Following on from our review of Sheldon Universe’s track, ‘Poor Boy‘, we asked him a few questions about his life, his music, his goals, and what’s coming up. Along the way we also learned a bit about Goan history, the music business, and Sheldon himself!
First up, what’s the story behind your performance name? Is your name Sheldon?
I get this question a lot and the meaning to me is forever growing. My real name is Sheldon De Souza. Sheldon Universe started as the name of my website. My artist friend was making “her name-world.com” and I thought I want to go bigger! Somehow my phone and website were entangled and people would receive texts from “Sheldon Universe”. And so, it began. One guy laughed at my name, which drove me to take a firmer stance and own the name. Having experience being bullied, I have developed thicker skin over the years both metaphorically and in the literal sense due to my eczema condition. As a defense mechanism, when someone questions my ability or ridicules me, instead of defeat, I take ownership and aim to build more confidence in what I do. The other aspect which came later is my family name De Souza means “of Souza” and I like the connection and believing that we are all “of” the same family Universe.
You’re a Goan-Canadian artist, are there many Indians in the music business in Canada? What’s the scene like? How did you get into music in the first place?
A little Goan history: There are many regions of India; Goa is part of Konkan, with a unique history. The Portuguese ruled Goa for 450 years until December 19th, 1961; before that, going back to the third century BC, it was part of the Mauryan empire. I was born in Canada, but my connection to Goa is through my family.
There are plenty of Indians in the music business, each with their own niche or lane. There are so many types of Indians and thus many industries within our own culture. Also, “music business” is a broad term because there are so many facets and levels to this business that you can earn income from so at every level there may be an Indian involved.
I was offered a gig with one of India’s current top artists, AP Dhillon and Shinda Kahlon, at Hammerstein Ballroom at Manhattan Centre in New York, where celebrity rapper Nas joined us on stage. Others include (Goan) Ian D’Sa of Billy Talent, Nav, Anjulie (Indian/Guyanese), and even musicians like Zubin Thakkar, the guitarist for Shawn Mendes, and (Goan) Cassius Pereira, the drummer with Jeff Healey and other artists.
I was born into music. Both parents, my grandfather and aunts and uncles from my mother’s side are all musicians. Music was my nature and nurture. I fell into my family business by default and eventually I grew up to start my own.
Outside of singing, you have a pretty powerful production company. How do you balance your music life with your other business?
I don’t sleep (enough), LOL. Lately time management and setting priorities with deadlines is a priority. There are so many things I want to accomplish but slowly I started to look at my skillset, budget, and time allowance, and determine which I should go for first. My business, Sheldon Universe, Inc., mostly deals with creating and managing event productions. Business generally slowed down but I’m also being very selective with what I take on knowing the commitment each project entails.
When covid became a problem and the live, in-person performance sector slowed down, I shifted into pre-production and creating. Out of the pandemic came a brand-new show I created called Kama, in partnership with Cabaret by Aprés Noir (exclusive dinner and concert series that takes place at Château Le Jardin). Kama was a 90-minute ,30-cast member cabaret dinner theatre style show involving a live band, aerialists, acrobats, and dancers with featured singers. It included synchronized pyrotechnics, lasers, LED walls, projection mapping, and staging. My production mind took flight.
However, singing has always been and will always be my passion. Playing the drums or keyboard with other artists is fun and exciting as a touring musician but I am always returning to the drawing board (often while on a tour bus or on the road) strategizing how to create opportunities that help sustain my career as a singer and music creator. My most recent project is working with some NBA players and original Toronto Raptors in the studio for an upcoming release called 13 Rules that I co-wrote, sang on, and produced.
What advice do you have for anyone who’s starting out in music, that you feel free to share with our readers?
Spend as much time with your instrument as possible while you have available time. Use YouTube and the internet to your advantage for free instruction and tips. Surround yourself with great players and experienced musicians and learn from them, there are many if you attend church. Have fun and use that to fuel your passion to work hard and practice. Have a vision or plan so that you know what your goals and objectives are with music. Join a band. Join a choir. Sign up for music lessons with a private instructor. Learn music theory and ear training. Go to songwriting collaboration events. Attend music conferences and festivals. Go see live music performances regularly. Consume music in every way possible.
If you could start all over again, what, if anything, would you do differently, and why?
Join a band with friends and have fun first! I was raised in a band that was professional or in school. Most of my experiences were being part of something that was organized, had older and wiser leadership or were institutionalized. These experiences were great to becoming a professional. Becoming a rock star and/or pop star is a whole different type of education, one which I still have yet to learn in its full extremity. One of my good memories is joining a group of friends as a keyboard player in a psychedelic-progressive rock band. Honestly, the music preference was second to my love of the friendship that we shared but I did enjoy the odd time signatures and interesting chord selections. The band was called The Odysseys. I don’t know if I’d do it differently though; I am pretty happy with my experience. But to answer your question: basically, live life with more risks and experience music as a hobby first!
Who most inspires you in your life? And in your music?
In life: it’s my wife and my parents
In music, Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber, and various musicians throughout the world that I have encountered
What’s next for Sheldon Universe? What can fans expect? Will you be touring?
Some upcoming bigger budget video shoots I never imagined are happening as we speak. I have gained some TV interviews and am working on music that sits on my laptop waiting to be shared. I have my drumset mic’d up, ready to record, so I can hope to start pumping out music that is more live in style but yet still holds up to the sonic quality of produced music. I will still be touring with the Christian rock band Manic Drive, mostly US cities. These are odd dates, but I have to plan for my own tour Sheldon Universe Style. If there are fans in any city or location that would like to be part of that experience, please reach out to me on Instagram @sheldonuniverse and help make it a reality.
Finally, what question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer to that question?
Question: How can I help you accomplish your next goal and promote your music?
My answer to that would be: consistently remind your audiences and create multiple ways to engage with my content. Keep the communication lines open and always try and put my music, image, and name in places where audiences can positively or happily receive what I have to offer in places where they usually spend their time. Allow the natural invitation of my intended purpose to create happiness and resolve negativity amongst all to happen organically, then let God do the rest.