Throughout Dr. Martens history our boots and shoes have been worn by an eclectic mix of people, who have fought for and celebrated their individuality. #WORNDIFFERENT NYC is a project bringing together NYC-based artists and makers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to celebrate self-expression with a clash of art and music.
Tei Shi‘s music is hard to define; she’s been labeled bedroom R&B, future pop, indie electronica, and more. The woman behind the music is just as genre-bending — a Colombian, Canadian, New Yorker from Argentina with self-described gender neutral style. Without intending to, Tei Shi represents the complexity and cultural diversity of New York City. We’re excited to have her perform alongside Nasty Nigel, Jimi Tents, and Beach Fossils at our upcoming Worn Different NYC event on December 1st. Keep reading to learn more about the artist including her favorite NYC neighborhood, her dream collaborator, and her first pair of Doc’s.
Where are you from?
I’m from Colombia and Canada — I grew up between Vancouver and Bogota, and I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I now live in Chinatown in New York City.
What brought you to NYC?
I always wanted to go to NYC; I knew I wanted to submerge myself in music and a creative, culturally diverse place where I could go out on my own and define my future on my own terms. I graduated from music school in Boston and moved straight here. I’ve been here for four and a half years now.
What do you do?
I’m a musician. I sing, write, and produce music under the name Tei Shi. I’ve been singing my whole life and started writing songs when I was around 6 or 7. I felt like that’s what I was destined to do, but I kind of lost that feeling as I grew up. I didn’t really know how to make a career out of it, so I went to music school. I started writing more and recording myself there. After I graduated, I took some of that material and made an EP out of it. From there, I started playing live, touring, and continuing to make music. I’ve released two EPs and my first full-length album this year.
What advice would you want to tell artists looking to move to New York?
Know that in the beginning, it’s going to suck and be prepared to be moving around a lot before you feel you can kind of settle somewhere. But take up every opportunity that comes your way and use the energy and newness of the city to meet different people and expand your horizons. This city has pretty much anything you’re looking for if you’re willing to search for it. Also, treat the city and its people with respect.
What’s your favorite neighborhood and why?
I’m not sure anymore, ever since I first moved here, neighborhoods have changed so much and at such a rapid pace. I like Clinton Hill a lot though. Now that I’ve been living in a hectic area of Manhattan I kind of crave the green and the more residential, chilled out feeling there.
What’s your favorite thing about living in New York?
Being able to get anything at any time. Arriving back in NYC after being away is still one of my favorite things. I get a rush and a sense of belonging every time.
Tell us about a memorable New York moment that happened to you.
When I first moved here I ended up at a holiday party where David Cross was doing karaoke and that was a pretty awesome and absurd moment. But also, there are a lot of moments every day that I consider pretty classic NY moments where you get a big ‘fuck you’ or dose of reality from the city. Like when a man on the subway just spat all over me.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
This changes a lot on any given day but I’d love to collaborate with Kanye West one day.
How would you describe your personal style?
Comfortable, gender neutral for the most part though very feminine at times. Casual chic—though that sounds really lame.
What comes to mind when you hear Dr. Martens?
I think of attitude and an individualistic kind of vibe. Dr. Martens is pretty stable, practical, appeals to a wide range of people, and is not necessarily concerned with the frills or keeping up with trends. The Dr. Martens shoe stays true to its original design; it’s very unisex and it gives a kind of badass accent to anything.
Tell us about your first pair of Dr. Martens.
My first pair of Doc’s were the 1461 in black. Super simple but with that thick Dr. Martens heel. I liked that they were nondescript but they gave me some height.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Making my own rules.