Local Mic: Sabrina Song



PHOTO: Clara Reed

PHOTO: Clara Reed

Sabrina Song is a Long Island native who consistently creates emotive work that is piercingly vulnerable, either through mourning or reflection. Her new EP “Undone,” is a perfect testimony to the feeling Song puts into her music, as she creates a fresh and off-the-beaten-path pop sound with clear, soothing vocals and melodies — all while telling a vibrant story of isolation and catharsis. Blended’s Sarah John talked with Song about what it’s like to come into her own as a musician with New York City as her playground, her journey as a songwriter/producer leading up to her new EP, and the pressures for women in the music industry.

What do you consider to be home?

I feel like everyone who moves to New York City, once you’re there long enough, you kind of call that home. But I guess my mom would be mad at me for saying that, so I would say here and the town I grew up in (Brightwaters, Long Island). I lived there my whole life, and all of my memories up until the last two years are there in my hometown, which is pretty small. That would probably be where I would like to identify. No matter where I go in the world, the town I grew up in will always have a special place in my heart.

Who are your biggest musical Influences?

It evolves so much over time! I guess growing up I would listen to the powerhouse pop women of the 2000s, like Adele, Avril Lavigne, and Christina Aguilera. Also, Sara Bareilles was a big one. Now that I have moved from just singing to doing songwriting and other things, I really love Solange and Mitski, and Sia’s whole body of work. Also, the 1975. Just a lot of the contemporary indie pop and rock people are still probably the biggest for me.

Do you have a most meaningful musical performance? Either one you put on, or one that you saw performed?

I would say the most meaningful show that I’ve done, just the first one that comes to mind because I have seen a lot of big artists, is the first show that I ever fully planned from start to finish. I made the bill and worked on it with my friend Abby this March. It was a super small thing, but we were able to basically fill the room. That felt really gratifying because it was all my friends and other female-identifying artists who I love. Being able to know that I can successfully make that process happen for myself without a booking agent, or without having someone come to me, was really meaningful to me.

How does your identity influence your music? If it does at all?

Identity is not something I directly talk about in my music, necessarily. I don’t directly talk about being female or being Chinese or being mixed race, but I think my music is super personal and makes me feel vulnerable. But, it’s more in all the things that made me who I am, including my actual identity. I think especially probably just being a woman in this industry. It took me so long to even feel comfortable calling myself a songwriter and a producer, and to feel comfortable and confident in my abilities and what I’m capable of. I still feel like it plays a big role in my insecurities when it comes to music. On the other hand, it kind of fuels my music,  because that’s what I like putting into my music, the vulnerability and the rawness. So, it’s like a blessing and a curse.

When you write, do you picture an ideal listener? Is there a type of person you write for?

I think I want my music to feel accessible to everyone but I definitely have in mind, not a demographic, but more like a type of person. I think I always thought I was writing for young people, but I’ve been told by a lot of people older than me that it’s like, still a very relatable feeling to feel lost or unsure of yourself or like you still don’t have things figured out. I still think there’s an element that is distinctly female in terms of just that feeling of not measuring up because of society’s pressure. My listeners do skew female,  and I would say when I actually picture it, it is in a lot of ways kind of like my younger self. It’s like me, talking to myself three years ago, saying it’s okay to feel the things you do, that other people feel the things you do, and that you have no reason to be as hard on yourself as you’re being. But I think, hopefully, more than just that group of people can identify with it. 

Are there any key experiences, or a set of experiences, that molded you as a musician?

I always loved being busy and structure. Growing up, I participated in music a lot, but it was a lot of getting scored on singing or choir performances, practicing violin. It was a lot of music that had a very clear right way to make it, and I think once I started making songs I was like, this is the actual challenge: What do I have to say as a person rather than just practicing?  There’s value in practicing as a skill set, but making music really made me think about what I care about. It made me think about how even though I can remake music until I consider it perfect, what do I want to say? I came from all these years of doing covers and not having to think about the meaning behind the art, and now it’s like, this is my name on it. So, just getting over the idea of perfection, and not chasing that feeling. Instead, focusing on the meaning behind it, and feeling of being true to myself in what I make, instead of chasing this level of perfection that may not exist.

What’s up next? What should we be looking out for?

I’m releasing a music video for one of the songs on the EP in August, and I just have a few more gigs in the city, and then I’m actually going to be in Berlin for a few months. For the rest of the year, it’s going to be a lot of writing and figuring out where I want to take my sound next. But in terms of what’s actually going to be produced, it’s probably the music video first and foremost, that is most important to look out for!

You can stream Sabrina Song’s EP, “Undone,” on Spotify. Keep up with her Instagram for live show updates!

Lead Image Credit: Clara Reed