Down to the inherent contradiction in her name, Saint Sinner believes in maintaining a “beautiful balance” throughout all facets of life. Hence what led us to discovering her in the first place: an ear-catching, eclectic sound that spans from “jungle hop to wavy acoustic to psycho tropical.”
The latest in Saint Sinner’s anti-genre streak is “blood,” premiering today on Ones To Watch. The new track embodies the young artist’s powerful ethos, as she challenges the religious boundaries she grew up in while asserting a collective human bond symbolized by the contrast of blue and red blood. Airy, soothing vocals are set against percussion and bass-infused production – all products of Saint Sinner’s quest for spiritual and sonic balance.
She shared on her mental process,
“‘Blood’ came at a time when I really needed someone to have my back. And it ended up being me. I was surrounded by religious people who had an idea of who I should be and what made me deserving of their definition of love. Eventually, I landed at ‘fuck you.’ And that’s when ‘blood’ arrived. But it’s not only that, it’s also a call to similarity between us all. My blood is 1 part blue to 1 part red, and yours is too, whoever you are. So I guess it’s a ‘Fuck you. But I won’t stop loving you.’”
While she’s only been in the music game for about a year, the now multi-instrumentalist, producer, and vocalist is currently exploring her sonic palette in Southern California. As we can expect to hear the Saint Sinner a lot more this year and beyond, we’re honored to introduce more on her background, sound, and goals in our exclusive Q&A below.
OTW: I read that you moved out of your parents’ home and started a completely new life when you were basically still a kid – tell us about that.
Saint Sinner: I have four older siblings. My parents moved around a lot when we were little, so we house-jumped all the time. I wasn’t an army brat or anything. They just liked to move around, fix the issues from the last house, and move into the new one. I just got fed up. There was no real big explosion of something that happened to move out, but I just think there were things that happened in my childhood that I had to address before I did anything like go to college or all the scenarios you think you’re going to do. I was like, I can’t focus on anything with my family here; it’s just kind of a mess right now. I have friends and friends’ parents who offered their homes to me, so I’m going to move out, and I moved to Oregon. I lived with a friend. I was there for about two years and graduated high school.
OTW: How did that affect you as a person?
Saint Sinner: It was the best thing ever. It was really great.
OTW: Where were you before that?
Saint Sinner: I was in Arizona. It was really good. I feel blessed to have older siblings because I got to learn a lot pretty quickly, and I got to grow up pretty quickly, so I felt ready. I didn’t feel like a kid leaving. I was 14, and I was definitely a kid, but I didn’t feel like a child. I definitely grew a lot, and I loved being in a different atmosphere. It’s beautiful in Oregon. There are lots of trees and snow, and I had never seen that before, and being able to experience that and all these different types of people was really cool. I love different types of people, and so to start that young and see all these walks of life was really cool. It was really mind opening.
OTW: Did you tell your parents, or did you just leave?
Saint Sinner: (laughs) Yeah, it was a conversation. I was going to go either way, but I told them. I was talking to my homie, and she was like, “Well come, I have an extra bedroom.” It was great.
OTW: Nice. How did that lead to South Africa?
Saint Sinner: I graduated high school and had all these scholarships for track and field, high jump, hurdles, and whatever. That sounded great, but I had no idea what I was going to do in college. I had no idea what I wanted to do and I loved everything. I just knew I had to do something else. I wasn’t going to go to college and spend all this money or time. Two to four years in the same place going to school…I was just done. I had skipped a few grades, and I was just done with school. Then I had found a random interest in surfing, and South Africa is legendary for surfing. I wanted to learn how to surf, and I ended up getting sponsored and teaching surfing and going on tour for contests, which was really fun. It was kind of like the other side of the world, and it was something completely new. I was young, and it sounded better than going to college. I was 16 when I graduated high school, so I wasn’t about to go to college. Like, what am I going to do? (laughs) Living in a dorm room right now sounds so boring.
OTW: So what was your experience there like, and how did that further shape you and your artistry?
Saint Sinner: That’s where I found music. I moved into a house with a couple other people, and there was a guitar there. I started playing, and I was like, “Oh, this is fun.” I learned how to play “Amazing Grace,” and it was the first song I ever learned how to play. It was like G-C-G-C the whole time, and it was so easy, but I have this little booklet of chords on the guitar, so I started there. Then I would look up jazz chords. It was all basically guitar books. I would learn my favorite songs and I would start to sing them over the guitar, and I was like, “Maybe I should try writing something.” It just came from there and just got better. I really could not sing as a kid, which was interesting. In elementary school, I was in the back of the school play. My brother tells me he remembers our teacher putting me in the back. That’s how bad I was. But I feel like it was a gift.
OTW: Interesting! So now you’re living L.A – are you feeling good or are you feeling like you need to leave somewhere again? (laughs)
Saint Sinner: (laughs) Probably. Give me three more months, and I’ll probably go somewhere else. No, it’s great. It’s really cool. You’re constantly surrounded by movement, and it’s super stimulating and inspiring. You can go home when you don’t want the noise, but you can go out and see people who are doing rad shit 24/7 and are doing it really well. It’s cool to have these standards. You live somewhere that’s not New York or L.A. for a little bit, and the standards are here. And then you come to a place like this, and it’s fast moving, and everyone’s doing amazing stuff, so your standard becomes higher too, which is really great.
OTW: So your name, Saint Sinner, is obviously contradictory. Where did that come from?
Saint Sinner: I was raised super religious, which I’m not right now. I consider myself spiritual, but definitely not religious. And I’m in love with a woman, and I discovered that, so the move to South Africa was kind of like, “I need figure out whatever this is and battle my own internal stuff with being raised to think this is so bad,” to being like, “I actually don’t believe that was something I was taught.” I’ve had so many people lay hands on me and be like, “I just know God has the right man for you,” and I’m like, “Okay cool, thank you.” All these people were like, “Sinner, sinner, sinner.” I’m really good at being a sinner, but I’m not even a sinner. It’s just a play on words. I also believe everything is in balance, and I’ve been given a voice that is super calming and can be peaceful for people, but I like to put it on top of hard bass and really in-your-face type of production, which is also a really beautiful balance. I think it’s just about contrast and balance.
OTW: The all-dreaded question: how would you define your sound? You’ve described it as “jungle-hop to wavy-acoustic to psycho-tropical?”
Saint Sinner: (laughs) That’s basically it.
OTW: Is that your own description?
Saint Sinner: It is. I have no idea. And I’ve sat down and need to decide because people ask me all the time. It’s just music, and I don’t know how to explain it. It kind of just hits all the genres in one. We have some instruments and elements of hip-hop and elements of acoustic, original vibes. I don’t know.
OTW: How did you land on this?
Saint Sinner: My friend taught me how to produce, and that’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me musically. I was writing all my songs on the guitar or piano. I would take it to a friend who would produce, and it was good, but it wasn’t what I heard in my head. You can’t describe a sound. You can be like, “I want the snare to sound like this.” I learned how to produce about a year ago, and that was huge for me. “Lady” and “Alright” I produced, which was great. That was the first time I could feel from head to toe that those were my songs. I definitely am grateful for that. I have influences from every genre, which I also feel grateful for, because you get to pull from all these different places, and that’s what you are designed by.
OTW: How did your singing skills evolve?
Saint Sinner: It was fun. I just had songs that I liked. I loved Amy Winehouse. It was “Amazing Grace” and “Back to Black.” Those were the first two songs, and I played them for like six months, just those two songs over and over. Then you just practice. It’s muscle memory and developing and growing up. Even just as a human body, hormones and evolving—all this stuff, you just get used to it. It just got better with time.
OTW: What are you working on right now? What can we expect from you this year?
Saint Sinner: We’re releasing projects. 2018 is the big introduction to the world. We’re working on a project now that I’m super proud of and super excited to get out there. As soon as that happens, we’ll get out in the live scene and play live shows. I’m hoping to tour and whatever presents itself. We’re working on the music right now; music is the priority. We have four songs that I’m super stoked for, and that’ll be a little package we’ll be releasing.
OTW: Do you have an idea of what your ultimate goal or definition of success is?
Saint Sinner: I don’t know about that. When people come and see a live show, I don’t want it to feel like I’m standing on stage in a spotlight with everyone looking at me. I want it to feel like we’re all just there enjoying the music for what it is. I don’t feel like the music is mine. It’s a weird relationship I have with my music. I like to listen to it because I know it was a gift since it came so late in my life, and I want to just enjoy it with other people. When they come to a live show, I want it to just be like a house party in a huge stadium or wherever we are, just enjoying the music as it is. But I don’t know what my definition of success is as an artist. I think I already feel successful because I feel fully expressed. I can go to sleep at night and feel peace, and that’s all I can ask for because that’s my experience. I want other people to just enjoy it with me.
OTW: Agreed, it’s a collective experience? Where do you pull from for your fashion sense?
Saint Sinner: I love men’s fashion, and I love Japanese fashion. I really love Japanese menswear. It’s really cool—super layered, mostly black and white. They’re just so attentive to detail, which is really cool and something I’m still learning and learning about products. They put so much on, and yet it looks so simple. It’s really cool. They’re very not necessarily edgy, but they push boundaries within fashion, and I love that.
OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch artists?
Saint Sinner: I love Archy Marshall (King Krule). He’s amazing. Låpsley is amazing. Glass Animals is amazing and doing really well, which is awesome. James Blake should be way bigger than he is, but I kind of love that he’s still just doing his thing, which is great.
OTW: You’re just in the early stages of introducing yourself to world, so would you say you have a message for people who are just starting to discover you?
Saint Sinner: I’ve just been to so many concerts where I feel completely detached and bored. I think for me, the most important thing is to connect with people through music. It is a collective. We’re here all together. What you put in affects other people, like the butterfly effect. I want to start breaking the boundaries of distance between audience and performer and having music that’s a great song that can be a hit song on the radio, but it’s not written by any rule or book of rules. People have written “how to write a pop song,” “how to produce the perfect song.” We don’t make music like that. We make music in the moment. When I’m writing a song, it’s like a train, going, going, going. Then I step back and let the song be what it is and let it teach me something. I think it’s cool for people to go in and enjoy it. It’s not that big of a deal. I want people to take things a little less seriously, because I had to learn that. I just want people to have fun and enjoy the music as I do, and as I listen to other people’s music, it’s amazing. I don’t want it to be like, “Look at me.” We all wake up in the morning with puffy eyes. It’s just having fun.