Stella Santana Interview: “Women have to spend more time and energy defending ourselves than men do”

Coming out of the gritty New York City music scene, Stella Santana is a hotpot of 70’s rock and roll, 90’s R&B and 20’s glamour. With musical origins stemming back to her childhood and being the daughter of legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, music has always been in her blood. Stella’s new EP Yayaya, which dropped yesterday, continues establishing her signature brand of female empowerment, self-love and self-realization.

To celebrate the release of Yayaya, we chat with one of NYC’s finest talents about growing up with one of the most respected artists of our time, her unique creative process and why “men are the challenges that all women face every day in all industries and in life in general.”

SheBOPS: Is there a quote you consider to be your life motto?

Stella Santana: “Each person can be a channel for greater powers.”

What’s in your Recently Played list on Spotify?

Oh wow haha, right now there’s Radiohead, Marvin Gaye, N.E.R.D., Locals Only Sound, Dionne Warwick, Sam Cooke, Aaliyah, Cassie, Goldspace…

What are your favorite sounds to incorporate into your music?

I like dirty bass sounds that make the whole room shake and I like to sample my own voice and add it into the production. 

Where do your musical inspirations come from?

I really like unexpected melodies so when I hear them in other people’s music, my ears always perk up.

What emotions do you hope your music conveys to the listener?

I believe we’re all so connected to each other, through our humanness of feeling emotions, pain, etc. but we get caught up in the details and separate ourselves from each other, which makes us feel alone. So when I write songs, I always write about my own experience but because I know that we’re all connected, I want others to see themselves in it as well.

Generally speaking, what is your creative process like?

I almost always start with production – I’m looking for a vibe. Then once I have that, I’m like, okay where am I when this song is playing? Am I outside? Am I alone? Is it the morning or is it night? Am I on my way somewhere? Who am I with if i’m not alone? etc. Only when I’m happy with the production are those questions easy to answer and then I start writing the words from there.

What is the toughest part of creating new music?

Finding the flow, or where we meet naturally as collaborators, isn’t necessarily tough but it’s what I am always striving to be aware of in all my sessions.

What was the biggest difference in terms of writing and recording the new EP compared to your previous albums?

I co-produced every song on Yayaya, which makes it feel more me.

Would you say your father has influenced your sound or work ethic in any way?

Growing up listening to the music my dad and my whole family would play around the house definitely influenced my taste and how I look at making music.

You’ve been releasing music since 2016, but was there ever a moment where you felt like giving up on music and doing something else?

Nope never.

Have you ever felt pressured to fit a certain ‘mould’ as an artist?

Nope never.

Your music often highlights female empowerment, self-love and self-realization. Why are these themes important to you?

I’m not sure if I’d say that they are important to me as much as I would say they are part of who I am and how I live and look at life. I try to just talk about what I know.

How do you feel about the representation and portrayal of women in music? Is there anything that you’d like to change?

I feel like it’s the same as it is across other industries, which is unequal because we live in a patriarchal society. And as far as changing it, I just try to be aware of when I’m presented with an opportunity to shift a mindset when I’m working.

What challenges do you think women in music are facing today?

I guess, in general, men are the challenges that all women face every day in all industries and in life in general. it’s obviously more nuanced than that and also I wouldn’t say women are victims. The playing field’s just not level and we have to spend more time and energy explaining/defending ourselves than men do. Essentially, we have more to do and less time to do it.

What advice would you give to young girls and women looking to work in music?

Listen to your gut. Everything is explainable and if anyone says otherwise, stop working with them. Let yourself become who you already are. Don’t force anything.

What’s planned for 2020?

Releasing more music 🙂

Stella Santana on Spotify

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