Listening to music is a hobby, past-time, whatever you want to call it, of which I spend an inordinate amount of time indulging rabbit holes. In a subconscious attempt to combat "search bar paralysis" (the fear of finding new music due to the sheer volume of said music), I'll hours on end playing six degrees of separation with any and all artists. This practice will typically spike in late Summer, early Fall, as the Summer break gives way for the Fall release uptick. So, around that time in 2017, I found myself in a unique dive of soul, R&B, and everything in between from Nashville's music scene. One artist led to another, until I came across this voice that reverberated through my mind, and the music stuck with my spirit. It made me want to groove, cry, laugh, and just about anything else. There was a tangible anima I had not experienced in finding truly uncharted musical territory. As you may have guessed by now, that voice was Saaneah, and the music was her debut EP, While You Wait. It was one of the best discoveries I made in the past year, and talking to Saaneah was imperative. Luckily, Now/It's was able to meet up with Saaneah for an incredible conversation about her vision, fortitude, and attitude toward her career ahead. It's no wholly out of the question that this might be the last time she's free for any sort of sit down in the foreseeable future, because she's bound to keep shining through into others worlds real, real soon.
Now/It's met with Saaneah at The Wild Cow in the Lockeland Springs neighborhood of East Nashville.
Saaneah - So I was sending an email to let you know I’d be a little late, but I accidentally sent it to Sam instead of Sean!
N/I - No worries! There are literally two letters that distinguish the two names.
Saaneah - Well I noticed you didn’t respond, so I was like “What did I do!?” [laughs]. But anyway, thanks for reaching out! I’m so glad I got to do this!
N/I - Well thank you for being willing to meet up with me, even within such circumstances!
Saaneah - Of course! I kept thinking, “I’ve got to make this thing happen.” My grandma will be at the dentist for a little while, so we’re good on time.
N/I - Well if you get a call saying you have to go grab her or anything, it’s not a big deal at all.
Saaneah - No! It’s cool. I have…. Even though I take care of her mostly, she’s pretty independent. I can order her a Lyft to get back to the house. She knows how to do that.
N/I - So, if your grandma lives around here, are you from here originally?
Saaneah - Yeah. I grew up here.
N/I - What part of town did you grow up in?
Saaneah - The North Side. North Nashville. I graduated from [Tennessee State University] for music. Since I graduated, I started working for Metro Public Schools as an educational assistant. I started as a substitute, but started doing educational assistant work, so I started working alongside students with special needs. I did that for a little while, but the school system is always strange, so now I’m nannying and doing music. Or at least, attempting to, as an independent artist.
N/I - I’m trying to remember how I came across your EP [While You Wait]…. Sometimes I’ll hop on Spotify and go on these really deep, deep dives of one artist and how they connect to this person, that person, and the next. And I think I wound up hearing a single that you did with Mote.
Saaneah - Mote! Yes! I love him.
N/I - And so I searched for your music, and the EP was there…. I love that EP. It’s incredible. How long has it been out?
Saaneah - Well, surprisingly, I put it out [November] of .... But it’s still in push mode, because everyone in the world hasn’t heard it yet. So I’m just like, “Might as well keep rolling with it.” I want to do a mixtape, so I’m working on that too, but we’ll hold off on talking about that for now. I put [While You Wait] out this time last year. I think it was actually November 25th, maybe.
N/I - Across all digital platforms?
Saaneah - All digital. Yeah. I released it on Soundcloud at first - and that was technically in July - but my for real debut was November 25th, 2016. And at the , in March, I did the EP release [show] at The Basement East, and it was really well received. It was a full house. It was real turnt up. And now, I’ve just been working on the visuals.
N/I - Okay.
Saaneah - Have you seen the teaser?
N/I - I did. I believe it was for your second single off the EP?
Saaneah - That’s right. I’m excited. People seem really excited. They’ve been going “Yo! That looks so dope.” And I don’t have a label, but people seem to think I do. But I’m glad they think I do…. That’s the point!
N/I - Well the fact that they think you do, being an independent artist and being able to hammer home the point of “take me as seriously as you would any other artist on any major label or imprint,” is no small feat.
Saaneah - True. It’s cool to see people’s reactions to that particular video, because…. It’s so crazy, because I don’t get a lot of time to talk, but when I do, people have been sharing how it seems like I have this massive team behind me. And it’s like, “Nope! It’s just me!”
N/I - Well what is that like, then? Is it just learning as you go?
Saaneah - It is. My first executive production was a video called “Black is Beautiful.” It’s not released yet, either. I’m going to do that during Black History Month of 2018. I’d like to think I’m very culturally aware - this time we’re in now is extremely important. Just for black people, our heritage is important. My mom really brought us up in that world of wanting to know who you are, and where you come from. But I noticed that in the public school systems, a lot of kids - I graduated from TSU in 2012 - but once I was out of college and went into the teaching system, a lot of the girls in the public schools had low self-esteem and stuff like that. So I feel like the more they know about our black heritage in ancient history - like we created The Pyramids - and all these incredible things that add meaning to who we are, and have examples of beauty that look like us….
N/I - Exactly. Some of the longest standing and most respected empires were born out of that….
Saaneah - Yes! That way, the perspective just shifts. So I wrote the song “Black Is Beautiful.” I was influenced by Dr. Martin Luther King - he has this particular saying that talks about girls not being ashamed of their hair, the texture of their hair, the color of their skin. He’s all about the content of their character and people coming together, and I really like that message. So that’s something that influenced the song as well. So I plan on putting that out in February , but that was the first video.
N/I - Right. Okay.
Saaneah - And then I did a video for my intro to While You Wait. It’s just this little interlude, and then the single…. Actually, funny enough, the first single was actually “No Warning,” but I’m going to do a video for that too. It’ll be more dance oriented.
N/I - Well I saw you’ve been posting a lot of dance videos.
Saaneah - I love dancing. I’ve been dancing all of my life. It’s a part of my soul. I have to do it to maintain….
N/I - Your sanity?
Saaneah - Sanity. Yes. I feel, as an artist, there’s got to be a certain amount of insanity that you have to experience.
N/I - For sure.
Saaneah - But, oh my gosh, dance is very conducive to being balanced. I try and be as balanced as possible. I just love it so much. And I’ve been training. I graduated from Nashville School of the Arts, which is a major school here. A bunch of my friends went there, a lot of my artist friends. I saw that you did an interview with one of my friends…. Sakari.
N/I - I did! Sakari and Sheila from MOCHA.
Saaneah - Yes. That was really cool to see. But anyway, Nashville School of the Arts. I did dance, acted - I totally want to do Broadway - but now I’m just focusing on my music, getting it out, and promoting it as much as possible. I really enjoy combining. To put your words out there and feel the frequency of stuff, it’s emotion.
N/I - Well it sounds like you have a better understanding of who you are creatively than most. Because you were talking about the cultural awareness, but it sounds like you have a larger self-awareness than a lot of other people do, so you’re able to see how you can put all the things that you love doing - like the dance, the music, and then paying homage to the history, and the legends - that’s the type of stuff that you have in the bag. So something Broadway doesn’t sound all that far fetched at all.
Saaneah - Definitely. It’s a process. Some people will say…. It took me a while. College…. I’m so glad I went to college, it’s not for everybody, but I’m glad I went. Tennessee State University was definitely an influence in cultivating my sound, and just loving myself in general. Also, just networking. People that graduated before me, or are just now coming up - you can just say that you went to TSU or an HBCU, and there’s a connection there. So there’s a willingness to help you succeed. It’s definitely a process, because everyone is evolutionary. We’re forever evolving.
N/I - Right. People are always changing.
Saaneah - The more I do what makes me happy, or the more I do things that I truly love, the more self aware I become. The less fearful I am. Because it gets the best of us sometimes, where you anxiety can be ruthless when it comes to getting in the way of reaching goals. That’s why I make it a point to every week make sure I’m dancing at some point, or making music, or doing something in service to those things. But those are things outside of the core. The core is singing. But art is art.
N/I - So are you writing all the time? Or how do you keep that going with as creative as you are?
Saaneah - Sometimes when I’m having roadblocks….
[Server arrives to ask for drink orders]
Saaneah - Oh my gosh, I almost forgot. I have a show tonight. I need to post about it.
N/I - Where are you playing tonight?
Saaneah - Crossroads. It’s out in Antioch.
N/I - Do you book all your shows, then? Or do you have people reaching out to you?
Saaneah - Sometimes it’s reaching out, and other times I have to. I have one partner that helps me with that stuff - I call her my liason, but she’s more like a business manager - but I don’t really have an agent. I’m in the process of gathering a team. I’m praying for one.
N/I - Well with you saying you’re one hundred percent independent, but people think you have a team - I’m always curious about those things. I’m fascinated how people make the music and handle the business side all at the same time. How can you work those two separate sides of your brain?
Saaneah - I guess it’s more because you just love it so much, and you want it to work. But as far as wanting to tip over to the next level, I feel like I’m in a paradigm shift right now. I’m trying to shift to the next level, so I need to get a team fast. There’s only so much that you yourself can do alone, because you want to focus on the artistry, but I can’t be my manager, my agent, my makeup person, my stylist, and choreographer, and expect to be efficient and effective at the same time.
N/I - Right. Even though you have ability to balance all of that, but once it reaches a point of which it’s bigger than it’s ever been, that can be difficult.
Saaneah - It becomes exhausting. Emails, and all that, ugh. But I’m willing. That’s why I’m here. When you figure out why you’re here on Earth, you take that and run with it.
[Sever returns to take some food orders]
N/I - So do you come to Wild Cow a lot?
Saaneah - I do. I was brought up vegan. My mom is a health nut, and she’s super hippie, too. But, later on, I started trying other foods as well. I’ve only had fish, though, I’ve never had red meat.
N/I - Interesting.
Saaneah - I guess so. But getting back to the business stuff…. I’ve definitely reached a point where I’m trying to implement proper business practices that would eventually lead to people who are responsible and trustworthy coming into my life. Especially people that are skilled and organized. I want 2018 to be the year that leads to music being my only means of living. I want to dive into art and expand my base.
N/I - Well, it’s important to know where you want to go. Once you get that team behind you, I figure that’ll happen sooner than you expect.
Saaneah - That’s true. Yes, yes, yes. I’m so glad I get to do this interview, because I want to get better at them. I had my second TV interview on Wednesday of this week, and that was cool. I’m always appreciative.
N/I - That’s great. I always appreciate people being willing to talk to me.
Saaneah - I can be really elaborate, so I’ll try and stick to the point.
N/I - By all means, do what you feel like you need to do. I always invite the extended tangents and all that.
Saaneah - Cool beans. So, I’m on a health kick right now. I’m not doing any gluten or liquor.
N/I - Really? For how long?
[Saaneah receives a phone call from her grandmother, who has been at the dentist to this point in the interview. She orders her a Lyft for her grandmother from the dentist’s office.]
Saaneah - My grandma is about to be 74. I would love to be chauffeured around by Lyft when I’m 74. But I get that part of the downside is that you’re basically giving up your independence.
N/I - I guess that’s true. You’re in your late sixties and seventies, so it’s different. For us, we could still probably walk or run to wherever we needed to, if we really needed to, but that’s an idea of independence. But when you’re older, there’s not that weird idea of independent comfort.
Saaneah - Right. To be able to adjust after being independent for so long is tough.
N/I - So what’s this health kick that you’re on?
Saaneah - I guess it’s “No Liqour November.”
N/I - So is that just for the month?
Saaneah - I don’t know. I might do it longer. So one of my goals would be a huge tour. As an artist, I love traveling, and I’m a nomadic spirit. My name, Saaneah, means “one who brings the knowledge of peace and love.” So of course I want to travel the world so I can spread this knowledge. I want to be able to feel it and receive it also. So part of that is building endurance. Health is wealth. You want to be and do your best, and your body needs to be just as capable as your intentions. I started working with a trainer - I’ve always danced - but I’ve been working with a trainer, and I like to challenge myself to see what my physical aptitude can be. So I’ve been training, but I’ll still have my fun on the weekends, which sometimes winds up deterring my progress. So I decided that it was time to take a break. My trainer was asking me what it was that I kept doing that somehow managed to take away from all the hard work we were putting in, and I told him, “It’s hard out here sometimes. I just need some wine every once and a while.”
N/I - That makes sense. It’s pretty reasonable.
Saaneah - I actually took a screenshot of something this woman I follow posted - she said “If you put crap into your body, you’re going to feel like crap. If you stop moving your body, you’re going to lose the ability to move. If you refuse to put your health first, and make time for fitness and cleaner eating, you will find yourself tired, depressed, and constantly getting sick, overweight, or worse, diseased.” She went on to talk about how she was twenty-one, tired, had no kids, didn’t even know what the meaning of the word “tired” was, but she knew she was fueling her body with the wrong things. It was junk food, beer, soda, and she said she was digging her grave a little deeper each day. Her depression got worse, her skin, her hair, and her body. She felt like fifty at twenty-one. But she woke up one day and something had to give, and she just changed her life. So it’s more about balance.
N/I - It sounds like it. You have to do good work to in turn feel good.
Saaneah - Right. And I do have certain body goals. I’m a curvy person, and it took a while to accept that. I think that was part of the process in school, because of what shows on TV, there are all these small people serving as representations of beauty, which is not a variety, unfortunately. So I felt like I had to be that to do anything, so I felt like I had to be that before I even put anything out, or even a video. It was a lack of self-acceptance. So health is important. And you notice some artists are at certain levels. Tour is rigorous.
N/I - Oh yeah.
Saaneah - But I want to murder the tour. I want to make sure I’m at the utmost levels. I don’t know what to call them…. I had a word for them….. Oh, factories. There are these factories that I always go to - your mental, your physical, your spiritual, and your emotional factories. Those are things that you have to cultivate in order to maintain balance within your life. So I want to have those as balanced as possible. There's something to be said for preparing, so I want to be prepared, because I want to do my best.
N/I - There are all sorts of saying that would indicate luck favors the prepared.
Saaneah - Yes! And that's my drive. It's what drives me. My drive is my impact, and the more I can impact others, the more it will end up impacting me.