The power of the Internet to transform virtual unknowns into the global stratosphere is by now well established, with perhaps its foremost example being the Canadian tour de force that is Justin Bieber. Thanks to the miracle of cyber tech, otherwise obscure garage bands and performers can gain exposure beyond the realm of their immediate surroundings.
The latest of these upstarts to grace the digital Netscape is one Samantha Montgomery, or by her performing persona of Princess Shaw. In a Cinderella tale so riddled with clichés it has to be true, the native Chicagoan grew up infused with music and the latent desire to sing, coupled with an insecurity inhibiting any chance of realizing this dream.
Her listening tastes differentiated her from her peers, since she did not conform to the accepted “Chi-town” sound track of her youth.
“They think you can’t like that (pop and rock music because you’re Black).”
This situation effectively cast her in the role of outcast, a persona she eventually embraced.
“I’d rather be an odd ball than boring, any day,” she explains.
Circumstances facilitated a series of relocations across the country and “in a leap of faith,” she finally settled in New Orleans where, in her words “I found my voice.”
In the interim, she posted videos on YouTube (and other online venues) while developing her chops before sparse crowds in “open mics” and other performance spaces in her adopted home. Fortune smiled when a seasoned musician and producer on the other side of the globe, Israeli Ophir Kutiel (under the stage name “Kutiman”) discovered this diamond-in-the-rough and began assembling backing music around her a acapella rendition of “Give it up” (a Princess Shaw original composition).
The musicians involved in this project come from all over the world (the inevitable clashes involving legal releases from the involved parties remained unresolved at press time.)
None-the-less, Princess Shaw’s initial foray into the digital domain has mushroomed from a cyber presence numbering a few thousand “hits” into a bonafide juggernaut in excess of 2.5 million. Israeli filmmaker Ido Haar has chronicled this musical journey into an 80-minute documentary, appropriately titled “Presenting Princess Shaw,” which has thrilled audiences the past few months at film festivals including SXSW, and the Sydney (Australia) Film Fest. More than just a testament to the perseverance of a singular talent focusing realizing her dream, it is a nod to the possibilities of multicultural cooperation in this multimedia collaboration between Haar, Kutiel, and Montgomery and others around the world.
“It’s a beautiful thing—it’s like bouncing energy off each other,” she says of this long distance alliance.
The completed project transitions between Montgomery toiling at her “day job” as a caregiver for the elderly, and pursuing her craft while enduring all the indignities of sacrificing for art in the inner city.
This week found the intrepid trio in a Beverly Hills public relations firm as part of the media promotion for “Presenting Princess Shaw.” During an interview there, Montgomery persistently sipped tea, admitting that this new itinerary of traveling between dissimilar climates had taken its toll on her newly marketable commodity, her voice.
Her eclectic vocal stylings may be the result of her diverse music tastes cultivated during her formative years (she admits a fondness for Elton John and Cat Stevens), a quality that proved problematic in early attempts at marketing her.
“I don’t think that she (her manager) knew were to put me,” she remembers of early efforts by her artist representation.
Early reviewers have likened her to Adele and the late Amy Winehouse, but the truth is Samantha Montgomery sounds like who she is: Princess Shaw.
Her documentary completed, Montgomery/Princess Shaw is, in her words “chillin,” as she and her cohorts plot her official introduction into the recording industry.
“Presenting Princess Shaw” makes its local debut on Friday, May 27 at the Sundance Sunset Cinemas, 8000 West Sunset Blvd., in West Hollywood.