“You’ll have to pardon the ambient noises on this call because I’m on my break at work… I’m on an adventure to get a salad” Sasha tells me as I envision her eagerly making her way around town, phone in one hand salad in the other.
It just goes to show that even popstars like Sasha Samara, who’s getting ready to release her debut EP ‘Why Am I Still Here, I Never Learn” on 25th May, struggle when it comes to figuring out what to have for lunch.
After the bubbly and charismatic Sasha asks me how I am, I shine the spotlight on her and ask the same question back. “I’m good, I’m excited about my EP coming out because it’s been a very long time in the making so I’m just full of excited energy. It’s hard work but it’s also very exciting hard work that I’m very lucky to do” is her reply.
I focus in on how the EP’s been in the works for a while and wonder how things have changed since her last single release in September 2022.
“The release of ‘Problems’ was my first ever release that I had done completely on my own. It was a really steep learning curve learning how to manage your own release and everything that goes with that. I had given myself way too much work to do and I think that’s why there ended up being such a lapse between releases”.
Sasha wisely announces the realisation that she “had to figure out a better way to do this” and that now she has “really learnt from that experience; I’m very grateful to have learnt from that first time and now I feel more equipped”
As a listener, I tell Sasha that I hear a real evolution in her sound when comparing her old and newer tracks, curious as to whether she feels the same way about them. “There’s definitely been a lot of growth over the time it’s taken to make this EP. ‘Under My Skin’ (her latest single) was definitely a departure from the more upbeat, sparkly pop that I was channelling. I wanted to do something that showed the darker side of my music taste”.
Her response makes me wonder if we can expect a darker vibe from the EP in general, but she sets the record straight by informing me that there’s “a little bit of everything… we explore a lot musically. We have the darker side with ‘Under My Skin’ & we have a new version of ‘Broken Vessel’ coming which is more melancholy and reflective. Also the next single is really fun… there’s a lot to look forward to!”
When speaking about the title of her EP, Sasha reveals that it was “named after a line in ‘Problems’ that begs the question ‘Why Am I Still Here, I Never Learn’ which is the theme of the EP because a lot of it was reflecting on a really co-dependent relationship”. I found the title rather relatable and the story behind it only made this relatability even stronger. She continues, “there’s certain points in my life when I still ask myself that question but I think writing all these songs was such an important part of me actually learning not to stay in these places”
“When I started on Scratch My Progress, I was fresh out of my graphic design and illustration degree” explains Sasha, an artist of many talents who was part of the 2019 team and who was shortly after awarded an NI Music Prize for Best New Artist. “I was very privileged that Charlene Hegarty took a chance on me for being so new to the industry. I was still trying to figure out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do so it was important for me to take all this time to grow and figure out what sound worked for me”.
When confronted with the daunting question of why release this EP now, she stands firm and states “I was so aware that I could have put out music quickly but something that always rang true was that I would rather take a long time to do a good job on a piece of art and have something I was really proud of. Now I feel confident in who I am, it just feels right”.
We got on to talking about the local scene and how it feels trying to find a place within it as a young female musician. “I think being around so many interesting and talented acts in the scene just pushed me to find my own place in it. I want to be as good and stand alongside these incredible artists, but I also want to be completely myself”.
With the Oh Yeah Centre having played such a vital role in Sasha’s music career, it seems fitting that her EP launch is set to take place on its iconic stage on Thursday night. “I’m so excited especially because I’m playing in the Oh Yeah Centre which was the first place I ever played a full band show back in 2019. It feels really special in that way, it’s almost like a full circle moment”.
If she could give herself or any young musicians any advice it would be “to take your time, it’s a marathon not a sprint! It’s important to find out what you like and who you like. Take time to work on your mind set. Something that’s been important for me is working on my confidence and stage-craft. Finding peace in the fact that I have things to bring to this world and I have stories that might help somebody; that’s the importance and privilege of being a musician. Those are all my words of wisdom” and what great words they are.
We laugh it off as Sasha wittily teases of things to come, that we should “enjoy the music now and keep your eyes out… watch this space baby”. I thank her for her time and let her get back to her much deserved lunch break.
There is still time to witness Sasha Samara in all her glory as she graces the stage of Oh Yeah Centre on Thursday 25th May 2023 to play some of the best glittering alt-pop music currently happening.