I was granted the pleasure of interviewing one of the most creative, incomparable singers on the planet right now: Santigold. Her Royal Coolness is on the promotional trail to promote her latest offering: a second studio album entitled ‘Master of My Make Believe’. The 36-year-old Brooklynite whetted our appetites earlier this year with warm up singles ‘Big Mouth’and the ’80s New Wave inspired, ‘Disparate Youths’. I love speaking to artists who are unaffected, intelligent and chatty, and Miss Santi White was all of those things. I’ve been a fan ever since she entered the mainstream consciousness a few years ago, as her approach to music is fearless and she doesn’t limit herself to the imposed boundaries that many black female performers find themselves chained to .
During our interview I learned that she was from a very creative household and was exposed to a diverse range of music including reggae, punk, rock, soul, Afrobeats… pretty much everything to be honest. Here are few highlights from our little chat.
Who inspired her to pick up the mic…
I used to listen to Nina Simone, and be like ‘wow, her voice is so unique’. I also loved Morrissey, The Cure and The Smiths. I loved that they had very monotone voices, I’ve always been into that. My vocals are very rhythmic and that’s something I got from artists like Sister Nancy or Sister Carol, these old reggae singers that are very nasally and similar to some African female voices.
On recording her album in Jamaica
I’ve been to Jamaica so many times in my life. From the time I was 11 we used to go there every year and it was one of the most exciting things an 11 year old could do. Just hearing all the music and seeing the dreadlock rastas who would try to sell me weed when I was 12 years old (laughs). Probably one of the reasons my Dad took me to Jamaica was because he loved Jamaican music and would play Bob Marley, Steel Pulse, Bearing Spear, Black Uhuru – he would play all that stuff in the house. It’s a beautiful country. I recorded in Port Antonio which is really away from all the tourist spots. It’s a getaway in a peaceful environment where I could just be in the studio, go kayaking for 20 minutes then get back to it. Sometimes it’s good to just be away from all the noise in Brooklyn and have some space to create, and that’s what Jamaica offered me.
What we can learn from the death of Whitney
I think if there’s a lesson to be learned it’s you have to keep things in perspective. I don’t even drink or do drugs at all, but sometimes I wish I could. It’s that hard. It’s getting even harder, partially because this era we live in, everything is so fast, and cheap and the turnover is so quick so the workload is insane. And then when you’re trying to do real art and create in an industry where everything is so fast and people are getting impatient saying ‘What the f*ck is wrong with you? Come on, just approve it.’. And every second we’re creating these celebrities who aren’t allowed to be human. And they are dying. And it’s not just these musical icons that are dying. The earth is dying. Our collective spirit is dying. And it’s all because our focus is off. Everything should not be about money, there has to be a balance.