We caught up with Atlanta-based artist Sabiine following the release of her stunning single ‘Hotline’. Read the in-depth interview now!
Hi Sabiine, tell us about yourself?
I guess if I wanted people to know one thing about me, it would be that I have a strong belief that people can chase their dreams and make positive things happen for themselves in their lives.
A few years ago, I was a struggling college student swamped in debt doing what society had laid out for me to do. I made a conscious decision to take a chance on myself and pursue a career in music to follow my passion.
I don’t know what’s in store for me for the future, but I do know that I took a chance on myself to pursue my dream of creating original music that hopefully can speak to people and improve their lives.
You’re based in Atlanta, what’s the music scene like there?
Atlanta is a blast when we’re not all bored in the house due to Coronavirus. Lots of nightlife. Tons of talented people. Good restaurants and bars.
Atlanta’s got a well-deserved reputation for being a global epicentre for rap, trap, and R&B and you can hear some of those influences in my song Hotline. There’s a huge diversity of musical cultures and influences here.
Atlanta’s big enough to have a developed music scene with music studios and entertainment professionals to support the recording and business aspects of a music career, while still being a little off the beaten track when compared to places like New York, L.A., or London making it a more affordable and accessible place to live and work.
I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing people to work within Atlanta like my producer and my manager.
Tell us about your latest release ‘Hotline’?
There’s a story behind ‘Hotline’, but honestly, ‘Hotline’ was my way of coping with a disappointing interaction with a close friend. I was very close with this person for a long time, and we would talk frequently on the phone.
Our relationship had been based on mutual respect and trust, but things changed and started to go downhill. Towards the end, my friend would just call all the time to vent, but that level of reciprocation that we’d had in the past was gone.
I was joking about it with a friend and just said: “What am I some kind of hotline?”. And that’s where the song idea and name came about.
I had lots of emotions following my falling out with that person. I felt manipulated and walked on and sad. I channelled my frustration with the whole situation to write ‘Hotline’.
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
I write my music to untangle my own thoughts and express my own emotions. Hopefully, fans can pick up on that and take some meaning from it in their own lives.
If there’s any message I want my fans to take from my music, it’s that they can access what’s inside of them and tell their own story. We all are unique, and we all have a story and sharing that vulnerability with the world is what helps us connect to each other.
Who are your musical influences?
I am just floored by how Amy Winehouse was able to put it all out there, and her skill in pairing lyrics to melody is hard to beat in my opinion. A song like ‘Stronger than Me’ is really unique in the way it captures the experience of being a woman trying to date these days.
Little Dragon brings such a unique sound. Yukimi Nagano’s voice is just exceptional, the lyrics are on point, and they do an incredible job of walking the line between music that is accessible without being formulaic. ‘Constant Surprises’ is basically an anthem for my life in the way it sums up the magic of everyday experiences when you’re connected and in touch with your reality.
I love the way Frank Ocean can tell a story using metaphors and imagery. His songs are definitely about something, and I’m sure he knows what they mean to him, but they leave the opportunity for the listener to find their own meaning there in a moment of clarity.
I tried to do something similar with my song ‘Water’. I know what it means to me, but I think everyone can bring their own take on what water is stronger and where or what their island is.
Who are your non-musical influences?
All my song narratives are rooted in relationships with people. They aren’t always role models, but they had an impact on me in terms of inspiring my music.
Relationships can be so complex and magnificent and painful. There’s a lot for me to observe and write about and be influenced by. Emotions are an influence on my music. Love, longing, regret, acceptance, lust, happiness.
From a personal perspective, I find connection and influences from certain people in my life, not all who want to be called out in an interview. There are a few people who have really inspired me by their belief in my abilities, their tangible support, and their ability to show me how to apply some structure and discipline to my career and the way I live my life. I’m very grateful to have their support.
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
This is going to sound funny, but during Corona, I started playing live on this silly app called Spoon. It kept me sane and let me connect with people even though I was stuck in the house and I actually was able to increase my fan base in the U.S. and reach people I never would have had a chance to access from here in Atlanta.
One night, someone organized a big Spoon live concert with all the singers from Spoon which drew this really enormous audience. My performance wasn’t much, I played a John Mayer cover of ‘Daughters’ sitting on my bed in my P.J.’s, and it just brought the house down.
I’ve played other gigs for sure, and they are all a rush. Performing live is amazing, but something about it being early April during lockdown without knowing what was going to happen to the world and being able to connect virtually with that many people really lifted my mood and carried me through the rest of the month.
You have an E.P. due for release called, ‘Dragonfruit’, can you tell us any more details about the release?
Dragonfruit opens with ‘Water’ which is a love song I guess, but more than that. Early in the pandemic, I was dealing with writer’s block, so my manager challenged me to write a love song which he called a classic form of American pop music.
I tried to write something that was vulnerable and unironic, that would capture the terrifying but exhilarating feelings I have when I experience love.
‘Hotline’ is a bop. It’s a little bit of a ‘f*ck you’ song and its meant to be fun and accessible. I could imagine myself listening to it while I do makeup and get ready to go out. ‘Still Miss You’ is one of those regret songs I’ve been talking about.
You can love someone, but still know things are not going to work out, but also still have those feelings and emotions because you wish it could. It’s very much in the style of an old Chet Baker song with jazz elements, but of course, I created it using electronic harmonies because its 2020 and I’m not a 1950’s Greenwich Village Bohemian.
For ‘Laces you Tied’, I wanted a track that could show off my vocals, and I wanted to make something stripped down and basic. For all the dance music on the pop charts, I have a huge appreciation for songs that are chill and that I can listen to cooking dinner or on Sunday Morning. There’s an old Mazzy Star song ‘Fade into You’ that I used as an inspiration track for it.
My producer, Tyler Gunz, and I worked incredibly hard on this E.P. It wasn’t easy recording during the pandemic. We had to find times that worked for both of our schedules, trust each other to not be stupid and get us infected, communicate, work, and just be creative together.
The E.P. definitely represents a collaborative effort, and I’m just so grateful that I was able to have this creative outlet while the world has been on lockdown. I hope the music can bring the same type of connectedness and happiness I felt making it to others when they listen to it.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
Simply getting people to listen to your songs. Exposure in a very saturated market. Everything is always shifting in the music industry too. It is definitely not like the old days where some good songwriting could land you an A&R deal, and then the record company takes care of the rest.
Promotion is extremely important, and I feel like musicians need to be social media stars and data scientists to get an edge on listeners. I very much doubt that Amy Winehouse was thinking about things like stream to listener ratios or save rates.
At the same time, the new music industry has eliminated a lot of the gatekeepers and barriers for new artists. With technologies like Abelton, Distrokid and Spotify really anyone with the desire can create music and put it out there for the public.
Facebook and Google ads allow you to reach far more people across a much larger geography than was possible in the past. Still, though, venues like YMX and other blogs and music services are essential in reaching new audiences.
I heard recently that something like 20,000 new songs is released to Spotify per day. I’m very grateful to industry experts like you who are interested in me and my music and are willing to highlight it to your readers.
What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?
Make time to invest in yourself and your music. Balance the writing with self-care. Make sure to love yourself and keep your confidence up. Write music that you love and are proud of. It’s an amazing thing to create a song and add it to the global library of sounds. That’s a concrete creation that you are adding to the universe.
Take pleasure in the fact that people are streaming your music and becoming your fans rather than obsessing about the daily count of listeners and followers. When I’m blue, I’ll take the time to visualize someone actually listening to my music right at this very moment, and there’s a lot of happiness in that.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
I’d like to continue to grow in my songwriting and artistic abilities. I’m looking to challenge myself to find the edge of my creativity. I’d love for my music to blow up, but that’s not something I have direct control over.
Hopefully, I’ve created music that speaks to people and will find an audience. What I control is the process. I’m already back in the studio with Tyler, and we’re working on new music.
I’m hoping to transition from E.P.’s to a full-length album. I know albums are out of style these days with the pressure to constantly update your catalogue to drive your streaming metrics, but what I want creatively is to create a holistic, old school album, with a theme and a song sequence that makes sense and is more than just a sum of its individual songs.
I’d love to work with more people. Incorporate more natural instruments into my recordings. I’d love for this pandemic to be over and to start playing live.
FV Music Blog October 2020
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