When we think of songwriting, we often think of channeling our emotions as much as possible and writing about deep topics like love and loss, but there’s something to be said about creating music that exists for the purpose of lighthearted fun. We all need a break once in a while! Samantha Margret’s new single, “Saucy” serves exactly that purpose. It’s cheery, it’s sassy, and it’s chock full of puns about sauce. COLLiDE had the pleasure of chatting with Samantha Margret about the new single and what she’s been up to.
How did your upbringing in San Francisco influence your music and your career?
I’m half-time in LA now and half time in San Francisco and then I do these little trips to Nashville. I actually don’t think I understood what San Francisco had done for me as an artist until I started going to other cities. Once I started going to LA and going to Nashville, I would come home and realized that in Nashville, I was a songwriter like in Nashville. Day in, day out there, you’re getting the work done. In LA, I felt like it was really all about the performance. Like I was an artist — I was a performer, you know, and then I would come back to San Francisco and I think San Francisco is really where my creative heart lives. Just being in a place where it’s not about industry and the grind so much can be really healing as a creative person. You don’t have to worry so much about what everyone else is doing and you can focus on your own music.
San Francisco is a big city, but it also has this history of hippies and free spirits. There is this sense of pride in being who you are and not being like anybody else. I think that has just served me so well as I’ve moved into a place of like, “okay, how do I write music and put out music that people are going to listen to,” and not falling into that trap of writing for other people or writing what I think other people would like. I try to write music that I myself am really excited about.
What have you been doing during lockdown and how has it affected your music?
Lockdown definitely changed everything, right? Almost nobody is doing exactly the same thing that they were doing pre COVID in any industry, but definitely in music.
Like so many artists, I had a fall tour planned that didn’t end up happening. I had so many aspirations for that tour, but I know that eventually we’ll all be performing again somehow somewhere. In some ways it has been really good for me to let go of that public aspect of my life and be a little bit more inwardly focused — spending more time writing and demoing things out. At the very beginning of quarantine, I wrote a lot of depressing quarantine songs where I was like, “I’m stuck in my house,” you know? But as it went on, I’ve actually found that I’m writing weirder songs. I’m writing sillier, stranger songs because I don’t anticipate immediately showing them to people and there’s a freedom in that. There’s a freedom in knowing I don’t have a show this weekend. I’m not going to play any of these songs at that show that doesn’t exist. And so I can write whatever I want and if it’s good, I’ll use it in a year. If it’s not good, I don’t have to worry about it. I’ve also been able to release more music because there’s more time at home in a studio.
I also think we’re just finding new ways to do the things we always did. I’m still co-writing, it’s just all over Zoom or FaceTime. I’m still going to songwriting workshops, but it’s all over zoom. Things have changed, but in many ways stayed the same.
Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming release “Saucy”?
Samantha: “Saucy” is one of the strange songs I was talking about. I had started it with my co-writer, Eva Snyder, pre quarantine. In all honesty, the way that it started was I was writing a lot about being a woman, body image, and mental health, and I was playing a lot of shows that were just starting to feel so heavy. I would leave each show so tired and emotionally down and I would think, “I just want to have songs in my show that are fun for me to play — songs that are a little break where I can just take a breath and have a good time. I don’t always want to talk about all of my deepest thoughts and feelings, so I started keeping track of ideas for songs that could be more fun.
I write all the time with Eva. We have our regular writing session every other week, and we’re really good friends. So I came into a write one day and said, “Well, I have this idea. I want to write a song called “Saucy” and the verses are just sauce puns and then the chorus is the words “I’m saucy.” It was very much to Eva’s credit that she didn’t run away screaming. She was like, “Oh, okay” and then we just had a really good time. In the process of writing, sometimes it’s a long battle to get to the final song, and this was one where it was totally goofy. We were just trying to come up with a list of as many sauces as we could at one point and it was really funny. Then when we finished the song and I started playing it live, it was just so fun, and it totally served that purpose it was supposed to, but it felt a little short and almost too lighthearted. It didn’t feel finished to me. Then, my friend Son of Paper, who’s a rapper I know, heard it at a show. We had been talking prior to that about trying to figure out a collaboration and he was like, “well, I could write a sauce rap.”
The words “sauce rap” just made me smile. I was just like, “that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Go ahead and try it.” So he wrote a sauce rap for the feature and that totally took the song to a more finished place for me. It became something I was really in love with. So then I brought in some friends to help me with production and crafting a beat, and we just polished it up.
Songs like these aren’t parody, you know? They’re just silly little weirdos.
Who are some of your musical heroes?
The first one that comes to mind is Sarah Bareilles. She’s a huge inspiration to me. I basically learned how to play piano by playing her songs through and by copying what she was doing. That still shows up in a lot of my writing when I’m at the piano and when I’m playing things acoustically. I think her ability to be poetic while communicating something clearly is so stunning and it puts her at the top of the pop songwriter world.
I have some other influences in terms of production and the direction I’ve gone with my sound, but as a songwriter, she’s the biggest inspiration for me. For sound and production, Marian Hill is a huge for me. They’re so creative. Everything they do is really different from what I’ve heard before. Also, Maggie Rogers. With every song she puts out, I’m wondering what’s she going to do because she’s always switching it up, which I think is so cool.
Yeah I think that I really gravitate towards people who are unique and doing their own thing. There are so many artists who I admire because when they first came out, people didn’t know what to make of them. I feel that way about Bruno Mars because when Bruno Mars first came into the pop scene in a big way, a lot of people were trying to figure out “Is this R&B or is it pop? What is this?” Now there are so many people trying to be like Bruno Mars and it shows that he’s really changed the direction of the pop scene.
If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?
Oh my gosh. I’m just so torn between so many people, but I think it would be Sarah Bareilles. I mean, I think that that would be the pinnacle of my career and possibly my life. She represents that “we’ve really done it” kind of success.
What are your favorite pastimes beyond singing and creating music?
I’m definitely an indoor cat. All my pastimes are indoor creative activities, so I like to paint and knit. I’m a crafter for sure. Those are hobbies I’ve always had, but I think they became a lot more important to me once I started doing music professionally because it used to be that I would come home after a hard day or get bored on a long weekend and go write music, and that was my release. Now I’m in this situation where I do that all week long and sometimes it’s totally stress-free. There are definitely days where making music is freeing and positive and exciting, but there are also days where it is stressful now because it’s related to work. When there’s a deadline, it’s different. So all of those other activities became a lot more important as a way to do something creative, just for fun.
Sometimes I’ll listen to a podcast and paint or try to have a whole afternoon of soothing activities, as opposed to, you know, watching Netflix and six hours later and being like, “that was not helpful and did not make me feel more relaxed.” I mean I can watch the The Great British Bake Off and really feel soothed after that. That’s like a day at the spa for sure. But there aren’t many shows I feel that way about.
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
I can’t believe it’ll be 2021 so soon. 2020 feels like it just started and now it’s practically over.
I have some music I’m really excited about coming out in 2021. I feel like 2020 has been a year of getting closer to a lot of my collaborators because it is more challenging for us to meet up. It’s a little tougher to work together but in some ways that has bonded us. I think I’m feeling much more attached to some of the people who I work with regularly, and that has led to some songs and some projects that I’m really stoked on.
I guess the thing that I’m most looking forward to in 2021 is a little bit of freedom from an intense business plan because I’m a planner and going into 2020, I had such a detailed map of what I was going to do. My tour plans, songwriting schedule, release dates — they were all lined up and initially when some of that started to unfurl it was really stressful, but I think I learned a valuable lesson about setting yourself up so you’re prepared for opportunities, but not trying to control them so much. I focused on letting things happen the way they happened and letting the music be my guide instead of planning and planning and planning and planning. So I think one of the things I’m looking forward to in 2021 is that I have a lot of musical goals. I have songs I’m excited for. I have music I want to make, and I don’t have that many career plans because I just don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s a lot more freedom in that flexibility and I’m glad I learned how to be flexible in 2020. It was important for me.
What are your plans for the holidays?
Oh, that’s a lovely question. Well, I am in a little quarantine pod with my parents, so I’m very fortunate in that I still get to see my family. My dad is the cook in the family and he is putting together a pretty elaborate Thanksgiving Feast. I tried to convince him to do a little less but I was unsuccessful so we’re going to have a full Thanksgiving dinner and probably leftovers for a month.
For Christmas, I’m planning on making a little map of where all of the best Christmas lights are in the city and doing a little caravan of people who want to take their cars to see the lights with me. I think this year, people are going to go more all out with the Christmas lights because they’re all home. So that’s my plan, and I’m honestly really excited. My birthday’s in December and one of my favorite things about having a December birthday is it feels like the whole world decorates, you know? Everything is more sparkly and more beautiful for this one month. I’m looking forward to that.