Music is powerful. It allows us to connect with an artist’s message in their lyrics, especially when we can relate to the subject matter. Each element of a song — the instrumentation or production, the melody and the artist’s voice — works in unison to make us evoke some sort of feeling when we are listening.
According to science, the act of listening to music triggers parts of our brain that makes us like what we are hearing. Other studies have shown that music also offers a sense of healing through improving our mood, reducing stress and providing us comfort, among other benefits.
Meet Savannah Cristina; an emerging R&B singer now signed to Warner Records, who consciously uses her craft to create sounds that are therapeutic for her listeners. “I just want all my songs to be healing,” Cristina tells Rated R&B over the phone. “Creating music is very healing for me. My intention with every piece of art that I distribute is that I create a healing and transformative process in what I’m doing.”
Like Jill Scott, the South Florida native stumbled into music after starting off as a spoken word artist. She discovered her calling for music at the age of 14, when she first entered a recording studio.
“I sang a song for this rapper. I didn’t start doing my own songs until I was 19 years old,” she says. Cristina’s first recording was a song called “Spend It On Me,” which was originally a poem. “From there, the rest is history,” she adds.
Cristina began garnering a lot of attention online when she would release video recordings of her singing in various settings. For her slow-burning tune “Self-Care,” Cristina uploaded a video of her performing the song on a beach. The sounds of the waves crash on the shore, coupled with birds chirping in the background, has garnered over five million views on YouTube since October 2019. The soothing self-love anthem even received praise from high-profile singers, such as Alicia Keys.
Alicia Keys just gave a beautiful review about my song. I’m shook shook shook shook shook
— Savannah Cristina (@saveannah) January 24, 2020
The 23-year-old singer believes it went viral because people were able to connect with the story being told. “The record was really about making the decision to do what’s best for you,” Cristina explains. “I think everybody is inspired by making the decision that is in their best interest.”
On the surface, “Self-Care” is a breakup song. However, on the Dollaz N Dealz-produced track, Cristina also offers a game plan for picking up the pieces of her broken heart and prioritizing her happiness. “I gotta put myself in the front / Know what I want, and I / I gotta be fine by myself, alone with myself, and I / I’m taking my time / I’m doing this right,” she asserts.
“Self-Care” isn’t just the title of one song, but it’s also a way of life that Cristina advocates for. “It’s a universal concept from young to old,” she states. “Everybody has to take care of themselves. I think those two things are what made it viral because it was such a universal concept.”
Sonically, the video version provides listeners with therapeutic sounds that are heard in nature. It is something that Cristina personally loves. “I’m actually somebody who listens to the rain on Apple Music when I go to sleep,” she reveals. “It’s something that I do, and I kind of wanted my take and my content to be a meditative concept.”
In our interview with Savannah Cristina, she talks about the importance of “Self-Care” and creating music that she refers to as “soul therapy.” She also opens up about finding comfort amid chaos, her uplifting new single “Gold Mine” and her forthcoming EP.
How has growing up in South Florida shaped you as an artist?
I grew up in South Florida. I was born in Miami, Florida. It definitely influenced me and the way that I created my music. We have a very vibrant and uplifting weather. I think that heavily influenced my harmonies and different ways I went about approaching a song.
As a writer, do you approach your songs like a poem first or as a song?
I approach it more like I’m writing a song, but I still keep my poetry cadence. That spoken word culture definitely influences the matter in my writing; the content, it helps me get my point across in a little bit of time. That’s something I always utilize when I’m songwriting.
When it comes to recording music, people often try to find ways to minimize any background noise. However, in your case you’ve embraced it, whether it’s recording at a beach or out on the street. What sparked that idea?
It just came from the fact of me working with my surroundings and just understanding that everything is a part of my music. Sometimes, you get so locked away in the studio, and it’s kind of discouraging because you’re like, “Dang. I’m putting all these hours in the studio and nobody sees me working.” I got to a point where I wanted people to see what I’m doing, and if that means I have to go out into the street or go into the middle of the beach or go to a basketball court, I’m going to get your attention. So, that’s where the inspiration came from. I came up with the idea myself and I love the way everybody accepted the way that they did.
When you recorded “Belong to the Streets,” how did you get into the subject matter of the song while making sure you remained aware of all the traffic happening around you?
That busy intersection is somewhere I grew up on a boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It’s a place I would walk and take the city bus. It’s one of those staples in the community and I just felt like it would fit because the song is called “Belong to the Streets.” These are the streets I grew up around. I was just inspired to be in the middle of the median and just show people that in the midst of chaos, you can find a song, you can find a reason and a little bit of inspiration.
Aside from the lyrics, I enjoyed the “Self-Care” visual because of the sound of the waves. I think there’s something therapeutic about that by itself, which is why you have some people who like to go to sleep with those particular sounds. Is this something you plan to incorporate into your official releases?
Yeah, I definitely want to add that. In “Belong to the Streets,” we have the car noises. I believe adding the elements makes it more real and it just allows people to understand that life is happening, but in the midst of it, there’s always a song.
How do you practice self-care?
Eating right, getting a lot of sleep, keeping my schedule pretty flexible, practicing meditation, and keeping my mind leveled and centered.
You dropped “Comfortable” back in April when a lot of people were in quarantine, due to the pandemic. How did that song come about?
I was inspired by being home, being in quarantine, understanding that with everything going on, I’m going to have to be acceptant and comfortable in the state that I’m in. The entire video was filmed inside of my own home during the quarantine. I just wanted to show people that you can enjoy being indoors.
You’ve described your music as “soul therapy.” What’s the most therapeutic part about creating music for you?
The recording process is the exciting part because that’s where I create things, but the performances are the way I can see people have received my music and how I can connect with my audience. I love the performance process.
Your new single “Gold Mine” is very uplifting. What was your inspiration for creating this song?
“Gold Mine” is inspired by self-worth and beautiful glowy brown skin. When I hear this song, I am overwhelmed by a beautiful aesthetic and brown skin that symbolizes Gold. Comparing one’s body to a goldmine reiterates their awareness of the value they hold, and the rarity of their nature that is abundant in quantity, but also very hard to come by. It takes a lot of digging. When I look in the mirror, I see gold. Everyone should feel like they have that kind of value deep inside of them.
Is there an upcoming project that we can expect?
I have an EP coming out soon. It is a lot of soul therapy. It’s a timeless EP that’s not really going to be specifically for this time but really something that is going to transcend throughout all time. I have a few more singles that I have to do with self-care and have to do with comfort and have to do with just being a better version of yourself, which is an ongoing theme in all of my songs. Self-care is an all-around lifestyle.
Listen to “Gold Mine” by Savannah Cristina below.