Shaed Reveals How They Scored an Unexpected Zayn Collab


For about a year now, alt-pop trio Shaed (vocalist Chelsea Lee and multi-instrumentalist brothers Max and Spencer Ernst) has been reaching new heights on almost a weekly basis, thanks to their breakout hit "Trampoline," which was initially featured in a MacBook Air campaign in October 2018. 

Since then, the Washington, D.C.-based group’s success as a live act has been undeniable: they embarked on their first-ever headlining tour, then another. In between, they played almost every major festival under the sun. And come 2020, they'll help cement their status as a name to know in the alternative space when they take the stage at iHeartRadio ALTer EGO.

For “Trampoline,” there were appearances on the Alternative Songs and Pop Songs charts (the song topped the former in June) and the Hot 100, where it sits at No. 22 this week. In late September, Zayn hopped on board and contributed vocals to an instantly-viral new version.

So how does the trio plan to continue building momentum with "Trampoline" -- and beyond? Billboard sat down with the trio ahead of their sold-out show at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom earlier this month to talk about where they’re at.

How did this new version of "Trampoline" with Zayn come about?

Spencer: We were in Japan [at the time] and we wanted to do a feature with another artist for "Trampoline," because it was going up at radio. We were throwing out names and one of us threw out Zayn. We love his music.

How did you connect with him initially?

Spencer: Our management team and our label knew some people there. Somebody on our team just reached out to their team, and that was it. About a week and a half [after Japan], we’re in an Airbnb in L.A. and in the morning in our inbox, it says “vocals from Zayn.” Zayn cut the vocal super fast. He was already a fan of the song and wanted a feature on it. 

Max: It showed up in the inbox! And then we only had one day before we were back on tour. We came up with the vocal arrangement, and we were just really excited about his vocal. We wanted it to feel more like a duet and less like a second verse feature. 

What's the response been like?

Spencer: The Zayn fans freaked out. They came up with the #Zrampoline hashtag. The reception has been great. Our fans really dug it, too. And we've got a lot of fans from -- obviously, Zayn has a lot of fans [laughs].

Chelsea: It's been crazy. It's just funny. It's like a whole new level of fandom, for sure, but it's fun. They're great. 

How do you keep the momentum going with a single song like this? Can you share any of that strategy? 

Max: We have like an amazing radio team at [label] Caroline [Records]. They're a super small team. It's all women and then one guy, John Mayer -- not the John Mayer, but this guy named John Mayer, who’s also real cool. They're a small team, but they've just worked so hard to just make believers out of the song.

What would you say are the challenges of being a new act blowing up on one song like this?

Chelsea: I would say just pressure to make another song. Pressure from us, pressure from our fans. We just want to be able to follow it up with an incredible song.

Max: I think it's good pressure, though. Maybe a little daunting to have this one song that really went up for us, but I think the pressure is mainly amongst ourselves to like put out something special for our fans as, like, a follow up. And then I'd say just the touring and all of the commitments that we have now. Our schedule has become a lot more intense. We've been on the road for the last six or seven months with maybe a week-long break. It's been a ton of touring, which has been a blast, but we haven't had as much time as we'd like to travel amongst us three. 

When you're constantly being put on these stages -- big and small -- what is that like? Have you gotten a little more comfortable over the past year or so? 

Chelsea: It's nice to have a variation. We play small clubs and then we play these bigger stages and that's really nice, because it's a totally different vibe. The festivals have been really fun. Especially because we haven't done them before, so this was a really great summer. Just a bunch of new learning experiences and bigger stages, for sure. It’s been really fun.

Chelsea, you’ve also been wearing some awesome outfits.

Spencer: Chelsea learned the hard way not to wear latex at Lollapalooza in hundred-degree weather...

Chelsea: I totally melted!

I would also think having to speak and sing all day, every day, presents its own set of challenges.

Chelsea: Yeah. I mean, just trying to navigate how to stay healthy vocally and physically, because we have been so back to back to back, and that's been a pretty big challenge with bigger stages, too. There was one week where we had like five festivals in a week, flying everywhere.

Max: This is the first time I've heard Chelsea speak all day. 

Chelsea: I've been [on vocal rest,] not speaking all day. It's been a whole thing. It's so frustrating because I want to say stuff if they're [Max and Spencer] being annoying or something or just want to be like, "No, you're not telling the story right” or whatever. And I can't. I'm restrained.

Max: She'll be furiously, like, typing on her phone. We need to learn actual sign language. That would be good to learn.

Chelsea: I've got a little whiteboard for the car. Yeah, I've been texting everyone.

Spencer: We were at the Whole Foods the other day and Chelsea got to the register and they looked at her...

Chelsea: I wasn't talking. [Spencer] started signing to me and I’d been so good and not spoken one word, and then he was like starting to sign to me and I just didn't want to say no [out loud]. It was a whole weird awkward thing.

Max: We were at the diner today, ordering at the table. Spencer's like, "She will have the two eggs and avocado and toast," and Chelsea's just, like, sitting there quietly. I bet you the waitress was like, "This is so weird." 

Spencer: I'm like, "Chelsea, shh." 

Max: “Don't speak and I'll say it.”

Spencer: We explain. I think the waitresses or waiters will pick up on it. 

Max: Hopefully. 

When tour wraps, do you have plans to get back in the studio?

Chelsea: One million percent, yeah. We have a studio in our house, so we'll just walk back there. We are working on [an album].

Spencer: We've got a ton of songs. I think when the tour is over, I think we're also looking forward to having some perspective on, for example with Melt, we had been doing so much touring and then when that was over, we had these songs around and I think just traveling for us gives us some good perspective. We're always trying to write lyrics and work on music in the van, but we're really excited to get back in the studio and bring that perspective to the music. 

Anything else in the pipeline?

Spencer: We have a song coming out with Mansionair. We're big fans of theirs. They're super nice. We collaborated on this song “Easier” that they released a little while ago, but they are revamping it with some Chelsea vocals on there. We helped produce the arrangement. Then, we have some other collaborations coming up in 2020.