we’ve had for the longest as well, probably. Just beats. It’s probably the first type of music we had, rhythm, whether it’s poetry or tapping.”
There are some commonalities, including her love of neo-soul era R&B with jams like Janet Jackson‘s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” and D’Angelo‘s “Untitled (How Does It Feel).” Raised in a household where Elton John and Madonna were musical fixtures, Shura first discovered the hushed, slinky subgenre during her mid-teens, when she fell for the dynamic production of J Dilla. “I couldn’t believe it. It was like hearing something that I’d never heard,” she recalls. “It’s something I chanced upon and saw this whole different side to the ’90s than I had experienced.”
She also selected several classic rock tunes, like Led Zeppelin‘s “D’yer Mak’er” and Cat Stevens’ “Moon Shadow,” as well as Don Henley‘s “The Boys of Summer,” which was inspired by her frequent trips to America. “In London, I used to play ‘Boys of Summer,’ but it didn’t feel right, because it doesn’t apply to your surroundings, to the weather,” she says. “I remember being in L.A. and listening to that record and going ‘Oh, I get it now.’ It’s a driving song. And I don’t drive, so I guess it was another late discovery. All these records just work in different parts of the world.”
A more notable choice for the playlist is the Four Tet remix of Shura’s “Touch,” which comes in anticipation of her debut full-length Nothing’s Real, releasing July 8 via Interscope. The album elaborates on the R&B-leaning tone of prior singles, features production from “Touch” collaborator Joel Pott, as well as from Al Shux (Jay Z, Lana Del Rey) and Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia). “It was about exploration,” she explains of the recording process. “And that’s all you’re doing on a record, you’re just exploring and going, what are my limits? Which ones are positive, which ones are negative? Which do I want to push myself on?”
Listen to Shura’s Early Mornings playlist below.