Interview: Fall in love with rising R&B star Samica
In the ever-expanding field of hopeful online musicians, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out as an artist who deserves your attention. Even harder is capturing the attention of major pop stars, who presumably don’t share just any passing covers that they find online. So it only makes sense that when Bay Area based singer Samica (Samica Jhangiani) got a rare shoutout from Marshmello for covering his songs “Happier”/”Biba,” she took that opportunity to cultivate a small following for herself.
But even though Internet virality is fleeting, Samica’s standalone releases since then have proved that she’s destined for more than a one-time Twitter share. Fusing pop/R&B with a low-key vibe, her first single “Alright” melds the singer’s wiry, impressive vocals to a swaying beat. Even more underrated is her acoustic rendition of the song (“Alright – Stripped”)–using the tone of her voice to turn the love ballad from a sexy escapade into an affectionate, intimate moment with a loved one. Followup release “Design” further flexes her athletic vocals amongst a simple acoustic background. And her latest single, “Wreck,” is further proof of her ability to pen radio-friendly earworms, allowing her to open up the door for greatness. Recently, she’s even collaborated with rising singer Jelani Aryeh, remixing “Wreck” and giving it a soft R&B twist. As she’s already proved, Samica is the whole pop package, destined for much more than acoustic pop covers.
Recently, we had a chance to talk to Samica about releasing her own songs into the world, the ways that she’s growing as an artist, and what she’s planning for the rest of 2020.
How would you describe your style of music? Who inspires you?
My style of music is very personal and mood-driven. All the songs that I put out are a direct reflection of how I was feeling in that moment, and experiences that I’ve gone through. I wouldn’t say I fit one genre, but I focus more on the lyrics and melodies of my songs rather than the music behind it. I find music that is emotional and real to be extremely inspiring. Sometimes when I am having writer’s block I just start to listen to random artists and feel inspired immediately. Something about listening to other people write their stories into melodies makes me feel like I want to do the same every minute of the day! Fireboy DML from Nigeria, Ari Lennox, HER, Rico Nasty, and Doja Cat have been a few recent favorites of mine. I also love Kali Uchis… her whole vibe/aesthetic is everything!
Some of your music covers have been shared by the artists themselves. Did you ever think that that would happen? How did you feel about getting noticed by your musical inspirations?
Yesssss. Soooooo cool. It was amazing to find out that the artists themselves have seen my take on their music. I think its amazing that they pay attention to their fans that way! Definitely never thought that Marshmello or Jessie Reyez would see my covers but they did and now I am content for life. Hahah but really, I think its super cool that they liked what I did and even reposted it for their fans. For Marshmello’s I combined the Hindi song he did called “Biba” and his other litty song “Happier.” But for Jessie Reyez, that cover was my favorite. That song/cover is especially memorable to me because, during that time, I hadn’t been writing a lot… or I had been writing but I hated everything I would put down to paper, but I wrote an entire verse for that song that just flowed out of me effortlessly. I was so happy that it came out and that she liked it! And she liked it enough to share it! Since then I feel excited to write and like what I am saying these days. Some days more than others but at least the good ones count.
You’ve made the gradual transition from music covers to finally releasing your own songs. How does it feel to have your own songs out there in the world?
Oh my gosh… this question. Yes. This is something that I had been waiting for for years!! And when I say years… I really mean it. Anyone that knows me knows I had been dying to put out all these songs that I had written on my guitar but was waiting for the right moment, right producer, or right team to really push them out to an audience. I have been writing songs since I was 14 and don’t think I will ever be able to stop. There is such a different kind of satisfaction from singing a cover, to releasing an original song that you have poured your heart and soul into. Also to find out that not only are people listening to it, but they are identifying with it… and love them! I feel so blessed even though I have this constant war within myself about writing songs. It’s a good feeling to know I have a way to connect with people who I otherwise would never meet or have any contact with in my lifetime. It is kind of funny to hear people sing your lyrics back to you that you wrote while you were depressed as hell, but hearing them make you so happy. I love it. It makes the war of art so much more rewarding.
What was your experience like releasing “Alright” as your first single and the accompanying music video for it?
Releasing Alright was a roller coaster of an experience. I never was meant to release that song as my first single, but it happened to just all fall into place. I wrote it in such a sad time… I still remember that day. I went into the studio with my producer and engineer who were two of my closest friends at the time and I couldn’t even get out a word to talk to them. I was so upset and sad that I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but I just went on the mic and sang the first few lines/melody freestyle so easily. I even had to step back and realize that wow, this is what I really felt at that time.
As sad as the song was, the music video was actually really fun putting together. I spent hours on hours locked in my room editing all this footage I had from a trip to Bath, England and created a home music video for it. I thought it was amazing, but I realized I had no shots of me actually singing the song. So I called up my friend Raghu and asked if he would be down to help me capture those performance shots, and we spent an evening just running around LA recording me singing “Alright”. He edited the video I made, and added in all these beautiful shots of LA to create a music video way beyond what I was ever expecting. I love that one because its so raw and real. It feels beyond authentic. I’m so happy that was my first.
Recently, you released a remix for your latest single “Wreck” with Jelani Aryeh. What was it like working with them? How did this collaboration come together?
Yes!! It was such a fun experience and very 2020. Jehlani and his producer Jack called me up on the phone to talk about the remix idea that they had and I was honestly down for whatever. I left total creative control up to them and I love where they took it. I am pretty sure Jack and Jehlani produced this whole song over just an acapella of me singing “Wreck” and they killed it. I couldn’t be happier with where they took it and I think it’s such a fun twist to it. We never got a chance to meet because of 2020. I ended up drawing the cover art at home while my parents yelled at me for something and it’s my favorite piece of artwork I’ve ever done. Our remix ended up landing on the Spotify Playlist, Lorem, and that was an amazing feeling. They’re both such cool guys and I’m so glad we got to create something unique and get recognized for it during this wild time.
Way back in 2016, you did an interview with Kollaboration as one of their STAR finalists. Looking back, how much have you changed as an artist since that interview? Do you still abide by the same answers?
Wow… so long ago!! I feel like so much yet nothing has changed!! Hahah I definitely don’t feel like I am just starting out anymore. Back then I had no idea what to expect and it was before I ever moved out to LA but now I have made so many connections, mistakes, and experiences that I was never expecting to happen. It’s nice to reflect and remember what stage of life I was in.. I was just starting to put up covers, perform live, and sing songs I wrote for people praying that they would like them. I think the biggest thing that has changed is my mindset. I realized that writing music isn’t like a baby… where you’re so protective over it and hoping that people think its amazing, but it’s about saying what you need to say to the world and knowing that if you write well, people will always share that experience with you. It’s about knowing that you shouldn’t care about other people’s opinions on your stories that you’ve experienced because the minute that you fall into that trap you will overthink everything you do. Just enjoy life and enjoy the ride of the journey you are destined to be on.
Four years later, we’re starting to have a lot more Asian representation in films and music. Have you been inspired by other Asian Americans who are finally making headway in mainstream music or film?
This is so true. Even today I feel like we’re just getting started. I don’t know what we were thinking was representation four years ago!! I have been inspired by so so many other Asian Americans who are finally making it. I think my biggest will always be my friend, AJ Rafael. He is such a pioneer for Asian Americans in music and entertainment and I don’t think he gets enough credit. He really was one of the first Youtubers and Asian Artists to really make it big, and his talent is insane. He actually played keys on my song “Alright” and did it just because we were friends. He expected nothing in return. I think it’s amazing that Asian Americans are growing and finally being recognized in pop culture today. It’s about time, baby. Our time to shine!
Who do you hope to work with in the future?
Oooo so so many people. I think I might self combust if I ever had a song with SZA. She is definitely one of my favorite humans alive. Her and Jhene Aiko. But yeah so so many people. I would love to work with Rosalia.. She’s is the ultimate GOAT. Idk, everyone is a good answer for this question.
What does the rest of 2020 look like for you? Any EPs or LPs on the way?
Does anyone know what the rest of 2020 will look like?? So far it seems on the decline hahah but for me definitely so much music. During this whole lockdown I’ve really been locked up in my room just writing writing writing. I am sure coming out of this I will have a whole album waiting to be released. At least for now, I have an EP in the works… all these songs that I am putting out are single releases for this overarching project. I’m so happy that people are already following along and loving it. I can’t wait for them to hear the whole thing!
Would you like to say anything to your fellow Asian American peers and fans?
Of course!! Firstly, thank you for not only supporting me throughout these years, but really pushing our community forward. You all are the reason that so much has changed the past few years for Asian representation around the world and I hope you realize that! All of us individually have so much power to help our communities and it’s about time we did. We got this. Let’s gooo!
Li-Wei Chu is the chief editor of From the Intercom. When he’s not editing drafts and searching for new artists to cover for the website, he loves watching cult films, cooking, and listening to his ever-growing collection of vinyl records. You can follow him on LetterBoxd and make fun of his taste in movies here!