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Samia Finnerty on "The Baby", the self-destructive powers of celebrity, and healthy love.

Portrait by: Kristina Calvo

Interview by: Isabella Vega

In spinning her musical web, Samia creates music that is at it's forefront raw, tender, and thoroughly haunting. The person behind the pen is equally thoughtful, if even more pensive with an acute awareness of the space she takes up in her community. Sitting down for a Zoom chat with me from her new abode in Nashville, we spoke of the nuances of female presentation in the music scene, analyzed the lyrics on her spectacular debut album, "The Baby", and honed in on the importance of authenticity in music as a craft.

Isabella: In your interview with FLAUNT magazine, you mentioned briefly your time in LA and how you tried to use the “formulaic” approach to getting into the music scene. Can you talk a little bit more about that and how you made the decision to create for art vs commerce? Because your songwriting is anything but formulaic, it’s either a stream of writing consciousness or a transcript of real events.

Samia: I moved to New York when I was 15 and started gigging all the time - just constantly playing shows and working my way into every band I could. That was sort of my foray into music in general, just playing a bunch. When people I was working with started setting me up with producers I obviously saw that as a great opportunity, but I think because of the way that I came up in the music scene, it felt kind of unnatural to talk to strangers about how I was feeling. I just didn’t feel super honest in those rooms, and I was really shy and not making the music I wanted to be making, so there was, like, a really long trial and error process that ended up producing eleven singles on accident? Just, like, spitting them out, trying to figure out how I wanted to sound. Then, I got to start making my album, and I chose to do it with my friends and it was the best decision I’ve made in music for myself because I could be honest.

Isabella: The first track I ever heard from you was “Movies”, and I think it’s spectacular and the lyrics are so raw and self-explanatory. I won’t ask you too much about the lyrics so you can keep that story to yourself, but, did the situation that occurred in “Movies” change how you interact with the entertainment industry as a whole (an industry that you’ve grown up in), and how you navigate being a person within it?

Samia: I think the experience of growing up around the entertainment industry informed my feelings and the experience I wrote that song about. It’s just hard for me, and I was pretty removed from it all. Growing up I saw a lot of people having to be obsessed with a version of themselves for their jobs, and a lot of, like, image-related fear and pain around image-related and status-related fear. So, I think seeing anyone in my immediate life fall into a position of glorifying that or being told to glorify that was just hard. The idea of celebrity has always been complicated for me, and I’ve always had a little bit of resentment there, I think. I just had to spit all those feelings out somehow.

Isabella: There’s this theme throughout the album of a love that’s very all-consuming. The line in “Stellate” - “I put a valium between your face and yours”; “Pool” with - “I’m afraid that I need men. You said ‘need me then.” and “Triptych” with “I would give it up to every man I love,” - the sort of idea ingrained in us that when we fall in love, we meet our other half. Has making this album and releasing these feelings taught you anything about love, the love you had and the one you have now?

Samia: Yeah, I think that, in the process of writing the album, the point I was trying to make, and even teach myself, was that... I was trying to find a sound argument that you can lean on a community without being terrified of being alone. I think it’s really beautiful to need people and I always resented the idea that you’re supposed to do everything yourself, and you’re supposed to not need anybody. That rhetoric is especially present in the way we talk to young women, especially in feminist discourse, “You do everything yourself, and you don’t need men, you don’t need anyone.” And I agree with learning to be independent and self-reliant but it’s also ok to be a person who needs people, as long as you can take care of yourself. A lot of that was me trying to find a way to express these feelings and use that as fuel for my own independence.

Isabella: That just hit me, I remember being told when I was little, “You don’t need the prince to come sweep you off your feet, you need to be able to do x,y,z” but you kinda do need people.

Samia: Yeah, you don’t need the Prince to come sweep you off your feet, but like, if you want to hang out with the Prince, that’s cool! You don’t have to shut everyone out, I guess.

The full version of this interview appeared in Issue 2: Rumination. Link to order the issue here:

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