Anna Azarov Photography

Anna Azarov

Breakout Singer-Songwriter Skandra on ‘Rivers’ – Exclusive GIGSoup Interview

Multi-talented artist Skandra broke the internet with her single ‘Rivers’, after her husband’s TikTok went viral. Since then, the video has reached over 18 million views, with her single over 1 million streams (and counting). We talked with Skandra on her inspirations, ‘Rivers’, and other upcoming projects.

What first got you into wanting to be in music, particularly with pop?

I started writing my first song when I was about 12. The thing that inspired me the most was, one, falling in love with listening to music. At the time, I had started writing a lot, writing poetry and stories. I had a person, a loved one, basically lose their life to a heroin addiction. So, my way of dealing with that was to write a song. I wrote a poem, and then I had been studying piano since I was four years old. So, I knew how to play piano. Then, I wrote my first song then as a form of therapy [or] a form of relief. Then I just fell in love with writing music, and I haven’t stopped writing since.

Who would you credit having a major influence to your sound?

It changes. I think when you love music or when you write music, it changes all the time. I think when I first started writing, I was in love with Bob Dylan and Carole King. Maybe a couple of years later, I found some artists like Bright Eyes and Death Cab for Cutie and Rilo Kiley. There was this whole indie music scene, that actually had a lot of pop to it, in a more lo-fi way. So, I really hope that I was really good lyricist and those were definitely my first inspirations.

As the time went on, I had all sorts of phases. I like everything from Aphex Twin to Radiohead to Youth Lagoon and definitely a lot of artists that have inspired me along the way. I think that I tend to listen to music, and derive from it the things that I love. I would take from it, and kind of modify it into more of a pop sound than anything. I always seem to call it like sad pop. It’s like it’s a sad song that you could dance to. It seems like I’m inspired by some very sad music that I tend to maybe make a little more pop-able.

That’s kind of how it works. As you a grow up, there will be a certain year or phase and that you’ll be into like indie rock, and it adds to your own repository of music. So by the time you make it, you have all these different influences.

So true. I think that my hair changes every time my music taste changes. I was gonna say it was a hair color or hair cut [laughs].

Do you have a specific color for each kind of genre or phase?

I feel like I do. I don’t think it was conscious, but it could totally happen.

I read that you blew your life savings to create your album. Can you describe to me how did you balance both of that pressure as well as the creative process of making your album?

I’ve been making music for a while now, and I really felt this urge to just go for it. More than I ever had before, because I am very, fairly persistent in everything I do. I felt like I had to take a second and breathe, which I did for a couple of years, and gave back to the community and gave back to art and all that. Then, I re-found myself in finding a new sound in exactly how I wanted it to sound, look, feel and be about. Once I felt settled on that, I felt ready to give it my all. So, I think no matter, the money just wasn’t an issue. It just felt like, alright, money, let’s go. It’s there and I can use it. I was just gonna ignore the normal workings of Earth and just do what I can to make this go.

Can you tell me what first inspired you to write your single ‘Rivers’?

I was renting a guesthouse from my friend, and I lived there for five years. I was writing this song that was just two chords with a simple melody over them. I called it a poem song because it was about a minute long, and it was kind of like a journal entry. I wrote it about a toxic relationship that actually was mid-being in at the time, and felt just a way of admitting to myself that I knew how bad it was for both of us. That’s how the song started, and I developed it over time. Actually, that song has developed over two years. I mean, not nonstop work, but it’s progressed into a full pop song. Basically, that’s where that came from.

So then, did you know that your husband was going to do the TikTok video that he posted?

He asked me, “where are the streams were at?”, and I said, “I don’t know, 700 or something.” He’s like “Can I log into your Spotify artist account and just see how it works?” So, he looked and he said, “Oh, you only have this counter for a week, and then you don’t have a live counter that shows you how many streams you have.” He said “what if we got people to get the counter up?” As an artist, you’re like, well, that sounds like a video game. That doesn’t really sound like art appreciation or something organic or real [laughs], but he gets excited about stuff like that.

So, he made this whole video. I actually did not see it until he posted it. He said, “let me film you saying one line” I’m like, “okay?” and he’s off with his headphones and a computer editing the thing for hours. I just really didn’t think much of it, just because I felt almost like, well, I wouldn’t do this for myself, you know? So, I don’t know how this is going to go, but to my surprise, it was very successful. There’s like hundreds of people copying his exact video now on TikTok, which is pretty wild.

Oh, really? I didn’t know that.

Yeah, there’s all these artists who basically took the exact story and format, and they’ve actually accomplished getting a million streams the same exact way. So pretty, pretty wild. So, yes, I didn’t know he was doing it. I knew he was doing something. I didn’t know what he was doing. I knew the basic concept, but it was brilliant. It was a brilliant idea.

How did it feel to go viral like that and getting millions and millions views and likes? That must have been kind of surreal, right?

I’m sure, because you’re a writer, you spend a lot of time focusing on your dream. You have failures and you have hiccups and you have devastation and you have little successes and this and that. It’s like this whole life builds up to it. It was so interesting because I had felt so defeated days before it happened. I actually felt so defeated. I’m like, “what is the point of 700 streams? No one cares and there’s a pandemic and the world is ending. Who cares about me prancing around in a music video and this song about love right now,” because I’m also a fairly empathetic person, too. So, I can feel like the pain of the world of what’s going on. I felt like “what’s the point?”

I think my husband could feel that I was feeling that way, and his response to me feeling that way was creating the video and helping me, which is beautiful. We did a TikTok Live right after he posted it. There were thousands of people on at once, like 3000, 4000 people. All explaining that they found the video, watched the music video, listened to the song and they love it. They’re huge fans for life now and they’re like “never stop making music.”

For me, it was, I thought, like years and years and years of work being acknowledged in that moment. It was so surreal and so beautiful. I felt like it was like the universe saying, “Yeah, keep going. It does matter. Keep going.” The most surreal part was feeling like it’s okay to be delusional and chase your dreams. I think that I really needed to hear that, and that’s what that felt like.

You’re right. They’re gonna be times when you have ups and downs. It was just a matter of getting your name out there.

So, definitely a lesson learned too is it’s really about getting your art in front of the right eyes or ears, and you have to really reach as many people as possible to find those right ears and eyes that actually like it. It’s like my good friends, it might not be their taste in music at all, but they’re still my friends, so they’re going to tell me they like it. But it’s not necessarily true. It’s an interesting thing. If you get to as many people as possible, there’s going to be a percentage of people who really connect with it.

What was the inspiration behind the ‘Rivers’ music video and being opposite of your husband?

The inspiration for it was this movie by Michel Gondry called ‘Science of Sleep’ that I really loved years ago. It’s kind of a tumultuous, tortuous relationship that kind of mirrored what ‘Rivers’ was about. There’s also the sense of magic and mystic things happening throughout the film. So, that was definitely the inspiration for the music video. I did definitely have some reservations about my husband playing the toxic partner. I don’t think the video demonstrates him being an evil person at all. So it was fun. My husband’s actually a director, and a very visual person and very talented. So, I felt like I really trusted him in helping me and helping the whole production team. Making sure that we accomplished what we were setting out to do, and it was a very fun experience. We did it with our friends who live in Paris, and have a creative agency called SuperVision and just a really good group of people and friends. So it was great. We did it in a day, which was definitely hard. I think it was like something like 10 hours, we did the whole shoot. We thought it was impossible, but we pulled it off.

I know you’re releasing some singles at a time. So, what other tracks we could expect from your full-length album, or other new music?

I went into the studio for 10 days last month, and then I’m going to wrap up those songs in December. I want to shoot a series of videos in January and then release them starting February of 2021. That’s the plan right now. I did have three other songs from the last EP, like the last set of songs I recorded with ‘Rivers’. But I really want the next releases to be a level-up. So, I’m kind of putting this aside for now and maybe releasing B-Sides next year. I did do, almost like a B-side music video for fun. I did this all-girl, all-female crew like skeleton crew, so it’s safe. The music video that I directed, art directed and produced and everything is for one of the B-side songs. So, I hope to get that out in January or Fall.

How has the recent events that’s been happening today affect you as an artist in your music right now?

Well, I’m one of the enigma. I feel like I really thrived as an artist in lockdown, and I think that’s very personal. Considering everything else, I would love to be able to gather and play shows and put on events and do all the things that I would normally be doing. I think as an artist, one, it gives me or an artist time to reflect, and actually focus on the craft and the message and the meaning and the importance of art. Two, really reevaluate again what is important and making sure that you’re doing things for the right reasons. So, I think it’s only negative effect of not being able to gather, but I think it’s obviously worth it. The plus side of being able to re-evaluate and become a better version of myself here.

If you had some advice for any other musicians up and coming, what would you suggest for them to do?

I guess two things. One, is be patient because I had to learn patience so many times. I think I’m like a energizer bunny. I just want to go and go and get things done. The truth is that there’s so much [that] can come from just being patient, and actually seeing something through to exactly how you want it to be. So, how you envision a song, make sure that you do all you can to accomplish that vision, because it will be worth it and treat it like it’s going to be the most successful thing you’ve ever done. Really grant it that. Then, the second thing is just being as persistent as possible and never looking at as anything a failure. Just more as a lesson learned and growing from it because I think that it feels, even with this viral success, or this thing I have going on right now, I know that if I don’t persist, it will die. So, that’s the truth of anything. So, you really have to be willing to work hard and persist and grow from every experience.

You can find more information about Skandra at...