By Emma Kenny
In advance of MEGAPHONO 2019, we were lucky enough to catch up with multidisciplinary artist and industrial electrono-pop icon Annie Sama. Sama, who splits her time between Montreal and New York, was in Los Angeles working on a video shoot, but she was kind enough to carve some time out of her busy schedule to chat music industry, the importance of time management, and staying true to yourself.
When I asked Annie what inspired her to get into music, she answered easily: “It was something just natural, it just happened. When I was a kid I was always singing songs, so it was really just a natural thing for me.” This answer set the tone for our conversation, and Sama’s self-assuredness and overall confidence are apparent in everything she does. I could easily imagine her chilling on a white leather couch in something sleek but comfortable, watching the rain pound down in LA through massive picture windows while she gets the styling for her video together (she told me they were hoping for it to break, as they were planning to shoot outside today).
Sama is a multidisciplinary artist, involved in music, dance, and fashion. I wanted to know how she juggled all those mediums: do they flow together in harmony, or is there one that takes precedence over the other? Sama’s answer was quick and to the point: “It’s just a matter of organization. Every time I’m releasing a song, I’m going to have a video clip, and sometimes I’m going to direct it or co-direct it, but I’m always very involved in the creative process.”
When it comes to fashion, Sama said “it’s a part of [her] everyday life.”
“I usually style all my video clips or I work with somebody, but I’m always very involved.”
With each single, there comes a lot of preparation, so Sama needs to be well-organized and on her game to make sure that everything she produces has her distinct stamp on it. Unless, of course, there’s a team that wants to “take her over.” Sama reflected on the cover of her most recent EP, Clear: “The team was taking me over so I just let myself flow in there...I need that sometimes.” As someone who is also pretty Type-A, I noted that it must be nice to let others take over for you sometimes when you’re juggling so many projects - Annie laughed and agreed, she needs that sometimes.
Sama is so effortlessly cool, so when I asked her about the challenges she has faced in the music industry and how she overcomes them, I didn’t know what to expect.
“I mean any challenge that you have in any industry [can be overcome] by just believing in yourself and just continuing on your idea.” She noted that one of her biggest struggles was people from different pockets of the music industry trying to tell her what to do - to be more pop, to be “something else,” criticizing and nitpicking. But Sama reminds me that there “is always a public for what you do. There is always somebody who is going to be inspired by what you do, it’s just reaching out to those people that’s the hardest.” She also emphasized the importance of working with a good team who understands your vision as an artist and knows how to reach that audience who will click with you and your work.
“Being a woman in the music industry is one thing, and being your own creative force...no one creates in the same way, so sometimes...it’s not my thing...I don’t fit in every context.” That said, Sama advocates for remaining open to new ideas and new ways of working, thinking, and creating. “The combination of two worlds can always bring something forward.”
I brought up Sama’s recent rebranding, if you will - her transition from APigeon to Annie Sama. What inspired that change, and will we see something really different from her under this new moniker? “I think I just wanted to go back to basics,” Sama said, and cautioned me that this new phase in her career may not be permanent - everyone is always evolving. She describes letting APigeon “hibernate a bit” to allow herself to try a new sound and have fun. Her first album as APiegeon, she was going through a major change in her life. “When what you do is a bit darker, it can be hard to bring that on stage every night. I just wanted to have a fresh new start and show people who I really am.”
“I tried to work on myself for that [APigeon] album, and I think it really helped me to become a better person, and to heal a lot. And now, I mostly want to have fun!” She laughs, and it’s throaty and slightly self-conscious. “I think Annie Sama is the real me, in a sense, but we never know what’s going to come out.”
Sama has never played a show in Ottawa before, and is most looking forward to having her younger sister, who lives in Ottawa, come see her show for the first time. Her genuine excitement about coming to our current winter hellscape warms me, and I lamely offer to give her recommendations if she wants them. Sama receives this graciously and I like her even more.
My final question for Sama is: what advice would you give to your fourteen-year-old self?
There’s a thoughtful pause, and it’s clear that Sama is thinking deeply about this. In the end, she settles on something equal parts practical and inspirational: “Listen to myself more. Because we’re the best ones to know what’s good for us.” At the same time, don’t get too caught up in yourself, “Get out of your mind and try to reach out to others. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.” Striking that balance between believing in yourself and reaching out to others to learn and grow can be tricky, but Sama believe that it’s always worth doing, and I have to agree.