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Christine Sako for The Meadow

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interviewer: Sara Sharif (@sarangelic)
interviewee: Christine Sako (@christinesako)

Indie synth pop artist Christine Sako unveiled a fresh  chapter of her music career with her new single “Seasoned” on June 25. Written and recorded by Sako, the single is about the early stages of a relationship when one can feel the urge to give a large portion of themself to their partner while the other person still has their guard up. “It is about willingness and patience and wanting nothing more than for the other person to feel comfortable and eventually arrive on the same page,” says Sako. 

What do you consider the perfect moment?

"Being outside with a beautiful view (think a beach coast, a mountain overlook, a lake waterfront),breathing in the overwhelming aroma of nature, listening to the absolute perfect song that vibeswith that scenery, and just falling into those visual, olfactory, and auditory worlds colliding. Chef’s kiss!"

* in relevance to our issue #5 MOMENT 

t h e   i n t e r v i e w

1. Please start with a little introduction about yourself!
Hi! I’m Christine Sako and I live out in sunny San Diego, CA. I’m originally from Minneapolis, MN, and moved here in 2012 to avoid the brutal winters. I’m a data scientist by day and a musician by… also day… and night!

2. What genre would you say your music belongs to?
I would say at this point it is indie-pop or indie-electro-pop. It’s taken me a while to lean into escaping any acoustic/folk genre – because that is how I started out. I was a very acoustic singer-songwriter artist when I first started playing music. Over the years I’ve become really drawn to more electronic elements and synth-based sounds. My first full-length album, “The Math Project” went down a little more avant garde path in regards to the instrumentation and arrangement. The singles I’ve released since them have honed in a bit more on a pop sounds and is a bit more palatable I think.

3. What is the story behind your musical journey?
In middle school I came up with a melody and some lyrics and recorded it on my little sister’s toy tape player. I got the courage to play it for one of my friends and she very adamantly told me never to sing for anyone again! After a couple years of being completely discouraged from songwriting, I was watching MTV and randomly heard Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” and was immediately motivated to start playing guitar. I soon learned every song off her debut album and got the drive again to create my own melodic stories. One courageous day I figured I had nothing to lose and recorded guitar and vocals to a song I had written and sent them to select friends over AIM – telling
them I had “discovered” this recording randomly online (these were the Xanga days, afterall). When the feedback was that the song I had recorded was good, I ran with it and have been writing ever since.

4. And how has your journey been so far?
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster! Starting off on the very slow climb to the highest peak and then ups and downs since. Right now I feel like I am coasting on a pretty elevated poimt on the ride, and I’m working hard to make sure I stay there and hopefully keep rising up again. The beginning was frontloaded with endless songwriting and trying to get as good at guitar as I could. Then when I needed to do something with those songs I fumbled around with Garageband and started learning how to track and produce music. Optically, the peak I mentioned before was probably playing bass/keys in a band where we got to travel all over the US and Europe (2x!). That was over 10 years
ago, and after that point I’ve been very off and on with various music projects, most notably the release of my first full-length album “The Math Project” in 2014. I took a bit of a hiatus after that, but in the past year I have started ramping up again and pushing myself to make the most compelling music I can muster.

5. I am in love with your latest single, “Seasoned”. Tell us what “Seasoned” means to you and what your aim was during the making.
First of all, thank you! I wrote “Seasoned” last fall (so yes, in the thick of the pandemic!) and it was a direct result of a situation I was navigating personally. The way the song came about reminded me more of my high school/early college way of writing where I felt compelled to write in order to get all the junk out of my head and heart and come to some sort of peaceful equilibrium. In “Seasoned”, I try to evocate the repetitive, cyclical nature of relationships that I have experienced. The struggle of trying to be with someone who is reluctant to be vulnerable while conversely you yourself are comfortable and confident with being as open and communicative as possible. The “moral” is that you can either have these experiences again and again and get down and weathered, or you can learn from the trials you’ve been through and become more seasoned.

6. How was the process of the making of the song? 
It was one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on in a long time! I was coming off the heels of releasing what has become my most popular track to-date (“Sediments”), so I had a lot of vigor and motivation to keep producing music that people would receive well. There were a couple key moments where I found “the perfect” sound I was looking for that I thought really set the vibe for the track – there is a super percussive arpeggiated synth that comes in the second chorus and I just about died when went through the first playback using that sound. There is also a super thick kick that I added to the final chorus which I think really made that home stretch more impactful. Adding
trap bass to the bridge was a “hmm..should I?” moment which I am really glad I went for.

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7. What is your creative process?
My creative process has gone through many iterations since I started as wide-eyed 13 year-old. In those early years I had so many intense teenage-y feelings that just poured out through songwriting. Since then, I’ve gone through periods of my life where I write just to keep up and/or sharpen my songwriting skillset. I consider that method to be a sort of “practice mode” to help foster efficiency and circumvent future writer’s block when I might have a deadline with pressure to crank out a song on demand. The more meaningful and complex songs that I end up recording come from randomly getting the urge to sit down with my guitar or at the piano and letting thoughts just bubble to the surface and pop into melodies and lyrics. Sometimes it’s at a time where I feel like I need to get something off my chest, but sometimes my mind wanders to a memorable time from years ago or some imaginary scenario that I sort of place myself in. Over the years my consistent songwriting vessel is the shower – there’s something about water flow and this concept of cleansing that pushes melodies and lyrics out of me like no other place or situation can.

8. Who is your musical inspiration?
Avril Lavigne is my original inspiration as far as motivating me to start playing guitar and writing music. Her bold independence and disregard for others’ opinions were qualities I was very drawn to. The fact she was a young female who gave off this vibe of “I’m making music the way I want to, and I don’t care if you like it or not” really got me hooked and set a blueprint for how I wanted to make music. After I had a bit of a handle on songwriting and was deep in my brooding, singer-songwriter style, I discovered Elliott Smith. I was enamored by his sheer rawness and vulnerability in his songwriting. Those elements are so present throughout his recordings and that was something I thought was so brave and beautiful. I think a lot of the songs I wrote when I was 15-18 had some mad “Between the Bars” vibes.

9. Any tips for our musicians out here?
If you really want to make your own music and have your voice heard, take any criticism (constructive or not) with 1 million grains of salt. I think production basics and quality are always important topics to keep an ear out for, but when the feedback falls into more subjective genres such as flow, vibe, lyrics, etc., everyone is going to have their own taste. To try to cater to each of these suggestive whims would be like 360 degree tug of war and will be hard pressed to get any less critical feedback in the future. Stay true to what you believe is your vibe. Sure, it’s important to fall within a certain threshold of listenability. Being palatable while sacrificing as little musical integrity
as possible should be the goal.

10. So, what should we expect next, in the near future?
I JUST (like, two days ago “just”) finished writing what I plan on making my next single. I plan to start tracking for that soon and hope to have it all wrapped with a bow by the end of the year. One goal I have in the next 5 years is to have a short little tour, maybe up the west coast. I’ve toured playing in a band and have played plenty of local shows as a solo artist, but I have never gotten the opportunity to tour on my own. The idea sounds really exciting and fun to me.

11. How do we gain access to your music?
I’m on all music streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, etc.). I also record little covers as well as originals over on Instagram, so you can follow me there and check it out as well!

12. Any message for Pastel Serenity’s creative community? 
Stay true to who you are and be proud of it! We didn’t survive a pandemic to cower in insecurities!

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