“This time I was like, ‘I want to have fun making music…” hmv.com talks to Santigold
As she releases her new album 99ȼ (which you can preview and purchase on the right-hand side of the page), hmv.com spoke to Santigold about the development of her musical style, how motherhood influenced the sound of 99ȼ, and how she survives as an artist in 2016.
The music of Santigold is a not beholden to any one genre. How has your sense of what you can accomplish musically evolved since your days with Stiffed?
“Stiffed was one style of music that I really liked, and as we got going with it, I was feeling limited, and I get bored really easily. I have so many different musical influences and I always have, since I was a kid. John Hill was the bass player in Stiffed at the time we were done, and John and I were feeling the same way. And then Stiffed broke up, and John and I were like, ‘Good, let’s do something bigger.’ He produced my first record and we were like ‘There’s no boundaries.’
“So the spectrum got so much broader. The music style of Santigold is kind of a mash-up, collage style of music-making, so anything goes pretty much. It opened up the door for me so I could play every type of music that I ever liked and then just tie it together like you would a collage, by having some common, consistent themes, common, consistent sounds. My voice and my approach ties it all together.”
You're a new mom. Were you pregnant while you were writing and recording the album?
“I was, but I was going really slow when I was pregnant. It was just fun, and I didn’t have any pressure or deadlines or anything, and nobody even knew I was working on music. I went back into the studio for real after he was born. The two songs I actually wrote and recorded while I was pregnant were ‘Outside the War’ and ‘Run the Races’ which are darker, brooding-sounding songs. And then, once he was born the whole tone got really fun and playful.”
Why do you think that is?
“Partially because it was time to get to work and I decided, ‘OK, I’m going to enjoy making this record. I’m going to have fun.’ Making records can be really gruelling. You enjoy the creative part, but I do a lot of the heavy lifting myself or I’m working with all these different producers and all these different personalities and it’s on me to tie it all together. This time I was just like ‘I want to enjoy it. I want to have a fun time making music,’ you know? So I came into it with that approach.
“I also had this brand new bundle of joy at home who has the most wonderful energy ever, and I didn’t want to leave him and go to work and not feel that. I thought, ‘I’ll just bring that playful, light energy to my songs.’
“The topics I’m talking about aren’t that light. But if I was going to talk about consumption and narcissism and commercialism, I’m going to bring a playful tone to it so that it’s easy. You don’t even know but you find out you’re in the middle of reflecting on all these issues and thinking about them in a different light, and it’s actually a really enjoyable experience.”
You used to work at a record company. How aware are you of the ways in which you and your music are marketed to the public?
“Very aware. I think that’s where some of the lyrics were coming from. Because it can put you in a challenging position as an artist, just to exist as an artist and keep the integrity to your music. But if you want to make a living at this career, you have to be very aware of the marketing because, at this point, the marketing is probably more important than the music.
“It’s a weird environment because you can’t make a living on the music anymore. You end doing all sorts of weird, product-driven things where I will play corporate gigs and deal with licensing and branding. It’s all these business elements that take up so much more time than the art. It’s a strange place to be in for an artist.”
On that note what is your relationship like with social media and how has it impacted your relationship with your fans?
“Well, I’m not the best social media user. I should be better. I think I have more fans than social media followers because I’m not very active. So it puts me in this weird place; when corporations try to place a monetary value on how big I am, it’s really hard to gauge because I’m not that active on social media. So that’s bad for me.
“But at the same time I’m really into experience. I like experiencing moments in the moment. I like my privacy, I like being really busy, and it’s hard to constantly be in this mode of capturing and displaying, capturing and displaying, capturing and displaying as a way to put my life together for show rather than putting my life together for real.”
Is music a career you would encourage kids coming up to take on?
“Music is so powerful, so special and wonderful that anybody who feels compelled to make music as their career or purpose, I say go for it. I would say it’s really hard and you have to be prepared for that. Consequently you have to be really grounded in yourself and why you’re doing it, because it’s so easy to get lost in this industry right now. There are so many pressures – like the social aspect, celebrity, comments on the Internet. Putting yourself out there for public commentary is always hard. It’s so easy to get lost.”