Q&A | Snoh Aalegra – Ugh, those feels again
I first met Snoh Aalegra at a fashion show through the Freak City crew ages ago during MADE fashion week, and as time has passed her catalog of songs help soundtrack all my FEELS as some came, some went and others got nasty. It is in those late night hours that her voice reflects a great need that we all have. In the grand tradition of all the vocal divas who lived and ones who will find their future, she carries this torch with pride.
Since her last release 2017’s FEELS, the Swedish/Iranian songbird is back to devastate us all over again, with her new album – Ugh, those feels again, which delves deeper into her craft of deep ballads albeit this time around she switches up the tempo and gets us dancing while lamenting of the WTF’s love-life brings. We caught up the day after her victorious listening party, an out out night at Delilah where I was taught about the hangovers procured by the champagne/Courvoisier mix, to chat about mental health, R&B’s roots, and Persian food.
So you’ve made it out alive from your evening? [Laughs] So I want to jump right into it. We’re going to talk about your new album that’s about to come out. What was the writing inspiration in the way you’ve moved on into this mental health space? I feel like your dynamic in music has been more expanded and complex this time around.
I think, since I started working on this album for about one and a half years, I have focused a lot on my own mental health and spirit. It’s been a bit of a transition, focusing on myself and being fearless. Creating music in the studio, I’m more open. You can hear that on the record as well. I still have my own sound but I’m experimenting a little more and having a little bit more fun. I’m still reflecting a little bit back in time myself. It's a continuation of my story and my truth.
I love the idea that it’s an ongoing story. I feel like so many artists are so intensely boxed in a body of work, but this is an evolution.
It’s always like ok, what have I been up to these past two years? What have I been up to, thinking on, reflecting about. We go through certain things in our lives, but at a certain point get stuck on something in the past that we really reflect on. There are so many things I’ve been through in my life, a lot of dark moments I have been suppressing. I’ve been learning to face them. Even if I’m in a good place, I’m reflecting on certain moments in the past on this album because that’s what we naturally do in life. All the sudden we decide to deal with something that we put away for a long time, but it will always catch up with you.
What was the breaking point in getting into that space? It’s a very intense thing to be able to utilize your traumas in art, and actually utilizing them. How do you feel that you are actually able to isolate it and take from it?
I think it takes over me. I’m very emotionally driven as a person and in my music. Naturally, I can’t help myself, very honest, in a way, with my feelings. There are many layers to me. I’m slowly peeling back one layer at a time. I’m trying to give more and more, the more comfortable I get.
I feel the previous album was a well made tapestry -it made me feel vibes, in a 90’s sense. I feel in this new album you are taking even futher back in instrumentation, like samples and stuff.
I have newly created samples, but I haven’t sampled anything, really. It’s all original music. It has an old school vibe to it because my taste is old school. But it’s also, again, new school, but this one has a little more tempo, is a little bit more on the happier side, I think. Half of the album, at least. It’s more hopeful.
Yeah musically it is more spirited
More light, yeah!
Let's talk about your “Situationship’s” a little bit
Ship! [laughs] not plural. There was one
How did that happen?
So I know a lot of people have situationships and it really works for them, I didn't know I was in one until I realized ‘Oh, im in a situation and I don't really know what we are’ and I realized it was a “Situationship.” You know, It didn't really work out for me, but I wrote a song about it [laughs] It's just something that happened while making this album actually, as I said I just write about everything that I encounter, anything that inspires me. If I get close to somebody they usually become my muse for a little amount of time. Then I toss them away, onto the next muse [laughs] that was a joke!
In regards to the album and the production, where was it mainly recorded?
Mainly all recorded in LA accept for “Toronto”, that was recorded in Toronto
What kind of musicians have been involved in production?
No ID is involved as always as an Executive Producer. I worked with Mathew Burnett and Riley Bell on the track “Toronto.” I worked with Ness and Rob Holliday for “I Want You Around.” Jonah Christian for “Someone Like You.”
Any fun stories that came from your recording sessions?
I had a lot of fun making the album in general, like I was just laughing so much in the studio; the people I was working with are so funny. It's just been such a joy. I have no features on the album, but one of the songs called “Nothing To Me,” I wrote with my artist friend Luke James. We wrote it together and he's on the background. Also a writer I write with a lot, Marcus James, he also sings really well. So all I can say I remember is: we were just having so much fun. I can't remember anything specific right now but it's always just been good Vibes.
There was a video of you on Flaunt where you lifted your hands and they were covered in Studs, for your song “You.” I felt like that was the most Prince like piece that we've heard out of your work so far. Was that an inspiration?
Definitely. The track called Toronto I think you'll also get a Prince vibe from, the more funkier prince. So yeah he's definitely been an inspiration, and ever since he's been in my life and Ive been able to call him a friend, been close to him, I feel a different connection than when I was younger. I feel like I've been studying him even more lately and, Purple Rain is probably my favorite song of all time.
Are you familiar with QuestLove who taught a class based on Prince’s methodology for music?Have you applied that to a lot of your work too, just in general, construction wise?
No, I think that, I don't want to think too much when I'm making something. I don't like to feel like im going off a pattern, its too much. I like to get inspired by a feeling or the sound.
With the visual direction what was the inspiration? How are you moving forward with this and how it flreflects with the music?
I’m just going to keep on making visuals that I feel are me. I’ve done two videos so far for this album “I Want You Around” and “You.” You know I love the old-school vibe I always shoot on film. I think I’m just going to keep on doing that, HD anything is not my style.
I grew up in Beverly Hills and all my friends are Persian. How do you relate with the Iranian heritage?
I was raised in Sweden I feel like that the Iranians in Europe are very different. I don’t really connect with the Iranians here and LA and Beverly Hills. I feel like we are so so very different. I love my culture I love Persian food as well it’s my favorite.
Where do you like to go? How have you navigated these cultural difference?
Raffi’s [laughs]I love Persian food. I grew up speaking 3 different languages Swedish, Farsi, and English. A little bit of Spanish as well. I love the Persian culture, it’s like more is more, the Swedish culture is less is more. And in America adapting to culture here I feel like everything is possible. So that’s very different from the Swedish mentality that I grew up on where you are almost not allowed to dream big. My dreams were always too big for Sweden. That’s why I moved out here.
How do you feel that audiences approach your music from that European compared to American standpoint?
I feel like it’s just so individual for everybody. I love to study things and I take things seriously like soul and R&B, which has its roots here, that’s why I wanted to come here and study it here and be around people who do it for real and learn from the best. Maybe if I did some other genre I would be somewhere else but I’m so connected to the R&B culture and the roots R&B Soul. I grew up on Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Prince, these artists like Stevie Wonder and then I started studying their hero’s. Like Aretha and James Brown, I went deeper and started to study those artists as well. I was very inspired by Stevie, Aretha, and Brandy on this album. Brandy especially.
Fashionably what have you been working on I’m starting to work with different brands?
I’ve been staying away from affiliating myself with anything until I felt like I really put a mark with my music. I’ve noticed some people get really lost and it gets confusing if they are an artist or a model what they are really doing. I never wanted that to be the case for me. But I feel like I’m ready more now for the fashion world. I’ve been doing some stuff with magazines and brands. I’m really excited there’s a lot of cool things on the horizon can’t talk about it yet but very excited.