The London born artist sits with us to discuss her latest work ‘Wrong Love‘, music, growing up and her love of Studio Ghibli.
The talents of Saina are making waves, converting anyone who listens to her music into an instant fan. Streaming through them is a chasm of thoughts with intricate dispatch, and her style – a combination of elegance and bold delivery can be classified as many things with elements of R&B, jazz, classical, pop to name a few.
Her debut single, ‘Wrong love‘, exhibited a masterclass in vocalisations where she airs a vulnerability that stirs a pot of instrumentals to carry a catchy and flavourful song. From what we’ve heard, Saina is definitely one to watch.
SL: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, first things first, how are you doing? Exciting times for your latest work…
Saina: Hey! Thank you for reaching out! I’ve been good, busy but productive. It’s been very exciting these last few months. After releasing my debut single, ‘Wrong Love‘, things have only been moving up from there.
SL: So, I understand you’re a pianist. Was that your doing on ‘Wrong Love’?
Saina: I wrote ‘Wrong Love‘ on the piano at home, as an acoustic version at first. I started playing the piano at 7 years old and I’ve always loved jazz and jazz-influenced styles of music. I was learning the theme song from the film Howl’s Moving Castle and the chords moved me. I rearranged them and ‘Wrong Love’ started from there. At the time I was going through a toxic relationship and the mood of the chords suited it perfectly. The lyrics and melody just flowed out. I remember the writing process felt so natural.
SL: You’ve said that your heritage is Japanese, and I’m told you have a love of Ghibli movies, how does this echo through your work?
Saina: Ghibli movies are my childhood. The composer Joe Hisaishi writes the most beautiful, magical pieces and I learnt a lot of his pieces on the piano. A lot of my inspiration for chords & harmonies are definitely inspired by Hisaishi’s compositions. There is an emotion that 7th, 9th, 13th and all other jazz chords project and, in his pieces, they create a powerful mix of emotions, ranging from sadness, hope and happiness in the same piece.
SL: Your music has an interesting jazz/blues sound with a hint of lo-fi. How would you describe it and has your sound always had this kind of ring to it?
Saina: Me, my brother and sister used to put a CD on every night before going to sleep when we were little and Nina Simone was one of them. I’ve always been immersed by her mood and style. We had a couple Amy Winehouse CDs too and she has always been my biggest inspiration.
The Hip-hop influence also came from listening to Amy Winehouse but it also came from other artists, too. For example, picture this, my Dad driving 3 primary school children home from school with the windows down and my Dad, probably the least gangsta person you’d ever meet, with 50 Cent blaring out on the car stereo. I’ve always loved 50 Cent’s simple yet memorable melodies and his lyrics being so poetic and meaningful. Later down the line, I explored a lot of Soundcloud beats that were lo-fi Hip hop songs. I probably had about a hundred of those saved in a revision playlist during my GCSEs. I wasn’t very good at producing drum tracks but I always knew I wanted my songs to have that grit & aggression typical of Hip hop.
SL: Would you say you fit within a particular musical culture?
Saina: Yes, London. I’ve grown up here, met people from all over London and this being such a multi-cultured city, I think my music speaks to that diversity. I feel blessed to have grown up around all kinds of music genres and I think it’s helped shape my music massively – and continues to do so.
I would definitely like to explore more of the musical culture of my heritage, one day. It could be an interesting fusion.
SL: As a new artist, how are you thriving and what are you finding out about the business as you progress?
Saina: I certainly thrived from independently releasing ‘Wrong Love‘. I self-produced the track, with the help of producer Ojay Beats, I created the content for promotion and learnt the ins and outs of how my team and I were going to do the marketing. Participating in the process has helped me understand the industry better.
Releasing the single during lock-down meant the focus of our promotions was through social media and it was fun creating content for the pre-launch and launch. With the help of my sister, Shiona Penrake, we filmed and edited a series of videos for Instagram to convey the mood of the song without having to produce a full-length music video.
What am I finding out about the business? It’s brutal, haha. People don’t care until you’ve got a name and some major numbers to show you’re marketable. On the other hand, it’s amazing to receive so much support and love from people. It touches me to hear that people are enjoying listening to Wrong Love, so thank you everyone!
SL: You’ve said that you work mostly from your bedroom studio, do you think that gives your music a lick of mood that a for-hire studio can’t?
Saina: My bedroom studio is my bubble and when I’m in my flow state bubble, I write the best. Being that I write in my own time and when I have thoughts on a topic, the music comes out naturally. No doubt a studio will have better equipment to mine at home but I definitely think my best song-writing has been created at home.
SL: One of your press releases says that “the lyrics must come from the ‘soul’ of my ‘narrator’”, so what else can we expect in the content of your future work?
Saina: More of the same thing! Whether I’m speaking from my point of view or imagining myself in someone else’s shoes, I stay true to the feelings. I feel a lot of the music I come across now is wishy-washy and weak on challenging ideas and conflicting emotions. In just one song I like to explore the pain, suffering, love, gratitude, anger, vulnerability and strength that I might feel towards a subject. In any situation, everyone always feels more than one emotion so I always look to explore that in my songs.
SL: I understand there is an EP in the works, can you tell me a little more about it? (Is there a specific theme, who is involved, when is it due to drop? etc)
Saina: I do have an EP that I’m really excited to release and let everyone into my world. The concept is of a cosmopolitan city girl who goes through the experience of her boyfriend being thrown in jail and the feelings and struggles she experiences living in London. I’d like to use visuals and other forms of art as well as music to fully explore this scenario and highlight the day-to-day hardship and poverty so many people have to put up with. I think it’s a very current issue that young people living in poor urban areas will relate to, not just in the UK but all over the world.
During the past few months I’ve been working closely with Ojay Beats, as well as producing a few tracks of my own. At the moment my team and I don’t have a specific date for the drop but are working towards it every day and hope to launch before the year is out. Keep your eyes peeled!
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SL: Do you feel there are certain elements you have to reserve to allow your audience to get to know you at first?
Saina: People are very quick to judge and that usually comes from imagery. Instagram would be the main platform for that. I think creating mystery can sometimes help you get noticed and throughout my campaign for ‘Wrong Love’, I kept to this line of thinking.
On the other hand, I also think being transparent and open with my audience is key. I could say I write music just for myself but really and truly, most people write for other people, whether it’s a family member, friends or fans. I always try and be as open about what I’m working on, any updates and news, but on top of that, naturally I want to express myself and who I am; it’s important to be human, not just an image and a voice!
SL: What do you hope to be doing differently once you’ve established yourself?
Saina: I’d like to have the opportunity to travel to different countries, meet and work with new people. I think traveling and continuing my journey in different environments will give me new inspirations. Writer’s block can often be caused by being stuck in the same routine and cycle of everyday tasks, so experiencing new things and stepping out of your comfort zone can help with that. And there are producers that I’d love to work with one day, such as Kaytranada and Salaam Remi, and if I were to do that, I would probably have to spend some time in the US. Doing a world tour would be an amazing experience, that’s for sure.
One day I would like to set up a community to help vulnerable people or people who don’t have access to create music they wanted to make. With most creative paths, networking and making strong creative and business connections are such a key part to becoming successful and that may be the reason many people don’t have the opportunity to pursue music as a career – so I’d love to be in a position one day to help people realise their dreams.
SL: Anything else you can tell us no one else knows?
Saina: At the moment I don’t have any other releases in the public space, but I do have an exclusive B-side single you can listen to. Go to this website, pop in your email and I’ll send it straight to your inbox:
As I mentioned before, keep a look out for my EP! Really excited for what’s to come!