Discovery: Snoh Aalegra

Published November 24, 2014

ABOVE: SNOH AALEGRA. PHOTO COURTESY OF DANIELLA MIDENGE.

In mid-October, Swedish R&B singer Snoh Aalegra dropped her debut single, “Bad Things,” featuring Common–a collaboration many other artists can only dream about. Because of this association, Aalegra’s four minute long track garnered attention throughout the online music community despite her relative anonymity. Last week, even more attention came from the release of her debut EP, There Will Be Sunshine.

The six songs that comprise the EP, which was produced by ARTium’s No I.D., trace Aaelgra’s life thus far and contemplate themes often explored in debut releases, such as self-discovery and overcoming fears. In its entirety, There Will Be Sunshine blends soulful melodies with orchestral backup and rap interludes. From darker lyrics, like those in “Bad Things,” to the more uplifiting titular song, “There Will Be Sunhine,” it is as though Aalegra is baring her entire soul for the world to hear.

On the eve of There Will Be Sunshine‘s release, we sat down with Aalegra to talk about how it all came together.

AGE: 28

BASED: L.A.

HOMETOWN: I’m Persian, originally, but I’m from a small town just outside Stockholm.

IN A NAME: My name is actually Snoh, but there’s a rapper with that name already out there, so I was asked to add something to it. I didn’t really want to do it at first, but then I thought of Aalegra. It has a connection to music and means ‘joy’ in Italian. After I added that to Snoh, I started to look at things differently, more positively.

EARLY START: I’ve been obsessed with music since I was a little girl. I knew I wanted to be a singer when I was 9 years old. My mom used to play a lot of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Stevie Wonder, so I really gravitate towards that kind of sound. Hearing them would give me chills—like I would hear Mariah Carey doing her runs, and I would ask myself, as a kid, “What is that? Why do I feel this way?” That made me want to start singing. I was like, “I want to do that to people.”

SIGNING LABELS: I actually got signed when I was 14 with Sony Sweden. Things didn’t really work out with that, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to be exposed to the industry at a young age. About a year ago, I was signed by the head of Sony here and got to do my whole album very freely, which I loved. Then, just a few months ago, once I finished my album, it was time to pick a division at Sony. So, we chose to go with Epic [Records]. I’m also on the Sony side of ARTium.  

THE WRITING PROCESS: Some of the songs were really difficult to write and I became really emotional during the process. It’s funny, though. I was thinking about this the other day: most of [the songs] are about life experiences and not about love relationships. There’s maybe one love song, but it’s mostly about my relationship to myself and how that’s changed. No song is about the same thing, but it’s all about general life discovery.

ON “BAD THINGS”:  When it comes to features, I don’t believe in setting things up myself. I want everything to transpire organically. Common was recording his latest album at the same time I was recording mine—he is also signed to ARTium—but I was out of town when he was in the studio. He apparently heard my song when it was in production, and loved the subject matter and was like, “I need to jump on this.” And I guess he wrote his verse really quickly, and then the label called me and just said, “By the way, Common just wrote on your song.” I was tripping, and the fact that he took initiative, that was everything. He’s so wise and has a lot of depth, so I thought it was the perfect match for this song. The whole song is about the feeling of like—you know how we all have to touch fire to see that it burns? It’s about that and that’s sort of how my life has been up till now. [laughs] I think a lot of people can relate to that.

INFULENTIAL PEOPLE: I listen to rap a lot. I love Nas, Damien Marley, and Lauryn Hill. Like, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is 16 or 17 years old now, and it’s still one of the best rap albums of all time. It taught me about life. I mention that in one of my songs, “Paradise”—”Lauryn preachin’ in my ear is the type of shit I can’t ignore.” Her miseducation was definitely my education.

THE DREAM TEAM: One of my favorite artists in recent years that I already put up there with some of the greats is Frank Ocean. I feel like he changed the game of R&B. His songwriting is so clever and beautiful—I think you can tell he’s very inspired from ’70s rock and older music, too. His first album and Channel Orange are masterpieces. I’d love to work with him. 

FOR MORE ON SNOH AALEGRA, VISIT HER SOUNDCLOUD.