Posted On 05 Oct 2018
Devastated by the Syrian refugee crisis, Sevi Ettinger, a 15-year-old girl living in Shanghai, is heartbroken as she observes reports of the plight that these people – adults and children alike – are forced to endure. She pours her pain into a song and expresses their grief into lyrics:
Overcome with emotion, Sevi allowed the song to freely flow, recording it via an app on her phone. “Salty Water” is a reflection of the tears of the refugee children she is channeling in the song, as well as her own empathy. The song is the title track of Salty Water (Sevillana Records), her debut EP produced by Grammy Award-winning Jeff Bova, Phillip Jarrell, and Sevi Ettinger, mixed by Jeff Bova and mastered by Bernie Grundman.
Not musically trained in the traditional sense, Sevi hones a unique cognizance of arrangement and creativity. She writes songs in three or four part harmonies and background parts, that are not just for coloring but part of the definitive body of the song. She can’t hear the song without them.
Her social consciousness and emotional maturity also permeates through the other three songs on the EP. The vibrant danceable bounce of “Live” (“Daydream…Dream The Things No One’s Dreamt Before”) and “Don’t Fall Behind,” in which Sevi posits that the world seems out of control, give way to the deeply personal ballad “Eyes.”
“My EP is dedicated to the people who can’t be who they want to be due to fear, violence, and discrimination,” states Sevi. This is expressed in the EP’s artwork, whereby the colored smoke depicts the bombed cities like Aleppo, which ejected the dust-covered faces of the children without homes, forced into a totally alienating bewildering future. “No matter your age, we all have a voice to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem,” she continues.
Bringing the story full circle, Sevi is a top fundraiser for USA for UNHCR’s (the UN Refugee Agency) “A Mile Together” campaign, benefitting refugees.
For more information, please visit: https://www.seviettinger.com/
Learn more about Sevi Ettinger in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you now? Is there music playing in the background?
Well, I am a high school student, so these questions are being answered in between classes and after doing some of my homework, haha.
All Access Music is currently compiling a list of our artist’s favorite songs this summer so what has been your song of the summer?
My song of the summer was definitely “No Tears Left to Cry” by Ariana Grande. I find the song so relatable because she expresses that it’s okay to feel better, even after dealing with something traumatic. I feel the same way, and that positivity is so important; even if I go through something negative and life-changing, eventually feeling positive about myself is okay.
Now that we are on the back end of the year, how do you think 2018 has treated you and your career? What has been one goal that you have had this year and how close are you to reaching it? Or did you already reach it?
This has been a very exciting year for me. I released my debut EP, “Salty Water”. This was one of my goals and I am so happy I was able to accomplish this! I hope to follow up with an album, so I have been busy working on that. Over the summer, I was able to work on 5 new songs that I am very excited to get back into the studio to record.
Growing up, was music always a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience? Can you see yourself ever doing anything else?
I’ve been singing since I was around 2 or 3 years old and have always, spontaneously, created songs in my head. If I am sitting at my desk, I’m singing; if I am walking down the street, I am singing; in the car, still singing! Things really changed when I got my hands on music-making computer software – this is when I truly recognized that I had an expansive creative space and that’s when my songwriting abilities really kicked in. I finally had a way to organize my thoughts and map out my songs.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
I think the biggest surprise for me is that I have been able to take my music from my bedroom and release it to as many people as I can to help inspire. There is so much negativity in the world today, and so my motivation is to spread more positivity through my music and lyrics and help inspire anyone who will take the time to listen. In fact, my first single, Salty Water, came to life after I started doing research about the Syrian refugee crisis in Aleppo. I was so passionate about finding a way to give those refugees a voice— little did I know that songwriting was the way I could do it!
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live today?
Through my music, I have been able to express my feelings about global social issues (such as the Syrian refugee crisis). Living in China and seeing so many different cultures through my travels, I’ve become so much more appreciative of what I have and what I can give back to society, and the response from my community has been inspirational. It is encouraging me to continue to write and continue to question how we can all do better. For instance, one of my songs on my EP, “Live”, speaks to giving back while we still can.
Let’s talk about your recently released EP “Salty Water.” What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you about the overall process of it all?
It took me and the team around me about a year and a half to make, which includes recording and producing. Throughout that time, I was definitely surprised with how far my songwriting skills developed. Even though I have endless songwriting ideas, I learned how to focus my thoughts and to turn various components of a song into a finished recording. When each song is complete, and I play it back, I feel like it’s not just my voice, but the voice of those who can’t be heard and need to be heard. That’s what most gratifying.
I would love to know more about writing your first song, “Salty Water.” How did seeing the footage of the Syrian refuge crisis affect you and inspire you to write this track?
I was reading the news in my room about the refugee crisis and it really shocked me and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I felt this strange desire to deeply express this topic and try to understand their points of view. I spontaneously picked up my phone, downloaded a backing track that was written by Nate McCray and, for the first time, I knew immediately how I was going to fill it. In less than an hour, Salty Water was created. It’s still hard to believe that now it’s on over 150 digital platforms and people are responding to it in such a positive way. Since then, I’ve made a Salty Water music video, an EP, and I’ve been collaborating with the USA for UNHCR to raise money for its “A Mile Together” campaign and will soon help with the USA for UNHCR’s “A Billion Miles Together” campaign.
Can you explain the inspiration behind the others songs on this EP? How did they get to a part of this collection?
Most of my songs follow a pattern of advocacy and expression of general topics that can be applied to social issues, individual and collective experiences, and more. In fact, even though Salty Water doesn’t mention the word “refugee” in it, and even though this song is especially dedicated to refugees around the world, the lyrics can be applied to so many more circumstances. In terms of the musical style of my EP, I incorporated a variety of upbeat and slow songs to show my songwriting capabilities and to attract audiences of all kinds. The upbeats songs include “Live” and “Don’t Fall Behind” while the slow songs are “Salty Water” and “Eyes”.
What has it been like being a fundraiser for USA for UNHCR “A Mile Together” campaign? How did you first get to be a part of it all?
My involvement in the “A Mile Together” campaign and soon “A Billion Miles” campaign was because of my Salty Water single and music video. Not only did I want to give others a voice through my music, but I wanted to use it to create real change. With the UNHCR campaigns, I want to use my music to continue to raise money and provide resources for refugees around the world. I’m looking forward to getting more and more people to join me.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period or is your music more of an escape from all that?
My music is definitely not an escape from the reality of our society. In fact, its empathizing certain perspectives within the reality, giving a voice to those who feel unheard. I want people to hear my songs and feel understood about the issues they are going through, whether they are political or personal. As I mentioned, I like my songs to be very general so people in all kinds of circumstances can enjoy and not feel alone.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now?
As a young artist, my social media platforms are just starting to develop. While I don’t focus too much on the numbers, it’s always important to let people know when I’m doing something significant with my music, like helping with the USA for UNHCR. Despite social media being a dominate source in our society, my favorite way to connect with people is through my music, not through my pictures and captions.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
My favorite artist is currently Ariana Grande, who just released her new album, Sweetener. I love her music style, vocals, and how personal the album means to her after the terrorist attack in Manchester. In fact, we have a similar approach to our music. She talks about how she felt after the attack, while I talk about my feelings for the refugee crisis. Not only are we expressing ourselves, but expressing important social issues.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island forever, what musical item would you take with you and why?
Definitely my computer, which has my musical software on it. Not only would I be able to play around with backing tracks, I would also love to record new song ideas on it.
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
I definitely would love Salty Water to be in a movie that deals with the refugee crisis. This was the first song I wrote, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the inspiration I felt from seeing what they were going through. This will always be a very special song for me because it gave me the motivation to express their pain through my music and lyrics.
Do you have any tour dates you would like to tell our readers about? What has been a favorite performance of yours? What do you think makes an idea show for you? What’s next on your musical agenda?
Although I have yet to go on tour or have my own concert, I will have my first US appearance performing at the Mondo New York music festival in October. I have had some great experiences performing in Shanghai, One of my proudest performances so far was when I was asked to sing at an event at the Shanghai Tower in China. I was part of the musical lineup that helped raise nearly $100,000 for three children’s charities. I also was very proud to win a competition among the international schools in Shanghai called, “Heart of Stars”, which was a fundraiser that that helped children in rural parts of China receive heart surgery.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? I’d like to know more about how you want your music to be timeless?
I want my fans to feel like they can relate to my songs in all kinds of ways. I want people to enjoy my music, feel inspired by the beats, and at the same time, ask questions, challenge status quo, and remind people they can “be who they want to be”, which is the essence of my EP and titled song, “Salty Water”.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I hope everyone enjoys my EP as much as I do and listen to my lyrics to help with whatever challenges one may face in life. You can find my EP on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, GooglePlay, and many other digital platforms. You can also check out my “Salty Water” music video and “Live” lyric video on YouTube or check out my website at www.seviettinger.com.
(Photography provided by kayosproductions.com)