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Interview: 2020 Must-Know - AWA

Interview: 2020 Must-Know - AWA

Awa Santesson Sey, who releases music under the name AWA, has steadily been working on her craft and is set to release her debut EP this year.

Having won the Swedish edition of 'The X Factor' back in 2012 (when she was just 15), AWA is now based in London where she's been honing her craft working on her own songs - with empowering songs like 'Like I Do' highlighting her attitudes of the importance of self-love (in the song, she triumphantly sings, "Nobody can love me like I love me"), and 'F**kin' Love Songs' where she acknowledges the transformation of her pain into art ("All these fucking love songs / I write better when it hurts").

She describes the upcoming EP as "a timeline of love from different perspectives," and with her already-released songs catching attention from the likes of Complex and Beats 1, AWA is one to keep an eye on in 2020.

MUST-LISTEN: 'Like I Do', 'F**kin' Love Songs', 'Comfortable'.
YOU WILL LIKE, IF YOU LIKE: Kehlani, Jorja Smith, Jessie Reyez, Mahalia, Ella Mai, SZA... and knowing the importance of self-love with yourself.

COUP DE MAIN: 'Like I Do' is such an important message of self-love. Why do you think that self-love and sharing that message is so important?
AWA: I wrote 'Like I Do' when I was in a rut, lost, and confused about who I was and what was going on in my life at the time. When you sit with your feelings and observe them and allow yourself to get in touch with them, good or bad, you often end up a little bit stronger or with a new sense of clarity. That is what 'Like I Do' was for me, I wrote how I wanted to feel and then started to feel that way, little by little. I usually don’t listen to my own songs after they're finished and released but 'Like I Do' really works as a self-love empowerment tool for me. I think the beat has an uplifting spirit that resonates with me and with the affirming lyrics it reminds you that you need to put yourself first to make anyone else happy along the way. Taking care of your happiness and health is being very considerate about people around you. If you don’t recharge your energy and feel good, you have nothing to give. That’s why boundaries and self-love are important, but hey, it’s a journey, and also not being too hard on yourself in situations and past decisions is another very crucial part of self-love. I am in no way perfect but at least I allow myself to feel whatever I want and then make the conscious decision of trying to be a better me, every day.

CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
AWA: If I'm out and about and hear something that inspires me, I write it down. If I see something, I write it down. Feel something new, I write it down. These notes then work as a tool if I'm low on inspiration in the studio, as an inspiration vault. Although my process of writing a song, technically, is listening to a beat, an instrumental, or maybe some chords on the piano. Then I grab a hand mic and let the melodies flow, I believe that whatever is meant to be said that day will naturally appear. Then come the lyrics pieced to that, usually, there are some words in the draft that can lead you into the theme. But I'm all about the feeling, if it doesn’t feel good and flows, I move on to another track. I do always make sure to finish any ideas we might have to get a clear picture of what we are working on.

CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically for the songs, or do you write poems or prose and then evolve them into song-form?
AWA: I write lyrics on the day, might get a theme or an idea from my notes, but I rarely write lyrics before the melodies are laid down.

CDM: In 'F**kin' Love Songs' you sing, "I write better when it hurts." As an artist, are you aware that sometimes the most painful moments of your life are parts that you can deal with through your songwriting?
AWA: I see songwriting as a huge therapeutical outlet. To be honest, it's really weird sometimes if you think about it because you end up in rooms with people that you´ve never met before and all of a sudden you all share stories from your life. You wouldn’t do that say if you started chatting to someone at a café straight away. But that’s the beauty of it, strangers connect and create something that didn’t exist 5 hours prior and then when released to the world even more people can connect to that new energy in their way, I love that. It inspires me and is the greatest fuel to stay creative, it doesn’t have to be sad or deep, but as long as you feel something from my music that might change your outlook on things or make you think, my job is done. That has been very rewarding for me with 'Like I Do', I get messages every day on how much it helped people re-focus on positivity, and that makes my heart full because that was my exact intention behind the track.

CDM: You've said you want that song to take the negative and turn it into the positive - why do you think that's an important thing to do when approaching hard situations?
AWA: You can dwell on the past all you want, but that takes time and often creates feelings of discomfort and it doesn’t serve you. But if you do choose to dwell, change perspective - what was the good that came out of that situation? 'F**kin' Love Songs' is absolutely not a guide book on how to deal with a relationship, of course I want and deserve the best, but it's real, that was the situation at the time and it just said, “Hey f*** it, at least I got a good song out of it,” because negative and hard situations can fuel a lot of creativity, and that is a blessing, at least I chose to do something with it. I'd much rather learn from happy and loving experiences, but I think that when you deal with the negative and come out a little wiser on the other side, you must experience it all to grow.

CDM: Lyrically, what's your favourite song that you’ve written?
AWA: 'Like I Do' as of this moment.

CDM: What can you tell us about your upcoming debut EP?
AWA: Oooohh that I'm very excited about it and happy with it, I'm already working on my new projects so it's been done for a while. What I can say is that it’s a timeline of love from different perspectives. One where you're trying to make things work and then end up with the hurt or disappointment and letting that spark a fire for growth, leading into an even deeper journey of self-love that emerges into curiosity and new rules from your new paradigm. It ends up with a strong statement of how you can still feel and reflect over the bad times without letting it affect your whole life and setting new boundaries. I'm thinking of calling it 'Cry.Baby' because I am a very emotional person, which I'm proud of, but the experiences might have made me cry at the time being (then I dust myself off and tried again.. ;) ) but with the finished project, who is crying now, Baby?

CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song?
AWA: A great song connects, it can be the beat, the lyrics or the melodies. It doesn’t matter which element of the song it is but if it makes you feel something and vibe to it, it’s a great song.

CDM: At what age did you write your very first song ever, and what was it about?
AWA: I've been making up melodies and lyrics since the age of 5/6, I have no idea what I was talking about though. I had an obsession with butterflies and angels though, it might have been a theme, I had my own little clothing brand at home called 'Butterfly' at the age of eleven haha, me and my pink sewing machine making “stage clothing”.

CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music?
AWA: That it's okay to be vulnerable, that you can always come out stronger, and that you got it all within you. Life should be fun, take it easy on yourself but stay lit and glowing!

CDM: If A.W.A. were an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
AWA: Amazing Women Align.

CDM: What’s on your bucket list?
AWA: That will take to long to write down in terms of goals, I'd rather move in some kind of silence and show the results haha.

CDM: You’re one of our 'must-know’ artist picks for 2020…who are yours?
AWA: For that I'm very honoured, so a huge thank you! Hmmm I absolutely adore Lucky Daye, M.O ( a fantastic girl group from the UK), BJ The Chicago Kid

CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
AWA: Your hearts. I promise to take care of them.

CDM: If you were a country, what would be your national anthem?
AWA: 'Work' by Rihanna, damn it’s a vibe.

Watch AWA perform 'F**kin' Love Songs' live below...

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