Whitney Shay primed for album release show after COVID-19 postponed her previous three album release gigs

Singer Whitney Shay is a four-time San Diego Music Awards winner
Singer Whitney Shay, a four-time San Diego Music Awards winner, is all revved up for her thrice-delayed album-release concert. “I try to provide respite and entertainment,” she says.
(Howard Lipin / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Her Friday concert at the Music Box comes more than a year after the San Diego vocal dynamo’s “STAND UP!” topped Billboard’s national Blues Album charts


Will the fourth time be the charm for Whitney Shay, whose album-release concert Friday night at the Music Box comes 16 months after it was originally set to take place?

The chart-topping San Diego blues-soul vocal dynamo is counting on it.

Shay was originally scheduled to perform her album-release gig at the Belly Up on March 26, 2020. It was postponed because of the COVID-19-fueled shutdown of live events.

A new date at the Belly Up, set for June 28 last year, also fell through. So did the Dec. 20 album-release livestream show she had arranged as an alternative to performing in front of an audience.

“With the pandemic numbers getting worse at the time, we knew it would be better to wait,” said Shay, the 2019 Artist of the Year and Best Blues Album winner at the San Diego Music Awards.

Her latest album, “STAND UP!”, was released in early 2020 by Germany’s Ruf Records. It topped the national Billboard Blues Album charts in April 2020. That was a month after she filed for unemployment benefits — a move prompted by all of her local concerts and national and international tour dates falling through because of the pandemic.

The fact that Friday night’s album-release event is happening at all makes it a belated “pinch me” moment for the La Mesa native and 2008 San Diego State University theater major.

“After the third time we had to cancel, I was like: ‘Well, I guess we’ll never have an album-release concert,” she said. “Then, the Music Box reached out to me, and I thought: ‘Here’s a perfect way to do the release show after all.’ ”

Sheay was scheduled for two 2020 concert tours of Europe and a tour of Brazil. All were canceled. Ditto several North American festival dates, all her San Diego area gigs and last September’s annual Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.

“With shows coming back now, you realize even more that you never take music for granted,” said Shay, who sang the national anthem at Petco Park at the April 21 San Diego Padres/Milwaukee Brewers game.

“As far as I now know, I have a confirmed Ruf Records Revue tour from Sept. 3 to Oct. 10 that will start in Germany and go to Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Scotland and England.”

Even though her concert and festival dates evaporated during the pandemic, Shay kept busy. She worked on new songs, did livestream performances, filmed a video for the 2020 San Diego Blues Festival, wrote financial grant applications for musician friends, learned how to cook, and took virtual kickboxing classes.

In addition, she dove into academia with online jazz vocal ensemble and ear-training classes at Grossmont College. And she took four graphic design courses last fall at San Diego City College — also online — and another four this spring.

“It seemed like a good idea to learn a new skill set, just because our industry has never been closed down for a year before,” Shay said. “I got straight A’s!”

She is now happily back on stage with her band, which features red-hot guitarist Laura Chavez. Shay is also working with fellow singers Tanya McKenna and Cassie B. in the newly formed DecaDames, Her artistic goal is the same as it ever was.

“In general in life, I try to provide respite and entertainment,” Shay said. “People have been through enough this past year and we really don’t need more depressing music. I think people need to be uplifted.”

Whitney Shay album-release concert, with The Sleepwalkers

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: The Music Box, 1337 India St., downtown

Tickets: $15 (must be 21 or older to attend)


Phone: (619) 795-1337