Rare Candy recently met with singer-songwriter Samia to talk about everything from her new single “Django” to her undying love for Father John Misty. Samia explains how it feels to tap into her emotions to write songs and how her life in New York City has shaped her career.
By Paulette Arnold
RC: Congratulations on the release of your new single, “Django”! The cover art for it is pretty similar to the covers of your other songs. How do you use the style of artwork as a reflection for the songs themselves?
SAMIA:That’s really good to hear! We were working with my friend Gina Piersanti but she got
too busy, so now I’m working with another friend, Peaches Harrison, who is equally incredible.
The simplicity and silliness along with the expression on my face and the city in my lap
represent my sentiment pretty accurately.
RC: How do you feel “Django” fits with the other singles you currently have out?
SAMIA: I don’t necessarily confine myself to a genre, and my music is kind of all over the place. I’m just putting stuff out and hoping it sounds similar. I think the only through line between the songs is mostly in my lyrics and my voice and the production. As far as musicality, I’m not sure that it is sonically consistent but I’m doing my best.
RC: You were saying that a lot of your songs have common ties in theme - a few of your songs have some religious connections, like the story from “Welcome to Eden” or referencing God and Jesus in “Someone Tell the Boys.” How do you connect your music with faith?
SAMIA: I’m definitely inspired by and fascinated with deities, gods, and all-encompassing
powers. Passionate, religious, faith is sometimes the only analogy for my own dramatic feelings.
RC: Why was the story of Eden was so drawing to you?
SAMIA: I lost a lot of friends and was defending myself; at some point I had to take a look at my own culpability and the consequences for which I was responsible. In that song I’m sort of playing God and creating an Adam and Eve story in which I’m a player and trying to accurately
and ethically decide who is in the right.
RC: “Django” as well as “Welcome to Eden” are extremely emotional. Do you find it hard to tap into such serious topics in order to write your songs?
SAMIA: I do, I do. It’s easy for me to be vulnerable and to regret it later. I’m really good at over-
sharing and not good at filtering and knowing what is acceptable to share. People always say, “Wow, you’re so good at revealing your own desperation.” Everyone seems to be afraid of being desperate and that’s funny to me because I’m so desperate all the time. [Laughs.] I guess that’s why it makes it a little bit easier for me to share this kind of material. Yeah. I’m always
embarrassed by myself later.
RC: “Someone Tell the Boys” has been kind of the breakthrough song for you and has been featured on a lot of prominent playlists. Why do you think this song in particular has resonated so much with listeners, especially as a feminist anthem?
SAMIA: I didn’t totally mean for it to be a feminist anthem. I’m so glad people feel that way and
there are enormous feminist undertones, but it really was just birthed of my anger in a moment. It’s a fun song and I’m so happy to know that people have found it to be empowering!
RC: In your October 2017 interview with The Verge you mentioned, as you were saying earlier, that it’s hard for you to solidify your music into one genre. Despite being more folk-oriented, do you feel the success of “Someone Tell the Boys” will shift you more towards pop or another genre?
SAMIA: I only have one song in that style of music, so I think people who found me through that song are maybe going to be expecting that kind of music. For better or for worse, most of my music doesn’t sound like that. I’m glad I could pull that one pop-rock anthem out of myself
somehow, but the rest of my music is pretty folk/indie-rock rooted. I love that sound, though, and hope I can find a way to recreate it someday.
RC: Do you think the folk genre is limiting to what you want to produce, especially because you aren’t so cemented in one genre or style of music?
SAMIA: Yeah, I’ve definitely started with folk because that is where most of my songwriting
naturally goes. I think it’s pretty obvious that my favorite songwriter of all time is Father John
Misty, and he makes folk-rock music really well and it’s kind of all over the place. His music is
funny and big. He’s a rock star. That’s really what I want to do, I love performing and I love being ridiculous. I’m not going to be a girl with an acoustic guitar singing infinite verses. At least not all the time.
RC: Do you think you gather a lot of your inspiration from Father John Misty?
SAMIA: Yeah, an embarrassing amount. I was taking arbitrary classes in college and it wasn’t
productive in my particular case. I wouldn’t really pay attention in class, but I would go home
and I’d read Father John Misty lyrics and I’d try to paraphrase them. If there was a word or
concept that I couldn’t understand I would research it intensely until I could understand it. I went a little bit crazy for a while, but I think it actually resulted in the college education that I wasn’t getting and I feel like I learned a lot.
RC: How does it feel knowing that Father John Misty listened to one of your songs and put “The Night Josh Tillman Listened to My Song” on one of his playlists?
SAMIA: Terrifying! Really scary! I guess I was directly asking him in the song whether or not he
liked it, but I didn’t think he would respond. I met him on the street once and I showed him that
he was my screensaver. I chased him for blocks screaming “Josh!” He showed me his
screensaver. I asked, "Is it me?”; it wasn’t. Then, he kissed my hand - I’ll never forget it.
RC: Do you find it easier to base your music on other artists and music versus your independent stories?
SAMIA: Unfortunately, I find it easier to base my art off my own experiences, which is limiting because I’ve only had so many experiences. But hopefully I can learn to write better songs about things that didn’t happen to me. Song forms and styles of writing definitely come from inspiration from other artists, poets, and authors.
RC: Are there any topics that you want to write songs about but feel like you don’t have enough information about yet?
SAMIA: I think the best experience for me to have to grow as a songwriter would be to travel
and learn more about other people whose lives are drastically different from mine and who
experience different struggles than I do. I want to explore more, especially within the country
and see what’s going on in other places. I also love when people tell me that they set my lyrics
to their own experiences - it makes me feel like I’m not writing in vain.
RC: Being so young in the industry is extremely hard. Can you talk more about your recent decision to leave the New School to focus more on your career?
SAMIA: I was in a play called The Wolves at Lincoln Center, and the rehearsal schedule was so
dense that I ended up having to make the choice between class and work, and I chose the play.
It ended up giving me a greater opportunity to focus on music and acting at the same time
instead of picking one and also focusing on school. I would love to go back to school and get a
degree in something at some point.
RC: Do you think being in New York is helpful for producing music and being at the forefront of where everything is happening?
SAMIA: Absolutely. I don’t think I’d know what I know about music without having moved to New York but it’s really overwhelming sometimes. It’s definitely a great place for music.
RC: You used to live in Los Angeles. How has the transition from LA to New York been?
SAMIA: I’m glad I moved, but I do miss LA sometimes because it’s so high energy here and
there are constantly people around. If I could find some balance between New York and LA,
that’d be ideal.
RC: Is there a big shift in the type of people on the west coast versus the east coast?
SAMIA: People seem to be more aware of industry standards in LA, and people are also nicer
there, whether or not it’s genuine. People here are more liberated to be themselves, which is
one of the reasons that I’m so glad to be here.
RC: What kind of industry standards were you facing back in LA?
SAMIA: I went to school for a while with a lot of other kids whose parents were involved in the
entertainment industry in some way. Thirteen-year-olds looked really beautiful and could be
totally brutal to one another. When I got to New York kids really just seemed like kids. It gave me a chance to be carelessly young for a while without worrying about how others were perceiving me.
RC: Being in New York is great not only for making music, but also seeing performances.
How have your experiences in the audience at New York shows been?
SAMIA: I love stumbling upon bands in New York because I’ve been pretty heavily involved in
small, upstairs venue-type circuits. I discovered a lot of great music that way, so I try to see new artists as often as possible. Live music is so accessible here.
RC: You recently performed at SUNY Purchase, how is it performing for an audience of people your own age? Is there a preference of people that you like to perform in front of?
SAMIA: If I could curate my audience every time, it would just be my friends because they are so supportive! They laugh and clap, and so it’s nice to have guaranteed audience response. I’m just happy when anyone comes out to listen, but I do like my friends a lot.
RC: Do you think that as an artist, more than in other professions, it’s really important to have a close circle of friends because you do have to be so vulnerable in order to create your works?
SAMIA: I think the lesson I’ve been learning over the past couple of years during my slow
transition into adulthood is that I only need a small handful of really good friends!
RC: Is it ever inhibiting to be working so closely with your friends?
SAMIA: Sometimes it is inhibiting to work with friends because I’m bad at saying “no”, and I
don’t like conflict, but it’s also comforting because I can be more honest with my friends than
with people I’m just working with professionally.
RC: How recently did you sign onto your new label, Grand Jury?
SAMIA: We started working together in October of last year, but “Django” is the first piece of
music that we’ve released together.
RC: How does it feel working with a company that also manages bands that you look up to?
SAMIA: It’s great and I feel like I’m in really good company. The guys at Grand Jury are some of
the coolest, most supportive people I know. They’re just really attentive and there for me, and
they’ve been so welcoming.
RC: Unfortunately, there are a lot of problems and biases in today’s music industry. Have you been facing any of these problems?
SAMIA: I’ve worked with people who have made me feel totally incapable and fraudulent, but
recently everyone I’ve been working with has been really great. I feel really lucky to be in that
position, but it’s tough for women in every profession and it always has been. I am really excited about what I see happening in entertainment, though, especially with the Time’s Up movement. There’s hope yet.
Check out Samia’s website! http://www.samiaband.com/