An Interview With The Rising Singer-Songwriter, PONTEA!
Posted On 30 Jun 2017
A raw and vibrant artist, Pontea is preparing to make her mark on the musical world. Her music is a perfect blend of R&B and soulful pop that is infused with rhythmic beats and ambient synths, which render her distinct sound. Born and raised in Los Angeles to Persian Jewish immigrants, Pontea initially conformed to the expectations of her heritage. After graduating from UCLA, she decided to flip the script and pursue her lifelong dream of being a singer, a path that has always been challenged by her culture’s limitations on social norms and expectations.
Growing up in an artistic family, Pontea’s father was a talented singer, whose voice would fill the house with songs from Iran, Italy and 60’s pop. Her mother, a prolific poet, would lull her to sleep with ancient Persian poetry each night. This love of the arts and music in her home fostered her lust for creativity and artistic expression. From a young age, she became the entertainment at every large family gathering.
During her formative years, the self-described drama queen and theatre geek was heavily involved in dance, musical theater and choir. After composing piano pieces that frequently won composition awards, Pontea’s songwriting itch evolved to a more modern and pop-centric sound. Brought on by her affinity for singing soulful vocals and a need to channel a rollercoaster of emotions from her tumultuous high school relationship, the songs began pouring out one after the other. “A lot of my music is about breakups and makeups, the dysfunctions in relationships, moments of weakness and temptation, flirtation, and the effort to maintain my sense of self within them,” she notes, adding, “I also feel a strong pull toward reflecting on society and the ways of today’s generation.” Her lyrical content reflecting on her inner turmoil give a cutting edge to what one may perceive as upbeat electro pop on their first listen.
Over the last few years, Pontea has been garnering attention throughout Southern California for her fiery and captivating live performances. No stranger to the local scene, she has performed at The House of Blues, The Federal and Genghis Cohen. With her ability to evoke the ebb and flow of raw emotion and a modest sensuality in her vocals, along with dynamic body movements and impromptu beat boxing, her magnetic presence on stage keeps the audience glued to her every move.
Pontea’s debut EP marks a defining moment in her evolution as a songwriter. As she continues to evolve, she challenges herself to step outside her comfort zone while remaining authentic and true to her voice. Proud and more motivated than ever, Pontea is excited to release this new body of work, and more thereafter, into the world as she displays her wide range and lasting sound.
Connect With Pontea Here:
Link to Unpredictable single: http://smarturl.it/iampontea
Unpredictable Lyric Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uw61j10MOvA
Learn more about Pontea in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What are some words you would use to describe 2016 for you and your music? How has 2017 been treating you?
Hi! Thank you for having me! Some words to describe 2016: Self-discovery, following my instincts, pushing my comfort zone, making changes, staying authentic, avoiding comparison, being inspired, trying new things with my music, lots of challenges – and reaching moments of clarity.
2017 – working my ass off to release this music, it’s my “coming out” party, hustling, keeping my head down and believing in myself. Avoiding comparison and respecting my own journey.
Where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it?
I’m sitting in bed listening to “Skin” by Jamie Woon with headphones. What a song.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? How did your very artistic parents influence you and your music passion?
My mom started me on piano lessons before the 1st grade. From then on, I composed pieces on the piano, wrote poetry, was a dancer, and was always involved in a performing art. I’ve wanted to be an actor or performer ever since I could remember. Growing up, my dad’s beautiful voice filled the house with songs from his time in Iran, and we would do duets and karaoke together. I was the entertainment at every large family gathering, whether it was putting on a dance show, doing a piano recital, singing my originals, or playing some sort of character. This love of arts in my home fostered my lust for creativity and has made me who I am.
If you weren’t an artist today, what else could you see yourself doing?
It’s hard to say just one thing because I’ve always felt like there are so many avenues I could take. I love acting and the world of motion picture and television. Most of the time as I watch movies I’m thinking of the audition process and behind the scenes, and have always been fascinated by the casting process. So I’d probably do something in casting if not actually acting. For a while I saw myself being a sex or music therapist, which is why I got my degree in psychology. I also really enjoy the world of real estate, so I could become a broker and do that. Eventually I’d like to start an after school program for young girls and adolescents to build self-esteem and explore the arts.
After you graduated from UCLA was it scary completely changing career paths and pursuing music full time? Was your family supportive of you? What do you think ultimately got you to make that big decision?
I had been toying with the idea throughout high school and college, but my parents put a huge emphasis on education and getting a degree, and I agreed with this, so I did. Once I graduated and made the leap, it was scary but almost inevitable. All I daydreamed about was being on stage, in the recording studio, writing music, and spreading love through music. I knew I would regret not taking a chance. I would look back angry with myself for choosing a conventional life that was expected of me by my culture. It wasn’t easy abandoning a would-be life of assurance and comfort, and it’s still not easy.
I’m constantly challenging the expectations of a woman’s role in my society. I took a shot in the dark at music – had no idea what I was doing, everything was unpredictable. All I had was a blind faith that kept me going. The good thing is that my parents are my biggest supporters. They see my passion and believe in me. My dad never had the opportunity to pursue a musical career in his day due to conservative pressures of his culture. He knows what it’s like to be held back from a dream. He and my mom have been great at respecting my need for artistic expression. I am eternally grateful for them.
What was the inspiration for your current single, “Unpredictable”? How do you think it prepares listeners for more music that you will release?
“Unpredictable” marked the moment where my love for R&B and soulful pop joined with my love for electronic music. The song evokes experiences in a relationship I’m sure many can relate to: the dizzying push pull where you have no idea what signals are being sent. You’re feeling vulnerable and done with the games, wishing your heart wasn’t at that person’s disposal, but also helpless in your devotion.
This style of rhythmic beats, ambient vibes, and soulful vocals, as well as the raw and honest lyrics are heard throughout the EP.
How is the video for your next track, “Come Over” coming together? How involved are you with the making of your music videos?
I just got the final cut of the video, and I am so frikkin’ excited! It’s everything I imagined and more. I’m very much involved in every aspect of my music, directing my vision from songwriting, to every detail in production, to every image you see of me. Everything you see and hear is a perfect reflection of my artistry at this current stage. I’m also so thankful to have a fantastic team that has collaborated with me and helped me bring everything to life
Can you talk about what it’s been performing so much here in Los Angeles? What have you learned from it all? What are some of your favorite venues to play at?
I’ve learned that I will always without a doubt be extremely anxious before getting on stage, especially for a bigger more important show. My heart races, I can’t think clearly, I have butterflies. But I’ve also learned that as soon as I get up there, somehow things suddenly calm down, as I’m overcome by this utter zest of connecting to an audience and sharing this dimension of myself.
Every show no matter how big or small is a chance to unite with people, hone my skill, and feel grounded with my message.
I recently performed at The Hotel Café, which was a big night for me. The crowd was amazing and it quickly became my favorite venue. I also love the Federal in Noho.
Who are some of your very favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Inspirations: Lauryn Hill, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Ed Sheeran, Alicia Keys, James Blake, Jamie Woon, Bonobo, Ella Fitzgerald, Melody Gardot, John Legend, Eminem.
I’d love to work with Jamie Woon, James Blake, Banks, Sohn, Ed Sheeran, Justin Timberlake, Meghan Trainer.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Interconnection is the driving force of human beings. We crave to feel heard, to belong, to relate. I want to be a part of bringing unity through love of music, I want to move people – physically and mentally, make people feel heard, ignite a bond.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started on this music path? Or even to someone young that is thinking of becoming a musician one day?
Work your butt off.
Comparing yourself to other people is one of the biggest pitfalls as an artist; at least it has been for me. I am constantly concentrating on staying true to my own voice, what I think is the best way to do something, and to silence the outside noise that is not helpful to my growth. Of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel inspired and want to follow in someone’s footsteps. But comparison has an evil way of making you feel less worthy, especially in this social media age. Stay focused, follow your gut, stay present, rehearse, be open to new ideas, but trust yourself.