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Q & A: Seralynne

Q & A: Seralynne

Originally a Taumarunui gal, Sarah Nicholson aka Seralynne now calls Invercargill home. After finishing a music degree at SIT in 2014, she stuck around and in 2016 released an EP called ‘Headspace’, showing off her academically-approved songwriting skills. Evidently, her style has evolved since – a taster from her upcoming 2019 album, new single Dangerous out on November 30, has a much sleeker pop sound that lets her voice truly shine. 

Can you tell us a little about your musical background?

I started getting into music when I was about 7. It started off with singing at the local Country Music Club in Taumarunui once a month, and then my grandfather gifted me an electric organ so I could start having piano lessons. He had about half a dozen organs in his house and taught himself to play when he was about 70, so that’s always been inspiring! Since then I’ve studied music all through school, learning different instruments, guitar and trumpet, and I completed my music degree at SIT in 2014, in songwriting and music education.

Which other artists inspire you and why?

Taylor Swift is a huge inspiration for me! I think she is one of the most incredible songwriters alive, and her transition from country to straight pop has been amazing to watch. I’m hoping that one day I’ll get the chance to write with her! I just think that she’s made her transition in the right way – so many artists fall flat when they try to change their sound so drastically. I also love Ryan Tedder and Ed Sheeran as songwriters! At the moment artists like Halsey and Broods are inspiring my writing. Love Halsey!

Your new single Dangerous, sounds much more modern than your previous ‘Headspace’ EP. How did the change come about?

Dangerous is interesting for me because it didn’t start out like this. It started out as a piano-based track about a first date, and it was a love song. I showed it to Judy Stakee when I was in LA last year, and basically, she said it wasn’t very powerful and questioned what it was about.

I left it for such a long time, because I didn’t know what to do with it to make it more exciting, and then one day my producer was in the studio making a track and I walked in. I loved it and asked him if he was using it and if not could I write lyrics to it. He said yes, so I grabbed my songwriting book and pulled out this ‘boring’ song that I’d written and started playing around with the lyrics and melody, and now here we are, with a totally different track! So I’d say working with a new producer has changed a lot. He’s really into electronic synths and trap so that’s definitely influenced my writing. I still have a few acoustic tracks that will be on the album, but I’ve always wanted to do electronic music, so this is a really exciting transition point. Hopefully, I can pull it off!

Quite often these days, great tracks are collaborations between the main songwriter and a sound envisioned for it by a great producer. 

You’re definitely right, and I think that’s what is changing my sound as well, more collaboration in terms of music. I have a few musicians that are my go-to for working with, and I trust them to see my vision for a track. On this track, I worked with my producer Niko Heydenrych and then I sent it to a few people for critique. I used to be so scared of working with other people because I thought they’d change my songs too much, or tell me my writing wasn’t great. Now I’m completely open to it because it does make way better songs! Other people always think of things you don’t that will add some extra magic. I think going to California last year (on a songwriting retreat), really opened my mind to how collaboration can be great. I met some incredible people.

What can you tell us about the lyrical story behind Dangerous?

Dangerous was a love song, it was about going on a first date and having so much excitement around the possibilities of the future, and asking yourself ‘where do we go from here?’ It was originally called Shall We Dance, but as soon as I heard the new track I knew the story had to change. So now it’s about a relationship people have warned you not to go into, and you’re thinking, ‘He’d never treat me the same way he treats other people’, but you still have that worry, those people’s voices in the back of your mind. ‘Where do we go’ is now you questioning, what do we do now we’ve decided to do this, is it going to be good or bad? Am I going to come out of this okay, or am I going to be emotionally scarred? And you know the answer, but you choose to ignore it. So I guess it’s about how love can be all consuming, and toxic if it’s with the wrong person.

What really stands out in the sound of the song is that, well, plopping sound – was that your idea?

Well, my awesome producer made the track, and he tells me it’s a filtered snare! So many cool sounds going on in this track.

How do you navigate around managing yourself and releasing your own material?

This can be tricky. Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing enough to promote my music, life gets incredibly busy because I’m working full time as well. I don’t find it too hard in terms of releasing material though.

‘Headspace’ was a huge learning curve for me, I learnt from scratch about distribution, ordering CDs, IRSC codes and everything else you need to make a release, and hopefully, have it be successful. Now I’m comfortable with all of that, but finding interesting ways to promote the music is a challenge. I usually email radios, perform acoustic versions live and use social media as promotional tools. This time around, I’ve had a lot of support from people sharing my announcements!

What is it like to be a musician in Invercargill? What are the pros, what are the cons?

The major pro is that everyone knows everyone! There are so many amazing musicians to work with. I’d say the biggest con is just that it’s small, and we’re down the bottom of the country so you have to work really hard to gain any traction with your work!

I have a lot of people I ask advice from who are musicians, so in a way, they act like my mentors. A lot of it now is me just doing what I think needs to be done. So I’m hoping that it works!

Hypothesis: Location influences songwriting – What are the positive things that could shape music from Invercargill?

Personally I find that I write a lot less when I’m living in Invercargill. I think that’s because the weather can be so all over the place, we have a lot of hot summers, and dreadful, freezing, wet winters. But this can also be good because the weather is so extreme, you also feel extreme. In a hot summer it’s so nice, and freeing, and happy. In a horrible winter, you can feel so down and unmotivated. I think that when I feel strong emotions I write my best work, so that’s definitely a positive. When I do get inspired, what comes out is my best work I think. I think there’s a lot of music that has that wintry, feeling blue, lost kind of vibe that gets written down here, but I can’t speak for everyone, that’s my personal take on it.

With SIT offering a music degree, how do you think that affects the local scene?

I think over the last two years there have been some big changes. There are a lot more bands coming out of SIT and releasing original music, which is awesome. It gives the Invercargill scene more diversity, rather than just pub bands. There are also a lot of performance opportunities that students and ex-students are creating for themselves and others, which is pushing the music scene to be better.