Sasha Siem is a singer, song writer and cellist whose music and voice have been hailed as “contagious and affecting,” drawing comparisons to “a rhapsodic Fiona Apple-meets-Joanna Newsom” (Stereogum) and “an uptown fusion of Bjork, The Raincoats and the Cosmopolitan letters page.” Blending the genres of pop, alternative and slight notes of jazz, the British-Norwegian musician has infused her music with spirituality, healing and soul since she began performing as a child. She is now gearing up to release her third album, Holy, in June 2019 which follow her two previous works Most of the Boys and Bird Burning. Sasha was born in London, but recently spent several years living in Brooklyn with her family while writing and recording the Holy album. A graduate of University of Cambridge, Sasha later received a Ph.D. in music and poetry from Harvard University. Since then she has been commissioned to write works for opera houses and orchestras including the London Symphony and Royal Opera House while beginning her solo music career. She recently launched a new label Sanctum Records, which she describes as “an artists-for-artists label with a big social change aspect.” Slated to launch in 2019, the label will offer the opportunity to combine music with a message. “Our ethos is to use our music to harmonize the planet from the micro to the macro,” she explains. “We use the music as a tool to create social impact.” Sasha was recently featured in Town & Country, New York Lifestyles and on Naughty Gossip.
Q: How would you describe your new album Holy coming out June 7, 2019?
Sasha: I’ve given up trying to categorize the music and am just going to say it’s POP. I love this particular genre because it embraces the possibility that anyone can enjoy. Holy is an arms-wide-open embrace-all pop album. I want people to sing their hearts out and dance, dance, dance as they listen.
Q: How does it differ from your previous two albums?
Sasha: My first album, Most of the Boys, was written from the vantage point of ‘me’ - one individual persona - a young woman coming of age, wanting to believe in love and failing at it over and over again. The second album, Bird Burning, was a story about a couple and the dynamic between the two. This third album is a series of anthems - it’s about the collective experience - the things that make us human, the aspects of our cosmos that unite us. So, in a way it completes a cycle of expansion I wanted to create - from ME, to WE:)
Q: What did you learn from making this album?
Sasha: Everything! Mostly about myself as an artist; the message I want to convey; the truth of my voice; how to constantly peel back more and more layers; to undress more and more; and to come as naked and as true as possible. With this album, I feel I am coming more truthful than ever. When I was 11-years-old, I wrote songs at my piano totally freely and unselfconsciously. After a long education and academic music training, I became more “intellectual” and perhaps more “artificial” about my music making. I was writing commissions for opera houses and orchestras. Through the process of making my albums, I have journeyed back to an authentic, passionate and intuitive expression, which is most unfettered in my latest album, Holy. I also learned about how to work with musicians and producers and inspire people to get the best out of them, and to coach them to untapped levels of their abilities and talents. On a technical level, I learned the process of recording and releasing a record, which gave me a better understanding of the music industry from an inside out perspective. I was a totally novice when I stepped into the first record, Most of the Boys, and had no idea at all how any of it was done or anything about the music industry. All I had was a passion for music and a clear vision for how I wanted the record to sound. Now, with all that understanding of the music industry (and what is missing for artists), I am starting a new label called Sanctum Records, which is an artists-for-artists label with a big social change aspect.
Q: The album is titled Holy, but you also named your first single “Holey Wholly Holy.” Is there a deeper theme/ message with that song that differs from the overall album?
Sasha: There is a great Leonard Cohen line that I love: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’ The overall message of this album is that no matter what we’ve been through, or how many ‘holes’ we have, we are holy! It’s an invitation embrace the unique expression of life that we each are in all our differences.
Q: What is your inspiration when you perform and write?
Sasha: My vision for a healed world. There is such mess around us, and I’m not OK with letting it be or accepting it. We have to change the world by changing ourselves. So, my songs start with my experience – fear, anger, challenges. By entering deep into my darkness and transmitting it through song and sound, I hope that it can be mirrored in the macrocosm. I wish my songs will inspire people to hope, feel supported in their desire to make a difference and remember that we really can with every action, thought and word. I really believe that together we can manifest a world that is harmonious and loving and respectful.
Q: Where do you draw your creativity from?
Sasha: Very much from my spiritual practice. I meditate and study the esoteric, kabbalah and metaphysics. This is where the energy to create comes from. The specifics of the content can come from anything: a touch, look, something someone says to me, feeling or a longing for someone, politics, nature and its sublime wild power.
Q: Your previous works have been very successful on platforms like Spotify. As an artist, what do you feel when so many people listen to your music?
Sasha: First, it’s tremendously fulfilling to know that the music is reaching people. Also, I’m curious about all those eardrums that it’s vibrating against! Who are these listeners? What kind of day were they having when they listened to the track? What did the music conjure for them? “Crow” had 800,000 plays on Spotify, yet I don’t feel ownership of the songs on my record. I feel awe and gratitude that they have decided to birth themselves through me. And my urge is to share them as far and wide as possible!
Q: What first inspired you to go into music?
Sasha: I remember wanting to be a doctor and a baker, but really one of the first memories I have of “wanting to be something when I grew up” was of being a songwriter. I went about it in earnest from the age of 11. My first song was a setting of Maya Angelou’s “A Caged Bird Sings.” My younger brother, Charlie, started playing the violin when he was 2-year-old! So, I was curious and followed suit exploring music, specifically the piano, from the age of five and loved the way music made me feel. Nothing was as nourishing or as transcendent for me as spending hours creating sound at the piano. It was a life saver for me as an introverted and super-sensitive teenager.
Q: Sanctum Records will debut later this year. What’s its purpose?
Sasha: It will be a label and platform dedicated to raising vibration on the planet through the creation of state-of-the art, magical music unrestricted by genre. Our ethos is to use our music to harmonize the planet from the micro to the macro. By starting from the individual and out into society, we cooperate with social enterprises aligned with our values and use the music as a tool to create social impact. Each of the artists we will have on Sanctum will support a specific social cause that runs through their campaigns as a golden thread connecting all things. I firmly believe sound is vibration, and all matter vibrates. All matter is therefore sound. Our bodies are the instruments through which the vibration of our spirit sings. How can we raise our vibration? How can we tune in to our true selves? How can we hear our true calling? Sanctum Records will provide a platform for us to begin finding answers to these questions. All our music will be recorded at 432Hz as opposed to the traditional Western tuning system of 440Hz. This frequency is known as the Love frequency and has been scientifically proven to bring healing, balance and vitality to the cells of the human body. It is the frequency which unites spirit and matter. We provide ancient sonic healing technology through music that is completely contemporary: allowing our audiences to embark on a journey of self-discovery and expansion. Our Northern star is artistic integrity; combined with musical mastery and crafted with excellence into a music that is transcendent.