Nashville-via-NYC indie songwriter Samia stands tall in the intimate space she’s created on her devastatingly emotional and blindingly sublime sophomore album, ‘Honey.’
Stream: ‘Honey’ – Samia
The indie rock community is freaking the f*** out.
Samia releases her sophomore album Honey this Friday, January 27th via Grand Jury Music. Starting out playing living rooms in NYC, the now Nashville-based artist began making a name for herself with her debut, The Baby, in 2020 following it up with the underrated EP, Scout, in 2021. Since then, Samia has been touring with names like Maggie Rogers and Lucy Dacus, exploring her artistry and growing into her own as a 25-year-old force.
Atwood Magazine got the chance to speak with Samia, and her light is as bright and refreshing as the 11 tracks on her bold and punchy new record. Honey was created at Betty’s ⏤ the recording studio of Sylvan Esso’s Nick Sandborn and Amelia Meath in North Carolina. In Samia’s own words, Sylvan Esso’s genius is their ability to “maintain heart and emotion and meaning through full out, shake your ass dance songs.” With the support of the magic-fostering environment at Betty’s, Samia delivers that same superpower on Honey flawlessly.
I can’t imagine having better mentor figures to have been around me, especially in this particular journey of getting to a point of self acceptance and trust in my instincts.
An integral part of Samia’s process is collaborating with her most trusted friends.
Her producer, Caleb Wright (who’s been by her side since The Baby) and Christian Lee Hutson are just two of the artists who played a critical role in helping Samia gut-check and refine her songs.
“Something that I’ve really been grappling with recently is the ethics around writing songs that involve other people’s lives,” she shares. “Where it’s artistic license and where it’s exploitation. Especially because I write so candidly and autobiographically. I’m someone who’s always thinking about the people I love. That’s been a real push and pull thing for me.”
“Kill Her Freak Out,” “Pink Balloon,” and “Breathing Song” highlight Samia’s self-aware and “pathologically confessional” lyricism using sparse, slow-building instrumentals to allow her impactful voice to take center. “Mad at Me” and “Amelia” bump a sunshine-drenched synth-pop sound while detailing the pangs of living without abandoning a spirit of innocence. Samia is unmatched when it comes to wildly fearless and impulsive sincerity that’s somehow not completely reckless.
“At this point in my life, I try to remember why I write the way I write and what what made it feel so cathartic at the beginning, and like to continue to do it for myself and then there’s this amazing byproduct of it helping other people and that’s the thing I’m the most grateful for of anything in the world.”
Samia’s dedication to truth-telling (even when it’s not pretty) and vulnerability is what makes Honey such a triumph,
and what makes her community of adoring fans so obsessed with her every move. Check out Atwood’s in-depth interview with Samia below, go see her headlining tour in February and March with support from Tommy Lefroy, and stream Honey on all platforms January 27th.
I want the tour to feel like the process of making the record. I want the stage to feel like a living room… I want it to feel really mutualistic.
A CONVERSATION WITH SAMIA
Atwood Magazine: Hi Samia, thanks for taking some time to chat with me today.
Samia: Hi! Happy to be here.
Three years ago, you did an interview type video for Doc Martins… you were mentioning how important it was for you to start trusting your instincts. Can you speak to where you are now with that journey?
Samia: I’m taking it day by day. Still working at it. And getting better. It really helps to look back on a specific point in time, and remember how different it was back then. That really gives me a lot of perspective that I don’t necessarily always have. The fact that I even said that is really amazing to me. A lot of that album that I wrote (The Baby) is about that time and wanting so badly to trust myself and my instincts and to be able to protect myself and not having the tools and just desperately searching for them. I think it’s amazing to know how far I’ve come. It’s really encouraging. But, especially as women too, you know, it’s like, it takes a little more effort and takes a little longer to figure it out.
You’ve written some of the most painful, radically truthful lyrics I’ve ever heard. You call it “pathologically confessional.” I think this new album takes it to a whole new level. How do you get there with your writing? What does it feel like to write these songs?
Samia: It’s always been an outlet for myself. Writing has helped me get through those things. And that’s why I started doing it, because it made me feel better about what I was going through. I also want it to be meaningful to other people and to be helpful for other people too. Not everyone’s gonna like it. It’s not gonna resonate with everyone and people don’t understand sometimes. I’m like a chronic people pleaser, too. That’s another thing I’m working on. That’s been the journey. At this point in my life, I try to remember why I write the way I write and what what made it feel so cathartic at the beginning, and like to continue to do it for myself and then there’s this amazing byproduct of it helping other people and that’s the thing I’m the most grateful for of anything in the world. But yeah, you know, other people’s voices are very loud.
You mentioned in a recent Instagram post that “Pink Balloon” and “Sea Lions” tell the same story. Can you talk to me about that? Where were these songs born from, and how do they relate to each other?
Samia: Something that I’ve really been grappling with recently is the ethics around writing songs that involve other people’s lives. Where it’s artistic license and where it’s exploitation. Especially because I write so candidly and autobiographically. I’m someone who’s always thinking about the people I love. That’s been a real push and pull thing for me. With this particular story, it took the longest its ever taken me to write a song. Especially with “Pink Balloon” because I wanted to try to tell the whole story. I wanted to explain the reason I’m saying such specific things about this person is because I wanted to prove how much I knew them and understood them. And even in the times when I was upset, I understood why they were doing the things they were doing. When you’re that close to someone, when you know someone that well, you can never be that mad, at least for me. That was the picture I was trying to paint with “Pink Balloon”.
And then with “Sea Lions”… After we’d finished “Pink Balloon” I realized I hadn’t given myself permission to be angry. I decided to just try to write without thinking. And without trying to make it smart or pretty, or, you know, evolved. So I wanted to put those two songs together because I wanted to try to tell the story of what it’s like when you’re in conflict with someone you love. You have these moments that are just so heated and angry, and you’re only thinking about yourself, and then you have these moments where you’re like, well, but if I consider the whole picture, you know, I can’t really be that mad.
i don’t wanna talk
i don’t ever wanna work it out
we’re too far gone
i just wanna see your house
you’re looking at me like i’m the stranger here
i’m as strange as i’m standing in your mirror
i’ll remember it June, 7pm
getting pasta watch your
screensaver sea lions swim
wear my hat that you hate to the
party and laugh at the movie posters
we’ll never be like those lucky poseurs
why’s your phone going to voicemail
– “Sea Lions,” Samia
How important is creating a visual representation of your music to you?
Samia: I just think it’s an amazing opportunity to give context from my perspective, because even though I write pretty plainly, and honestly, a lot of the time, there’s like a lot of random poetic fluff that gets thrown into and so I think sometimes, like, I’ll hear people say, like, this is so cryptic, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but it’s still like it made me feel something. I have this opportunity with music videos to give it a little more explanation and from my perspective and sort of show you what was going on in my mind, how I’m visualizing the story. I just love that coming from other artists. I love seeing their music videos and getting that peek into people’s brains.
You mentioned Christian Lee Hutson helped on “Pink Balloon” a few months into writing the song? What does helping look like? When you’re in a creative working session, are you asking for artists/friends/collaborators to do or listen for? What is the goal?
Samia: Well, usually when I write with him, I’m just trying to extract as much of his brain as possible. He is a genius in every way. In that particular instance, I was losing my mind. Caleb and I had just been working on the song forever. And everyone was fed up with me because I kept changing my mind and down to the last minute before we were tracking. I just went to Chris and was like, how do I not sound bitter? Like, you have to be honest with me, like, how do we make this not just this like angry, bitter, one sided thing? He went through with me and helped me pinpoint the moments that could zoom out a little more. And he just sprinkled his magic on it. He helped me “tetris” it and make it what I wanted it to be, which is like the greatest gift because I have always looked up to him.
Is your producer Caleb someone else who’s sort of been a sounding board for you in that way?
Samia: Yeah, he’s so deeply involved in the writing and every song on this record, too. And just like that, it really is our record. It’s like a total collaboration. It’s so much of his mind. And he’s one of my closest people and favorite people. I have a hard time working with people who I don’t deeply know, and who don’t deeply know me. I think that’s really imperative to my writing process. To have someone who can look at me and be like, that’s not what you meant to say. Without Caleb and Chris I don’t think I would have been able to get out of myself what I wanted to.
What kind of environment did it take to make this record?
Samia: I was so chaotic during the making of my first record. I was like all over the place and this one I definitely was way more intentional about it. The first record was just like drama city and so I feel a lot older and like I have had a real handle on my inner world and what I wanted to say this time. The thing that is still beautiful to me about the first one is like I was just spitting shit out like I was so stream of consciousness like saying, trying to be smart and then being angry with myself and it was just like a true reflection of what was going on in my mind at 22 years old. So yeah, this one is more thoughtful in that way. But I could never really replicate what I did on the first one because it was so about the environment at the moment.
If you could distill your album, Honey, down into its three most vital ingredients what would those be?
Samia: Patience, insight, and Caleb.
I’m sure you’re looking forward to getting to tour your new music. Did you play some of the newer songs here and there as you’ve been touring Maggie Rogers and Lucy Dacus?
Samia: Yeah, we did a couple. I just wanted so badly to be able to play the whole thing. The sequencing of the record is really important to me. Each song you have to hear the one before it to fully understand the next, which is kind of scary to do in a world where I’m not even sure if people listen to records order anymore. But that’s how it’s intended to be heard. And I’m just so excited to play it that way.
How does touring affect your relationship with the songs? Do you sort of, are you like, you’re craving to be able to, like, play these live and through in that way?
Samia: I want the tour to feel like the process of making the record. I want the stage to feel like a living room. I want it to feel like when I was growing up in New York. We would just sit in people’s living rooms and sing our new songs for each other in the circle. I want it to feel really mutualistic. We recorded the record at Betty’s, which is Sylvan Esso’s studio in North Carolina. They have just created an environment that begets comfort and safety and they just have fostered that so beautifully. And it inspired me to try to take the energy from there into the tour.
Tell me more about what it was like to record at Betty’s.
Samia: [Amelia and Nick are] just the best. They’re so supportive. There would be nights where they would just make us dinner from vegetables from the area. I really credit them individually for the inspiration that we took from that space. So many times I begged Amelia to come listen to stuff and tell me if it was good. One of the songs on the record is about her and also named after her. I can’t imagine having better mentor figures to have been around me and especially in this particular journey of getting to a point of self acceptance and trust in my instincts and stuff. They were really helpful whether they fully knew it or not.
Sylvan Esso had such an obvious impact on us. I think the thing that was so inspiring was just their ability to maintain heart and emotion and meaning through songs that are full out, shake your ass dance songs. I had just never experienced anything like that firsthand. I love to dance and I love to feel joy. I don’t want to do that at the expense of lyricism and honestly, so it was just so cool to see people not sacrifice any of their truth and artistry, but then also make the songs that just make people feel like they’re walking on the sun. It’s total magic to me.
Stream: ‘Honey’ – Samia
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📸 © Sophia Matinazad