Shaloma and Sathiya Sam have been doing music since they were kids. For Shaloma, growing up in Jamaica and singing in primarily religious environments, has led her to a diverse and well-rounded gospel sound. Sathiya, also a student of music from a young age, learned lots from a very musical father who taught him to play by ear and explore songwriting. Today, Shaloma is an independent singer/songwriter, and Sathiya is an accomplished songwriter and musician who released his own project in 2015.
I’m delighted to dive into the art of songwriting and discuss Shaloma and Sathiya’s writing journey in this week’s Q&A blog.
Q: When did music become an important part of your life?
Shaloma: Since I was about 6 years old, I had a knack for creating melodies and lyrics. That was also the age I wrote my first song. While it was always a part of my life, I didn’t really discover my potential with music until I was about 20. Truly, that’s when I found my confidence and realized that singing/songwriting was more than just a hobby.
Sathiya: Music has been pretty much a constant for me since I was young. I used to sit in my dad’s bluegrass/gospel band practices and learn a lot. I also started to pursue music more seriously in my mid-20’s, and that’s when I started to write more, and I even released an album.
Q: As a songwriter, what does your creative process look like? Do you hear a melody first and then write, or do the words come first?
Shaloma: It goes different ways for me. Sometimes it’s writing poetry as an outlet and then I add a melody later. Other times, I could be walking down the street and I’ll get a melody or lyric that pops into my head, and then I try to write around it. I love words and it’s definitely the thing that comes most naturally to me.
Sathiya: I usually get music first. Melodies and chord progressions come quite naturally to me. I usually have to work a little bit harder on lyrics. But, because I know my tendencies, sometimes I will challenge myself and try to pick a topic first and then intentionally write around it.
Q: When it comes to songwriting, do you ever encounter writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Shaloma: Definitely. I think most writers do, even the really experienced ones. Since songwriting is very creative, I find I experience writer’s block mostly when I’m stressed out or putting too much pressure on myself. Doing something relaxing, going out in nature or even listening to a songwriter that inspires me, really helps me to be re-ignited into the passion and creative flow of writing, rather than just doing it for the sake of productivity.
Sathiya: The short answer is no. I’ve tried to eliminate the term from my vocabulary. Not as an act of denial, but I find that writer’s block can be quite anxiety-inducing and counter-productive. My philosophy is that even if I sit down to write for an hour, and after that hour I didn’t come up with any ideas that stuck (or any ideas at all), I’m still 1 hr closer than I was before. You’re going to hit challenges along the way, it’s inevitable, but understanding that it’s part of the process makes it much more enjoyable.
Q: Do you write as individuals or collaborate as a duo? And how does that impact the writing process?
Shaloma: Since this is something that we both did on our own before we even met, it’s definitely still a very individual process for the both of us. However, we have written together a number of times and thoroughly enjoy it. I find it benefits the writing process because we’re able to bring both of our strengths and weaknesses to the table. As you can see, we approach songwriting quite differently, so it does present a challenge at times as well, but a very rewarding and growing experience which ultimately has made our songs stronger.
Q: Often described as the universal language, has music helped you through pivotal moments in your life?
Shaloma: Oh yes, 100%. Probably most of my life, music has been a huge part of what brought me through my toughest times. Writing is one of the main ways that helps me to process pain. Some songs that I wrote purely for venting purposes, have become some of my favourite songs.
Sathiya: Yes, yes, yes! I can’t imagine how I would’ve made it through previous seasons in life without music, and specifically, without songwriting. Writing songs has always been an outlet for me. The fact that what I create benefits others is a bonus. Some things in life just don’t feel the same in a poem or a short story, or even a conversation. They need to be crafted into a song to feel fully expressed!
Q: Any advice for aspiring songwriters and music producers?
Shaloma: Always be yourself. I think authenticity is one of the most important aspects of the creative process. When we are releasing the expression of our truest self, that is when we have the greatest impact. No one else is you, no one else has gone through what you have. The world needs what’s inside of you, so don’t try to look or sound like anyone else. Just be yourself. You’re enough!
Sathiya: I would say work hard on your craft and no matter what level of success you experience, always be a learner. Music is an infinite world where the humble and the curious have the most success.
Q: What is currently on your music list…and reading list?
Shaloma: Selena Gomez’s newest album has been super inspiring to me as I can relate to a lot that she has been through and to see her process come out in the lyrics and melodies, is so life-giving to me. I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying Maverick City Music’s Volume 2 album. They’re a gospel group based out of Atlanta Georgia, that are so diverse in their approach to music and it’s just very refreshing. I’ve been reading Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, and Heart Made Whole by Christa Black-Gifford.
Sathiya: I’ve actually really enjoyed Selena Gomez’s new album. I appreciate the instrumental diversity within the tracks and I think she wrote some really strong choruses. I’m also enjoying a few new singles from a label called Bethel Music based in California. Reading-wise, I’m much more in the business world these days, trying to figure out marketing and that sort of thing. I’m currently reading Seth Godin’s This Is Marketing.
Q: Any upcoming projects, and how can we follow your journeys?
Shaloma: I’ll be releasing my first EP this year which I’m very excited about. We’re planning to capture the songs live, which is a pretty daunting task but one that I am excited to carry through.
Sathiya: You can find us on Instagram: @sathiyamesam and @noahshaloma