Toronto’s most promising new artist, Saya, spills the beans on her upcoming EP 'Ready to Burn', being in a good place both as a person and an artist, and looking ahead.
For many of us, the pandemic brought chaos to our feet, but for one rising singer-songwriter, it was a blessing in disguise. Over the past year, Saya found her rhythm again and now has her eyes on the prize with upcoming EP ‘Ready to Burn’.
Stepping into the spotlight back in 2016 with her debut single “Wet Dreams”, Saya quickly picked up attention around the world. However, it wasn’t always easy for the alt-pop artist. From Soundcloud struggles to dropping out of university, Saya’s musical journey has been self-described as “chaotic”. Nevertheless, whilst the ups and downs continued, Saya found her feet with her first musical output since taking a break in 2018.
After leaving her major label deal and falling out of love with music, time off over the past few years has allowed Saya to challenge the deep roots of her identity and become honest in her work. By finding new producers and reconnecting with long-time friends such as her writing partner Alexandra Soumalias, Saya believes she’s in a good place ahead of her new release. Delving into the creative vision of a relationship and what that brings, ‘Ready to Burn’ is a six-track EP of vulnerability, rawness, and the admittance of our true feelings.
Notion caught up with the promising returning voice of Saya to talk about her new project, the joys of being an introvert in the middle of a pandemic, growth as an artist and everything in-between.
What have the past few weeks entailed and what has 2021 been like for you?
The last two weeks have been hectic. I’ve been really creative lately, I’ve been starting to paint again and writing a lot of poetry. I also wrote the track list for another new project that I want to release after “Ready to Burn”. I also got into the studio before I left and wrote a couple of the tracks off that new project. I recently went to New York to visit my best friend, Zhamak Fullad, who’s a director. We did a short film for one of the songs of the EP “Ready to Burn”. I wrote that with her and I’m really excited.
2021 has been productive, creative, and free. It’s an interesting time for me, a lot of changes, but everything feels like it’s falling into place.
Emerging onto the music scene back in 2016 with your debut single “Wet Dreams”, how would you describe your musical journey?
I started making music many years before 2016. I’ve been writing my whole life. I started releasing my original music on YouTube at a very young age and then eventually Soundcloud. Then I was at university for a year, which I didn’t enjoy. That year I took a trip to LA, and I realised that I wanted to take music more seriously. Shortly after that trip I started gaining attention for my releases on Soundcloud, and things started to take off.
My musical journey has been chaotic. There’s been a lot of ups and downs. I think you have to ride it out, not give up and keep going. Take each day as it comes.
You are currently preparing for a new era with your upcoming EP ‘Ready to Burn’. How would you describe the evolution of your sound from the start to now?
It’s becoming really honest. I started off making indie music when I was very young. It was indie-folk, singer-songwriter music. I grew up listening to the likes of Bob Dylan and classic rock, because of my mom and dad. I used music as an outlet because I was bullied in school – I had a hard time. My music was darker when I was younger, and eventually became more pop. I was very influenced by The Weeknd’s album “Trilogy” in high school. I was also influenced by early Asap Rocky production, Travis Scott production and other works produced by Mike Dean.
You’ve already teased fans with the release of singles “Sick” and “Death to Me”. Could you tell us more about the inspirations and influences behind the project?
It’s driven by heartache and being in a relationship and what comes along with that. It’s also about being human, feeling vulnerable and allowing myself to let my walls down. I think for so long, I’ve been afraid to admit my more raw feelings in my music. So ‘Ready to Burn’ is about pain, those raw emotions, and the truth.
How did you approach this project in terms of the creative process and production compared to previous work?
Previous work felt less organic. I was constantly doing session after session and would get burnt out pretty quickly. There was always a lot of hands in the project, which led me to not trusting my own intuition and process. But with my latest work, I was doing a session maybe once a month when we started, and every session we did, I was like, this is going on the project, this is an amazing song. Every single session I did, I made a song that ended up on this project. I kept hitting the nail on the head, and something was clicking, so I went with it. It took a long time, but I’m happy with where we landed on it.
If you had to pick, which would be your favourite track from the EP?
It changes every day, but “Novocaine”. I probably shouldn’t have said that, but it’s okay, I don’t care. “Novocaine” is the last track on the project, and it’s a ballad, really sad. I think it’s the saddest song on the EP, and that’s what the short film I did with my friend Zhamak Fullad is for. It’s about Stockholm syndrome in a relationship. Sometimes you don’t even realise what you’re going through until you’ve gone through it, and then it’s over.
This is your first project since parting ways with your label. How have you overcome that challenge – especially when the pandemic hit?
It was hard. 2018 was a hard year for me, I spiralled into depression. But I have good friends who care about me. And even though they don’t live in the same city as me, I can always reach out to them and be creative with them. I also know how to keep myself motivated when it gets dark and I know how to get myself out of that place. I’m a bit of an introvert, so nothing really changed for me too much when the pandemic hit. I’m not too social. I don’t really get out much. I like to be in my room, make art, research, go to the studio, so I don’t mind isolation. You could say I prefer it.
And do you feel like you have blossomed during the pandemic?
Yeah, for sure. I think I addressed a lot of things about myself that I needed to work on. I think people spend their whole lives running from themselves, and if you can look your soul in the mirror and tackle those deep roots of what’s causing you issues, then you’re stepping in the right direction.
I feel like I’m in a good place, I feel very creative right now, and I’m not sure why but I’m grateful.
And what have you learnt from those experiences to grow and become a better artist?
I think you should just be a good person and be true to yourself. We live in a world where you can pretend to be anyone you want. But I think you’re going to be happiest if you’re you, and there’s nothing wrong with being your authentic self and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. I’ve learned that through the pandemic. I like to be my authentic self, and I guess that plays into being an artist. The more authentic I am, the better art I make and the more creative I am.
Who are your favourite up-and-coming artists right now, and who’s your dream collaboration?
I don’t listen to a lot of current music, not going to lie. I think PinkPantheress is pretty cool. That’s one new artist that I actually found refreshing and interesting. My influences change daily, but right now, my dream collab would be with Kid Cudi, but I really want to work with Mike Dean. He’s a producer, who’s worked with Kanye, Travis and The Weeknd.
What does the future hold as 2022 is just around the corner?
So, we have my new project coming out, ‘Ready to Burn’. Then we have another project that’s going to come after that, and my short film, alongside some more visuals and lots of photos. I also really want to go on tour, but it’s hard to navigate that by myself. But it’ll come at the right time, and when it does, I’m ready and excited.