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Published on June 5th, 2015 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson


STELLA SANTANA: Bringing The Music To Life

Tell me your whole inception into music — When did you first become interested in it? And, how did it actually all begin for STELLA SANTANA?

I have always loved music. I just also liked living a pretty anonymous life I guess, Ha! So, I literally woke up one day and finally just stopped pretending that music wasn’t trying to come out of me. Since then, it’s been quite a journey. I guess it all began because I just decided to let it begin, and I also decided to trust that decision one hundred percent.

Because of who your father is, was it ever in your ultimate plan to pursue music, due to the fact that it must just run in your blood?

I’ve never really had an ultimate plan. I’m kind of one of those annoying free spirits in that way. There are goals for sure, but I like to follow what unfolds instead of planning too far ahead. Also, my dad came from a musician father himself, and my mom from the same. So, it’s not just from one side, which I think made it pretty inevitable.

Now you are a native of San Francisco, CA, am I correct? So growing up, in addition to Mr. Santana, who else did/do you consider to be your strongest musical influences?

Yes, I’m from the Bay Area! Well, Lauryn Hill basically changed my life. I used to have the ‘Sister Act 2 (: Back In The Habit)’ soundtrack on repeat! “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” — Wow, that was incredible! I was also a big fan of ’90’s Hip-Hop and R&B in general. Missy (Elliott), Faith Evans, Total, Brandy… I used to tape all the songs off the radio. And then, I also was raised on Bob Marley, Miles (Davis), (John) Coltrane, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Marvin Gaye…So, I had a lotta soul comin’ at me, I guess. I was surrounded.

At what particular point in time did you even opt to pursue music on a professional level?

I think it’s happened slowly for some time…Doing it here and there, when no one was looking. And then, I just thought, I don’t want be “aspiring” anymore. I want it to be my thing! So, I started reaching out to people, just who I knew in my little Bay Area/L.A. network who were really doing it. I didn’t want to have one foot in the door and one foot out. I needed to step in all the way.

That said, how do you classify your overall sound and/or style?

I think it’s a fusion of things; jazz, soul and R&B. My voice is kind of jazzy and soulful. I love listening to chest-vibrating bass and R&B type melodies. So, that’s why I put those all together. And usually, there’s some reggae feels in there, too.

Your lead single is entitled “The Reason” — Tell me about this particular track? How did it actually come to fruition?

It was during my first session with Hardy Indiigo, and I was pretty nervous because he had a lot more experience than me so I tried to stay up the night before writing something — anything! — to work with the next day, but of course nothing came. When I got to the studio to meet him, he played the track and the beat sounded very triumphant. When I listened, I saw someone walking, then jogging, then running toward something and then eventually reaching that thing. So, that’s where the idea for the song came. I kind of felt like it was me, and the thing I was running toward was music.

..Also, I feel like running toward a personal purpose is my own way of inspiring women to think about the thing they’re here to do that only they can do. Because I think everyone has a reason and it deserves our attention.

“The Reason” comes courtesy of your forthcoming solo debut — Has it been titled yet? If so, conceptually, what does that name represent both to and for you?

No title yet. I’m waiting for it to come to me. But, if it hasn’t soon I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

 For all of us who have yet to hear the full-length project, what would you tell everyone can be expected from it?

You can definitely expect to hear some of those influences I talked about earlier. And, I guess a little glimpse into some of the experiences I’ve had, which were my inspirations for everything I wrote.

What do you feel you offer the music industry that we don’t already have in other performers?

I mean, I’m just me. There hasn’t been a “me” yet in the industry, so I’m just going (to) focus on being myself. I think that everyone has something different to offer, and that’s the coolest part. It wouldn’t be fun if we were all the same.

Have you encountered any problems in getting to this point in your career?

Nope, smooth sailing. Ha! No, I wouldn’t say there are problems, just learning experiences, but I believe that’s how you grow. If I wasn’t hitting walls, I wouldn’t be moving. So, I welcome the, “Wait, what just happened?” situations because it means I’m moving and I’m pretty sure I’m headed forward.

What do you want people get from your music?

I want people to feel the music and bob their heads and blast it in their cars with the windows down — that’s my California girl talking I think — and just kinda get lost even for a little bit. And as far as the lyrics, I just want to offer people a different way of seeing things because sometimes when you’re going through something difficult, changing your perspective can make a huge difference, even though that sounds really annoying when I’m personally going through something weird. Unfortunately, it’s just the way it is. Perspective is everything.

If you could collaborate with one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Oh wow, this question…Okay, well, Bob Marley. I guess that wasn’t so hard! Because I am just a huge, huge fan I could listen to him every day for the rest of my life. “So Much Trouble in the World” is my all time favorite Bob Marley song. The bass is too good.

If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?

Well, I really like these smaller romantic venues. I just mean smaller in that it’s not an arena, I guess. I want to be more intimate and I love the opera seating. I saw Ray Lamontagne at The Beacon Theatre here in N.Y.C. when I first moved here 5 years ago, and it was just him, his guitar and maybe one other guy I think playing percussion. And, his voice filled the whole space and I was mesmerized. I like those kinds of places. Like the Paramount in Oakland, and there’s one in Portland, too, but I forgot the name. I don’t know if I can choose just one, but I def dream of that type of venue.

One track of yours that you think defines you and why?

Unfortunately for this question, they all define me in some way. Like everyone, I have a lot of different sides to me. So they come from different parts, depending on which I needed to turn on in the situation I was writing about.

In terms of longevity, what do you feel it is exactly that will continue to sustain you in this grueling business of music?

I need to stay open to learning and being wrong, but I also need to trust my own intuition more, develop it even more and strengthen it. I think if I can find a balance between those, I’ll be alright. I’m a fast learner and I also have a lot of trust and faith in myself as far as being able to make aligned decisions.

Do you have any other outside/additional future aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?

I’m really passionate about empowering women. I was so inspired by Emma Watson at the U.N. and #HeForShe (campaign). I have a lot of ideas on how to help in my own way, so I’m looking forward to making those ideas into realities in the hopefully near future.

Looking ahead, say five or even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?

Well, first and foremost, I hope to be in good health. Definitely still singing and making music. I’m open to what happens with everything else.

As for the immediate, what’s next for you, STELLA?

I have a few shows coming up that I’m pretty excited about. Looking forward to bringing the music to life.

Any “closing” thought(s) for our readers?

I’m looking forward to this new journey and for music fans to experience it with me!


By: Todd Davis

About the Author

Publisher and CEO of The Hype Magazine. Follow me on Twitter @HypeJustJay

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