I'm Shai Littlejohn,
a singer songwriter, lawyer, auntie, "Shai-mom", wife later-in-life, and writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. I'd live on motivational podcasts and chocolate cake alone, if I could. You'll often find me in the window seat of an airplane curled up with the latest self help or business books or replaying my favorite songs over and over again in my head.
I get lost in time writing songs to express, with music, the words I don't always take the time to say. I've released three EPs, and I have another one on the way. What I love most in this world: my family and friends and traveling to just about anywhere on the planet.
This blog is about how I stopped allowing work to dominate my life and creating one of my choosing by blending traditional pursuits with unconventional aspirations. I've sat in board rooms negotiating multimillion dollar transactions, and I've lived out my dream of touring as a performing songwriter, and just about everything in between.
I'll share simple, achievable steps, inspiring stories and a fresh point of view that will help you ignite your life and believe in yourself to create the changes you want to see.
When you don't fit the mold, you just know it. But you can't force yourself to be someone you're not and expect to be happy too. As such, Shai considers law and music to be inextricably woven in her life. She's a rare combination of the creative and the analytical, and it hasn't always been easy striking a balance between the two. The award-winning songwriter, performing artist and licensed corporate lawyer, has released three projects since ending her Washington DC law practice and moving to Nashville in 2012.
“After many years of trying to fit a mold, I learned to approach life with less pressure and fewer expectations from others. Of course, when you're lawyering, you want people to recognize you as a legal professional. When you're an artist, you want to be recognized as an artist. Above all, you fear not rising to the occasion, or selling yourself short, by pretending to be someone you're not at any given point. Over the years, I've let go of worrying about the mold. Instead, I've chosen to experience a fuller life that allows me to stay true to myself and express my gifts, talents and intellect in a way that's authentic to me."
Shai dreamed of being professional singer ever since her first performance at a talent show when she was in the third grade. She was however raised to be a lawyer. Her dad, and biggest champion, always encouraged her to understand the law so that she'd know her rights. Though she was only in middle school, her father tasked her with filing papers and answering the phone at his law practice for an hour after school a few times per week. She earned $3.50 for the hour, which was enough to buy a Roy Rogers hamburger, just around the corner from the office. Years later, Shai's mom and dad moved her into a dorm at Howard University in Washington DC where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism, eventually earning a full scholarship to Howard University School of Law. Three years later, she graduated Howard for a second time, and was licensed to practice law.
Despite her early successes, Shai describes herself as a formerly "overworked and out of balance Washington lawyer." After representing clients for more than a decade (while singing in musical ensembles and church choirs on the weekends), she grew increasingly dissatisfied that work dominated her life. (Listen to her song Blue Streak on Spotify). Shai embarked on what she described as "an unconventional summer vacation" to Berklee College of Music. Soon after, she enrolled at Berklee full time. Shai spent two semesters there before moving to Nashville. Once in Tennessee, she began to perform at songwriter nights and won the Tennessee Songwriter Association's Horizon Award for emerging songwriters, toured with her band to DC, MD, VA, NC and landed two songs in rotation on country radio in Canada.
Shai wrote "Peace of Mind" the night before she was going into the studio to record four other songs. She wanted a ballad, so she penned the song about her relationship with her husband, Spencer. She wrote "The Next Five Years" about how she'd spend her life after her mom's passing.
“I packed my car and drove to Nashville on March 11, 2012, three months after my mom passed away. I didn't realize until five hours into the drive that it was my mom's birthday," she recalls. “My move to Nashville was like therapy. My mom had given me an incredible gift just before she died: she told me that she'd done everything she had wanted to do with her life. It's like she was giving me permission to do everything I wanted with mine. Being creative feeds my soul. It's not just something I want to do, but it's what I have to do to feel alive. Making music was a dream come true. It was the first time I felt like the stars were aligned.”
Though she's never been nominated for a GRAMMY®, CMA®, and ACM® Award, the singer, songwriter, lawyer, wife-later-in-life, sister, daughter and friend doesn't lament because she has lived her dream. “I’ve never experienced more joy, and flow, than when writing songs or recording in the studio. I love the collaboration that comes from music. Singing is one of the things I was born to do, otherwise it wouldn't make me feel this good. But there's still more to do."