Since releasing her EP, Neon Nights, Tamara Saul has experienced a wild ride to acclaim. Songs like “Biggie Say My Name (Girls Love Beyonce Bootleg)” and “Pink Skies In Dark Nights” have pushed her to the forefront in a big way, with the listening public clearly willing to embrace a young singer-songwriter with an experimental interest in hip-hop, smooth R&B jams and soulful pop classics. Tamara spoke with RESPECT. about her musical inspirations, dream collaborations, upcoming projects, and what she hopes to achieve with her music.
RESPECT: What’s it like in Croatia, and when did you decide to start exploring music?
Croatia is facing some serious issues right now, in terms of corruption, human rights, working class rights, unemployment, but, I don’t know if it’s in spite of all of that, I see some positive changes when it comes to the music scene. There are great people doing wonderful and inspiring things. I didn’t decide to do music, I just had to do it. There were times I felt as an outcast but music was my thing, music made me feel happy and special, music was something that people knew me by. I would record live shows by Beyonce, Destiny’s Child, Usher, R. Kelly, watch them and try to do what they did. Later on, I tried songwriting because I felt I needed to express myself.
Your music is very far removed today’s contemporary sound. How did you develop the sound that you have?
I am still in the process, I am exploring and doing different things and I’ve come to a realization I can do whatever I want to do, so if I want to make R&B, indie pop, hip hop or whatever-you-want-to-call-it, I can do it. Every time I make a new song, I feel it’s a bigger part of me. I never think about labels and genres during the process of making my music. So, the key is exploring, your soul and your sound.
You’ve been described as R&B, but your creativity seems to go beyond that. What kind of music inspires you the most?
What inspires me is that new, fresh, crisp sound that no one has yet done too much of, if you understand me, that new sound that makes you go, ‘Wow I haven’t heard this yet!’ or ‘Wow, you’re really doing this and it’s good!’, and it makes a new path in your heart and brain. Artists like Lizzo, Barnaby, Shy Girls, Tink, ASTR, Javeon, Kelela, Debian Blak,… I also love AlunaGeorge, Fatima, Disclosure, Hudson Mohawke, Jesse Boykins III… Mish Mash. I listen to a lot of new music and artists daily. I even have my secret Youtube channel where I upload music that I like if it’s not already up. As I have less and less time I think I will have to end that love story.
How would you describe the music you make?
In colors, flavors, and scents. Sometimes it’s dark, cold, bitter, and sometimes it’s all about neon colors, tender breezes, pink skies, leopard prints, hot summer nights, sugar and spices. I guess I like to introduce feelings and other senses as a unique new dimension. I mean, it’s not new, it’s always here, but sometimes people just forget it’s there, oversee it.
Your songs seem quite delicate, you write about emotional subjects. How do you sustain a balance when it comes to sharing your life with other people?
I’m very open about my feelings when it comes to my music but when it comes to sharing my life with people on a daily basis, I’m quite cautious. Or shy? Hm, anyway, I keep a lot of things to myself, my friends and family only. I have no problem sharing my love towards cats, tomatoes and Tumblr with other people though [laughs].
What would you like your music to signify or correspond?
That I grew up on R&B, but love to experiment and bring it together with the sounds I’m hearing and feeling today. You always try to push it a bit forward, take on some new steps and bring some new sounds, and what you’re doing by that is creating and representing the sound of your time, and if you’re lucky, future. But again, that’s not really out there when I’m making my music. When I’m in the process, I just do what feels and sounds good. I love melodies and music should be fun, inspiring and interesting.
Do you have any track in particular that speaks most to that notion?
I think “Pink Skies In Dark Nights” is that song. It’s just really out there, was a bit tricky to do, cross-genre always is, but people recognized what we wanted to do and it always feels good when that happens. It’s electro, it’s R&B, it speaks for itself and I love it because it represents a new take on my music, the new path I’m taking.
Two standout tracks for me that you released this year are “Pink Skies In Dark Nights” and “Biggie Say My Name (Girls Love Beyonce Bootleg).” I think they’re totally different than anything on your Neon Nights EP.
I think that’s because I’m growing and becoming more aware of what I want to do. Neon Nights EP was everything I had to do right at that moment, but I feel that one of the tracks off Neon Nights EP that really stands out and is on that way of this different sound I took on is “Sleep It Off.” Though it’s a bit darker, colder and represents loneliness, it’s actually different than the other tracks off the EP, and shows the early stages of what I’m doing now.
“Biggie Say My Name (Girls Love Beyonce Bootleg)” opens with the line, “Hey Biggie,” which almost sounds like you’re speaking directly to him. The whole song focuses on him. Do you think that’s why it’s connecting with so many people?
Yes, that could be it. Maybe it’s also because I speak in Biggie‘s lines and track titles, flipping them into something of my own, I guess people love when they come across something like that; it’s worldly and real. Plus, I think you can really feel my respect for him in that song. I love the original track and girls really love Beyonce, that’s a classic, I just had to express what I was thinking when I heard it – we love Biggie too, let’s not forget Biggie.
If you had five minutes with Biggie — how would you spend it?
‘Scrambling, gambling, up in restaurants with mandolins and violins’. [Laughs]
I need to ask you the obvious question, which, of course is do you have a crush on The Notorious B.I.G.?
[laughs] Of course, as any woman who loves hip-hop does, in a way.
Have you ever had any awkward moments onstage? Have you ever blanked?
Forgetting lyrics is my thing from time to time, but it always works out alright. Sometimes the audience helps me by singing along and it just all comes back to me. Sometimes I make other lyrics up right at the spot! But I think it’s really about you being there and enjoying the moment, people will feel that and they’ll forget about these “technical issues.” If it’s on the level, of course.
I saw on your Twitter that you like watching a lot of cookery shows. What’s your favorite meal?
Ha, maybe that was my thing at the time you researched. I definitely love to watch cookery shows, the problem is sometimes I end up hungry and want to eat the exact same thing I saw there. But I love sataraš. You’ll have to Google it, but trust me, it’s yummy. Sataraš is one of the main dishes in the Croatian cuisine, like salsa is to the Latin culture, in fact, it very much resembles salsa.
You spoke about “Pink Skies In Dark Nights” a moment ago. What were you trying to articulate with that?
That sometimes you just have to stay up all night, go to music festivals, enjoy love and life. It might not be everlasting but it makes you feel good at the time and you should enjoy every little moment, hot cocoa and pink skies in dark nights, duh.
Do you plan on working with DZA some more?
Yes, it’s in the plans, hanging up there, would definitely like to make it happen again! We spoke about an EP, hope we’ll manage to make it happen. He is real cool, simple to work with, I love when things go smoothly like that, plus I really love what he does, his sound is trop fresh.
At this point, do you have any dream collaborations?
Hudson Mohawke, Sango, Angel Haze,… I wish I could just have one studio session with HudMo, that would be great. Oh and Disclosure. Have your people call my people, guys [laughs].
What do hope to accomplish as a musician?
Everything I can – I am building my life around my music. I want to grow as a person, inspire other artists, make you feel what I feel, and prove other people that there’s nothing you can’t do, even if you’re ‘just’ a girl from Croatia. So, a lot of plans out there.
What’s coming up for you?
I have a new single coming out soon, with this new producer called New Mantra. As far as early 2014, I have a video in the plans, also want to do festivals again in 2014, summer 2013 was so much fun, neon cocktails and sour sugar!
For more on Tamara Saul, visit her website.
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