The future is looking very bright for Shayan Heidari. With show-stopping performances on TVA’s recently revitalized Star Académie and an inspiring new collab with rapper, Majhool, 2021 promises to be a watershed year for the up-and-coming music creator.

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For Shayan Heidari, opportunity is knocking…hard. Since graduating from RAC in 2019, the talented singer-songwriter has gone from strength to strength, releasing a string of infectious singles that embody themes of tenacity, positivity and spirituality. With his latest release, “Never Give Up,” a collaboration with the equally talented Persian rapper, Majhool, that message has never been clearer. Together, the pair craft an inimitable fusion of genres and languages that will have listeners in need of a pick-me-up coming back for more. Shayan’s determination will be put to the test in the first half of 2021 as he competes against some of Québec’s most talented young singers on the hugely popular TVA show, Star Académie. We had the privilege of chatting with Shayan on the eve of the competition to talk about his family, his love for Jon Bellion and his plan to just “go with the flow” on Star Académie.

RAC: Thanks for taking the time to meet with us, Shayan! Let’s start with introductions: Who is Shayan Heidari?

SHAYAN: I was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. Growing up, I was always fascinated by music. I discovered music when I was a baby and started singing at a young age. I realized early on that singing was a ‘thing’ for me: Like, ‘hey, I can actually sing!’ [Laughs] I started taking it seriously at about eight–I’m 21 now. I took piano lessons from ten to 14, which was kind of the same thing with singing lessons– I started when I was 12 and l stopped at 14. I essentially took the knowledge from those classes and used that to practice at home every day and save money [Laughs]. I started composing and writing songs at 17, right before joining RAC, where I learned more about production, mixing, mastering, acoustics– stuff that I really needed to know. It was, literally, the best experience of my life!

RAC: Sweet, we appreciate the plug!

SHAYAN: [Laughs] Yeah! And ever since then, I’ve been pretty much working on me, my voice as an artist, making music and writing songs, and hoping to make it big one day.

RAC: Who would you say are some of your earliest musical influences?

SHAYAN: I started off listening to a lot of Simple Plan– that was when I really started singing. From there, I went to Marianas Trench–they’re a great Canadian group– and then, when Justin [Bieber] arrived, I was pretty hyped about him as well. Ed Sheeran was another one, obviously, and Bruno Mars. These days, I’m really into Jon Bellion and AJR. I would say that Jon Bellion is my idol; he’s my inspiration when it comes to music. Obviously, I go with other artists to get new ideas and inspiration– I’m open-minded and will always be open-minded– but I feel like Jon Bellion is the ‘root’ of everything when it comes to music [Laughs]. I also listen to Jeremy Zucker, Alexander 23, FINNEAS, Billie Eilish–stuff like that.

RAC: How would you say the artists you listen to influence your work?

SHAYAN: The music I listen to influences me a lot in terms of style and production. Jon Bellion, for instance: I’ve seen a couple of interviews with him, and he always tries to bring the production side of the music in harmony with the lyrical side. Even if it’s a simple track, he always tries to mix the elements perfectly. This is what inspires me the most about him. Another example is AJR. For me, listening to AJR brings out the five-year-old in me, which is a huge inspiration. I would be down to bring that same feeling and energy to my songs while still keeping that Jon Bellion ‘flow’.

RAC: What aspect of the musical landscape to you like the most: recording, writing, performance…?

SHAYAN: I’m open to everything. I love creating, but I don’t really rush when I create. If I start a song, it will probably take me three to five months to finish it. I love writing too. I’ve recently started to open myself up more to French songs and writing in French– it’s something I’ve been working on for a couple of months now. I obviously love singing and playing the piano. Oh, and sound design too! I love sampling! I like making my own sounds on my phone, bringing them into the DAW and messing around with them.

RAC: There’s a recurring message of hope and self-belief in your music. Would you say that’s what you’re trying to convey as an artist? Do you have any specific goals?

SHAYAN: My ultimate goal as an artist and as a human being is to touch people’s hearts and to inspire them to become the best versions of themselves– to make them realize that they’re more than just human beings, but beings that are capable of anything in this world. That’s the spiritual side of me that I try to implement in my songs. It’s important to me as a human being, too; I really try to talk to people and inspire them. I’m a highly spiritual person, and I’ve been through a lot of spiritual awakenings. I really feel that this is my purpose.

RAC: Yeah, I noticed the artwork for “Wake Up” has a very spiritual aesthetic.

SHAYAN: Yeah, I think most artists usually like to use pictures of themselves. If you look at Jon Bellion’s cover art, though, he uses these Disney/Pixar designs of himself. Since I don’t want to copy him, I try to do the same thing but in an anime or manga style. It’s a concept I’m still working on, but eventually, I’ll bring it into existence.

RAC: Who are the people you would cite as having played an important role in your musical development so far?

SHAYAN: My aunt’s husband isn’t into music whatsoever, but he always motivates me. He’s like a motivational speaker [Laughs], and he helps me a lot when I’m down. He gives these great speeches and advice. My dad as well–his humbleness and the way he works hard for me, my sister, and my mother is something that keeps me going. He reminds me that I have to work hard to get where I want to be. Sometimes, though, I think he works too hard, and I use that too. I tell myself, ‘I shouldn’t be doing this’, and I try to go with the flow. ‘Just do your thing, and the rest will fall into place’– that’s a concept I believe in.

RAC: Tell us a little bit more about the track “Never Give Up” and your collaboration with Majhool. How did that come about?

SHAYAN: Majhool is a Persian rapper who wanted to work with me, and I was down to work with him. He wanted to explore the concept of doing what you have to do, not quitting, and saying: ‘Yes, you will go through some ups and downs, but eventually, you’ll get to where you want to be. Yes, you will have doubts, but If you believe in yourself and keep working towards your goals, it will come to exist’. I liked the concept and said, ‘yeah, let’s do it.’ When I sing, ‘I’ve been working too hard; I never ever gave up. Spent little time with my friends that never seemed to end’, those things are actually part of my life, since I don’t get the chance to spend a lot of time with friends anymore because I’m working and because I preoccupy myself. I know when I eventually get to where I want to be, I won’t be able to distract myself because I’ll be so busy, so I’m trying to get used to that.

RAC: Can you tell us a little bit about your Star Académie experience so far. How did this all start?

SHAYAN: I saw that there was an audition coming up for Star Académie, and I thought, ‘sure, why not?’, and I booked an appointment for the pre-audition in front of a couple of judges. I went over there and sang ‘Make It Rain’ by Ed Sheeran, and they seemed to like it. They told me to sing more songs, so I sang “Blu” by Jon Bellion, and I rapped a little bit. They just wanted to get to know me and my style. Eventually, they called me back to do a second audition, which I passed. Then I did the selection camp, which was on TV, and I passed both rounds, so now I’m part of the first 20 candidates who will perform in mid-February.

RAC: Given that the competition is just starting to heat up, this might be a tricky question for you to answer, but what can we expect from you in 2021?

SHAYAN: Oh, man [Laughs]. You know what? It’s like I said before; I go with the flow. I don’t expect anything. I have a goal in mind, and whatever opportunity comes my way, I’ll take it. But otherwise, I’m just gonna go with the flow. I do have an intuitive feeling that 2021 will be a year where I will express myself more and that more people will reach out to me, and I’ll start building an actual fanbase. I’m hoping that will happen, but I don’t want to focus too much on the future; I just want to focus on the present moment and do my thing.