Q&A with promising pop producer & songwriter, Christine Sako
Christine Sako unveiled a new single, ‘Warmth’, on December 8, 2023 via her independent label, Christine Sako Music. Christine has previously toured with the emo indie-rock outfit Now, Now, and as an opening act for Paramore’s ‘Brand New Eyes’ Europe tour. With a sound that has been compared to Edie Brickell, MUNA, and Taylor Swift, Christine is making a name for herself while refining her already-distinctive flavour of indie pop.
Stream ‘Warmth’ and read our interview with her below:
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
Since I was a kid I’ve always been very in tune with my creative side, though the music path didn’t really unveil itself until my early teens. I’ve always wanted to stand out or otherwise be distinguishable from my peers, and having hobbies and interests which allow an endless amount of expression really helped with that. It’s also a great way to deal with some of those feelings that can’t really be addressed and confronted in a straightforward way. So it’s cathartic, but also extremely fun for me. Writing music and walking the wordplay tightrope between ambiguity and overtness can be a fun puzzle to put together.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
I think this is probably one of the most frequently asked question for musicians. And I always love hearing how dynamic processes can be from artist to artist. For years I would come up with melodies and lyrics simultaneously while in the shower — something about that metaphor of being cleansed or something, haha! Even when I have intentional songwriting sessions with my guitar or the piano, words and melodies usually come out together — and often very linearly as far as phrase sequencing goes. Once I nail down the first couple lines, I sort of go back and try to figure out why those ideas came to my head and start to craft more bones of the theme to build upon.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
I typically work independently, but last year I had released 3 remixes of my song ‘Coda’, which featured 3 different EDM producers which was really cool. I often wish I had a band or or other parties to bounce ideas off of, but in the end I am always really proud to say I had made a 100% authentic and personal piece of work. I’m definitely open to collaborative projects in the future and I think it would be a really great way to broaden my ideas and personal approach to making music.
What’s on your current playlist?
Oof, as I write this my 2023 Spotify Wrapped is still yet to be revealed! Let me check…. I’ve been a huge Yoke Lore fan for a while and they just released their first full-length album this year (finally!). Luke Sital-Singh‘s latest album is really beautiful. Earlier this year I got super into this UK artist named Laura Zocca — I’m obsessed with her voice. Oh! And Dan Croll‘s latest album is amazing — his musicality is so distinct and fun.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
I would say my on-stage banter is pretty reflective of how I interact with others on a day-to-day basis. Silly, vulnerable, and somewhat self-deprecating at the expense of a good laugh. I try to be as interactive as possible and never really have anything scripted — which is easy since I don’t have anyone to banter with on stage as a solo act.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
Sometimes I struggle to pinpoint what features of my music make my sound distinguishable from others in the same genre. I think both the tonality of and the way I layer auxiliary instruments is a bit unique to my sound. I also know (and have heard) that the way I structure my drum tracks/beats is very mathematical and has a degree of precision that makes it sound very mechanical, for better or worse.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
It depends on what phase of recording I am in. If it is anywhere before the 95% mark (final tweaking and edits), I usually have to set aside between 3-8 hours because of how meticulous and indecisive I can be. I usually start with tracking a basic underlying melody as a reference point for vocals. I usually try to get vocals done as soon as possible since they are the most variable element for me and there is usually a lot of cursing and flailing both during and in between takes. Then I try to nail down the drum tracks and figure out a good mix for them. Once those are through i get to my favourite part which hunt-and-gathering sounds and laying down the rest of the melody, harmonies, and aux instruments. Then I try to hone in on and fine tune all the effects and mixing to the best of my self-taught ability!
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
I remember in high school after I had been playing guitar and writing songs for about 6 months, I had this vision in my head of being able to play for the entire school at a pep rally. I would wait until I was home alone, open all the windows, crank up my little Crate amp and sing through my cheap wireless microphone. I would close my eyes and picture the entire school packed into the bleachers of the gymnasium at my school, listening in awe to the weird, unassuming freshman. Little did I know, 2 years later I would be playing for the entire school on two different occasions, solidifying my dream-to-reality. That experience unlocked the idea for me that music was something that could be both so enjoyable to create but also to share with others, and it was something I was going to keep at for a long, long time.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Extra guitar picks! One of my worst fears onstage (besides breaking a string) is dropping my pick into the soundhole of my guitar. I also like to keep my guitar case fairly close – It’s my baby and it goes right back into its comfy little bed after I’m done with my set.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
I feel like anyone who I name is probably far more established than me, so I hesitate to call anyone “emerging”. I guess see re: who’s on my current playlist.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Again, nothing really can bring a melody and lyrics out of me like a nice, hot shower. Probably not the best for the environment, but there are worse things I’m sure.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
My prized possession is my Taylor 614ce that my dad got for me in high school. I would say my tried-and-true songwriting guitar is my Fender DG22ce — it’s the guitar I got right after discovering Avril Lavigne and knowing I wanted to be a kick-ass songwriter. During the pandemic I got a Taylor GS Mini and weighted Alesis keyboard and I’ve been writing with both those since. I record in Logic Pro, have a small collection of MIDI controllers, and record vocals with my Rode NT1-A which I’ve also had since high school. I also have an Epiphone Thunderbird bass from my days as a touring member in the band Now, Now. Oh! and an Epiphone custom Les Paul and an electronic Roland Drum kit.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Nope! Just the solo project for now.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
First and foremost with recording — the art of restraint when it comes to instrumentation. When I first started recording I was so overwhelmed like a kid in a candy store with all the available native DAW synths and plug-ins that I would just use everything i thought sounded cool, usually all at the same time, too haha. I think you can definitely hear this on my first full-length album, “The Math Project” — there is definitely a lot going on there. I’ve since learned that less can be so much more and that there is an art in balancing instrumentation effectively.
When I was playing more live shows I had developed a bit of a complex regarding how I was executing the performance of my studio album. I had gone from people knowing my music as very acoustic singer-songwriter-y and all of a sudden I had all these synths and electronic elements completely saturating the instrumentation of my songs. I settled on basically playing acoustic guitar and singing over the backtracks of the songs I was performing, but it almost felt a bit like karaoke at that point, with so much instrumentation and background vocals playing from my iPod. One night I went to see one of my favourite bands of all time, The Zolas perform here in San Diego and I got to chat with their keyboardist at the time (Tom Dobrzanski, who ended up mixing my 2 most recent singles before ‘Coda’). I was telling him a bit of my dilemma and he said the one thing that can always spice up a show is to just make sure there is always some element of risk involved – whether it be having to hit a patch that ends up playing a loop or having to switch an instrument half-way through a song. That really stuck with me and opened up my mind to different ways I could curate my live shows in the future. Thanks, Tom!
Break down the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
Hopefully I can squeeze more creative juice into an EP. And if the stars align, a couple of live shows, – I haven’t performed in years!
Famous last words?
Go listen to my new single, ‘Warmth’! I hope it will warm your heart. <3
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