An Interview With The Songstress, SANIYE About Her Newest Music on “Let’s Play”, Her Favorite Musicians and More!
Posted On 19 May 2016
Tag: A Clockwork Orange, All Access, All Access Music Group, Amy Winehouse, Artist Interview, Bartok, Bebel Gilberto, Better Off Dead, Billy Idol, Boom Sheke Nana, Bruce Springsteen, Cambria Suites, Chris Brubeck, Christmas Special, Chuck D'Aloia, Debussy, Delta Airlines, Eamon, Eliza Doolittle, Ernie Anastos, Fox, Fox TV, Germany, Grand Canyon, Hallmark, Henri Scars Struck, Hotel Cafe, Ingrid Michaelson, Izzy Jay, Janet Lawson, Jeff Buckley, John Lennon Songwriting Competition, John Nazarenko, Kubrick, Let's Play, Lily Allen, Lisa Loeb, Los Angeles Clippers, Madonna, Man Outta You, Michael Buble, Michael Jackson, Mikal Blue, MTV Europe, NBA, New York Star Of The Day, NYU, Pat Benetar, Pinball and Video Games, Prince, Puccinni, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Regina Spektor, Rockwood Music Hall, Saniye, Sarah Bareilles, Sarah McLaughlan, Skidmore College, Staples Center, Star of the Day Award, Stravinsky, Tori Amos, Turkish, When I Don't Sleep, Whitney Houston, Whole Foods, Williams Sonoma, Wu Tang Clan, YouTube
The singer-songwriter, SANIYE has won many awards including the Grand Prize in the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Competition. Her music videos aired on MTV Europe, Delta Airlines, and was on CD compilation alongside Grammy-winning artists including Tori Amos, Sarah Bareilles and Sarah Mclaughlin. She sang the national anthem in front of 20,000 people before the Los Angeles Clippers NBA game at the Staples Center in LA, went on a US national tour, headlined at Hotel Cafe to a sold-out crowd, and opened for multi-platinum singer/songwriter, Lisa Loeb all in the same year.
Saniyé’s music can currently be heard in thousands of stores across the US including Hallmark, Whole Foods, Cambria Suites, Williams Sonoma and more.
To learn more about Saniye, check out the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! How’s 2016 treating you so far? What were some of the highlights of 2015 for you and your music?
Well, 2016 so far has been a bummer because we’ve lost so many amazing legendary musicians! And we’re only a third of the way into the year. But at the same time it’s a reminder that were not promised tomorrow and to make each day count. I try my hardest to be a good person, first and foremost, a good friend, a good family member, a good company leader, a good musician. Everything is a learning experience and I’m really enjoying the ride. My favorite part of the ride most recently has been singing on Fox TV, in January of 2016 and also in 2015, when the judges gave me the Star of the Day Award after I sang an original song on Fox TV’s New York Star of Day with Ernie Anastos. That was so much fun!
The real highlight though, was finishing my new album “Let’s Play” with producer extraordinaire, Mikal Blue, in Los Angeles. We started the project in 2013 with two songs, and then I had to come back to New York. A few more trips back-and-forth, three years later, and here we are. It’s an incredible feeling to have a finished album. Working with Mikal has been a dream come true because I remember when “Bubbly” was on the radio and loving every second of that song and the production. If you told me back then that one day I’d be making an album with same producer, I would have told you that you’re out of your mind!
Another pinch me moment was recording and writing a duet with chart-topper Eamon. And it’s all because of Mikal. The opportunities I’ve had working with him in Los Angeles I’ll always be very grateful for.
Growing up, did you always want to be a performer? Have you always been interested in jazz music in particular? Where did that love come from?
Growing up I was interested in pop music because all I watched on TV besides cartoons was MTV and at the time that meant watching Madonna, Michael Jackson, Billy Idol, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Pat Benetar, Whitney Houston, and the list goes on. Madonna most especially. She was my idol, and speaking of idols, I did have a little crush on Billy Idol. He had that curly “Elvis lip” that made him even more of a heart throb to me. I’m like 7 years old, mind you. (Laughter) But anyway, I saw those music videos and wanted to be doing the same thing.
My love of Jazz music didn’t come until much later in life. Until I was studying at Skidmore College and NYU grad school. In college I was in a jazz ensemble with Chris Brubeck, which was so amazing. I took Jazz guitar lessons with the amazing Chuck D’Aloia, and a bit of Jazz piano and theory with a hugely talented professor, John Nazarenko. Then when I went to NYU for grad school, I met Janet Lawson, Grammy award nominated vocalist and educator. She really changed my life! I’m so very grateful to her.
I’m curious to know how being born in Germany with Turkish roots and living in New York now have all influenced you as an artist today?
Good question! I get asked that a lot but truthfully I was only in Germany until I was three years old, Music I was listening to them was German nursery rhymes. I still have the tape somewhere those songs do have a special place in my heart. But as far as my songwriting goes, there’s no trace of it there. Same goes for my Turkish roots. I was around some Turkish music, but again not all the time. MTV and Radio really ruled my world.
Let’s talk about your new album that you will be releasing this summer. How do you think you’ve grown on this record? How different and/or similar is “Let’s Play” to “When I Don’t Sleep”?
The first album, “When I Don’t Sleep..”, produced by Grammy award-winning composer, musician, producer, Henri Scars Struck, was an introspective, had a worldly vibe to it, and showed a shy side of me. “Let’s Play” is bold, energetic, flirty, fun, sexy, and definitely not shy! That happened because I thought I was writing songs initially for Lily Allen, and before even having the chance to pitch them to her, I ended up keeping them and now they’re on the record, ha. There’s two versions of the album actually. The original is explicit with 12 songs, the radio-friendly version has 10 songs, is PG, and censored. Naturally I prefer the original version of the album. It’s the most honest!
How creatively involved were you with the making of your video for “Man Outta You”? What was it like acting like the sultry poker dealer? Do you have any prior acting experience? How were you inspired by “A Clockwork Orange” exactly?
I’ve always thought Kubrick to be a genius, as many do, and I just think that look from a Clockwork Orange was so captivating, so original, so playful, in a dark way. I wanted to pay homage to it. Drew Wilson is the amazing director for the music video for “Man Outta You” and he let me have much creative freedom. I actually produced the music video so it’s also very much my baby, but I couldn’t have done it without help. Everyone who worked on the video was essential and I’m so grateful for them. Special shout out to Izzy Jay who was MVP behind-the-scenes. I don’t have any acting experience in front of a camera other than my music videos, but I did do some theater in college, in high school, and in second grade.
Can you elaborate on being on Fox TV NY’s “Star of The Day”? How did that all come together?
You sent in your songs to apply for the show, and then cross your fingers and wait. Luckily, through the hundreds or through the thousands of entries, the producers heard my music and wanted me up to compete on the show. It’s been such a blast because I’ve been singing my own songs that I wrote and co-wrote, because I feel like I can do a cover any time and put it up on YouTube, but the opportunity to perform original music on a major channel in America doesn’t come every day, and so I wanted to seize the moment and shine some light on some music that hasn’t been heard.
Do you plan on touring heavily to support “Let’s Play”? What do you think is the best and most challenging part about going on a long tour?
The most challenging part I hear is stinky feet on a tour bus. Not mine but of the other musicians, usually of the male species. Ah, I’m just teasin’! Right now we’re planning everything towards the CD release show which is June 26 in NYC (Rockwood Music Hall- Stage 2, 9pm) but ideally I’d like to be on a tour with a larger act so that we can grow our fan-base and so the road can be less lonely.
I went on a 30-city solo US and Canada Tour in 2010 in support of “When I Don’t Sleep..” That was an amazing experience. I loved every minute of driving, every minute of listening to music in the car, meeting new people, seeing people who have been following me on social media actually come to the shows and meet them in person, and getting to see parts of the country like the Grand Canyon were major highlights. I’d love to go on tour with the band this time. When that happens, of course all the dates will be up on my website.
For now, we’re gearing up to come out with a few more fun music videos, so look out for those! (www.letsplaysaniye.com)
What’s been a favorite show of yours? What makes an amazing show for you?
My favorite performance wasn’t even a show, actually. It was when I sang the national anthem for the LA Clippers it an NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The stadium was packed, not an empty seat in the house, and no music backing me up. I was most nervous about forgetting any of the words. I mean it’s not like I just learned it, we learn the national anthem in second grade but, -and most performers know this-, anything can happen live! Anything. Even forgetting lyrics to your own songs. It’s happens to the best of us. And so that was in the back of mind. When it all went smoothly and the crowd cheered on my high note, and at the end, I was really emotional, relieved, grateful, and happy. Those feelings are what makes an amazing show for me.
You’ve won several songwriting awards. What’s been the most meaningful one for you to receive?
The first one. The Grand Prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition. I was really in shock when I got the phone call and thought it was a joke. It happened on my birthday. It was a huge honor, the biggest honor, and I’ll never forget it. I have producer Henri Scars Struck to thank for that. He produced the track that won the award. (“Boom Sheke Nana”)
Who are some of your favorite artists? What musicians have continued to inspire you and the music you make? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Oh gosh, what a question and where to start, where to end… I guess by just touching the tip of the iceberg, a few artists that would be take-to-a-desert Island music for me would be Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Amy Winehouse, Wu-Tang Clan, Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartok, Puccinni, Bebel Gilberto, Michael Buble, Rage Against The Machine, I mean, I could literally go on for hours…
What I would take to a deserted island however is very different then the kind of artist that directly influenced the music I make. It’s like I’m two different people; the music listener, and the music maker. Different kinds of music go into each hat that I wear. As a music maker, and especially for “Let’s Play,” The artists that have influenced me most definitely are Regina Spektor, Lily Allen, Ingrid Michaelson, Eliza Doolittle, and pop music in general. As far as collaboration, a duet with Michael Bublé during his Christmas Special wouldn’t be too shabby!
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
First, I hope they listen to “Let’s Play” from beginning to end. Each song tells a story, and the order of the songs are always very important to me. It’s a collective work and i’m still a big believer in the album as a body work. There’s a story there. My story is that it’s about never letting go of your inner child. No matter how much time passes or how old you get, I’m holding on to the innocence, fun, happiness, playfulness, mischief, and mayhem of being a kid. Of course I am grown so some songs are laced with a flirty, sexy vibe, but that all still stems from playfulness. I want to toy, tease, and excite the listener. I want them to come on this adventure with me, and hold nothing back.
From “Pinball and Video Games” to “Better Off Dead,” I want them to come play with me. Are you ready? Let’s Play!