Musical Discoveries: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you were led to the Sleepthief project.
San.Drine: I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland. I moved to the US when I was nineteen. After graduating from college, I fell in love with New York City. I moved there, determined to pursue songwriting. That's how I met producer and engineer Christian "Wicked" Wicht (website). Christian became my sound engineer and co-produced some of the songs on my debut album.
In New York, I also met songwriter/beat technician Summer Kelly. Together, along with other musicians and MCs, we created the trip hop project Suisse Modular (website). After spending a whole year writing songs, we started performing live throughout the NYC area (Izzy Bar, CBGB's Gallery, Galapagos, etc.) during 2002 and 2003, and released a debut EP entitled "Fly Me To The Lunar" in 2004. The EP has received airplay in college radio stations throughout the country. In 2004, I also released my debut album entitled Histoires d'Eau, which features guest producers Angina P. from Austria, Heckle & Jive from Iceland, Govinda, Bitstream Dream, Summer Kelly and Christian.
Some of my songs have been featured on The WB (Smallville), MTV and ABC Family.
Justin contacted me last year, and suggested that I listen to one of the tracks he wrote for The Dawnseeker. He wanted an alternate version for the song, and he asked me if I could write one in French. That’s how "Entre Ciel et Mer" was born.
Did you always know you wanted to be a musical artist?
I grew up in a house where the only source of music was a portable radio in the kitchen and a black and white TV. At the age of four, I received a 20" wide toy version of a grand piano, it was bright red. I loved it so much that I started taking private piano lessons shortly after. Since then, music has always been a huge part of my life.
I spent a lot of time practicing ballet and sports as a teen, and eventually became Junior National Champion in table tennis when I was fourteen--no kidding--but music eventually took over.
And what can you tell us about your musical and vocal training?
I studied classical piano at the Conservatory of Geneva for about ten years. At the age of nineteen, I obtained a scholarship from Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. There I studied music production, sound engineering, songwriting, arranging and music business. I also took some vocal lessons while attending Berklee.
How would you characterise the song you did on Sleepthief album?
"Entre Ciel et Mer" is a beautiful epic ballad, with rich musical textures. It has a wonderful build-up and the chorus takes you to a very peaceful and mysterious place. When I first heard the instrumental track Justin sent me, which was called "Oceanic," I felt very close to it. I had written a series of poems a few years ago, entitled "Oceanes" (which means “Oceanic” in French). The lyrics worked perfectly with Justin's track.
Did you share any of the writing duties?
Justin wrote the music. I wrote the lyrics and the melody.
Please compare the material to any that you have done on your own or with others.
My other work is a bit darker, with trip hop and IDM influences.
And how was the project put together?
The writing process is never quite the same, and every collaboration is different. I usually listen to the instrumental track non-stop for hours or days, until I start hearing musical themes and words. Sometimes they will be in French, and sometimes in English. I write in whichever language feels more natural.
Once the melody and lyrics are created, I record my vocals myself, in my recording studio. I record in sections, usually starting with the chorus. I lay down the lead vocals first, and then I create layers of vocal harmonies. Once I am satisfied with the chorus, I move on to the other sections of the song.
For "Entre Ciel et Mer," I recorded my vocals into Logic Pro 7, on my iMac G5. Once all the vocals were done, I sent my vocal files to Christian, who makes sure that the quality of the files is perfect. The final vocals were then sent to Israel and Justin for the final mix.
What kind of music do you find yourself listening to all the time?
I listen to everything. Some of my favorite electronica artists and influences are Bjork, Lamb, Massive Attack and Portishead. The top 10 CDs I am currently listening to include (in no particular order): Imogen Heap, "Speak for Yourself"; L’altra, "Different Days"; Sigur Rós, "Takk…"; Plat "Ccompulsion"; Magnet, "On Your Side"; Télépopmusik, "Angel Milk"; Francoiz Breut, "Une Saison Volée"; Nitin Sawhney, "Philtre"; Röyksopp, "The Understanding"; Aqualung, "Strange and Beautiful."
Do you have a career outside of music?
Music has become my main career. But in order to survive in New York City, I have had to work quite a few jobs. I went from working crazy hours in music retail, to working for music publishers, managers, and then I worked at BMI for a while. Aside from being frustrating and financially unrewarding, working in the corporate world actually taught me everything I needed to know to survive as an independent artist, and to create my own publishing and record company.
What are your future plans as a musical artist?
I am currently working on my second album. I also want to focus on securing new licensing deals for the songs in my catalog.
What has it been like working the team on the Sleepthief project?
I loved to work with Justin and Israel, the collaboration went very smoothly. Justin and I spoke on the phone a lot during the whole process.
He gave me a very clear vision and understanding of what he wanted to achieve with his album, and yet he gave me complete artistic freedom. I hope to work with Sleepthief again in the future.
How does it feel to share vocal work with the other artists on the album?
All the vocalists on The Dawnseeker are very talented. I am glad to be part of the project.
Do you think "image" has a role in promoting your music these days?
Image is important, yes. The way a product looks will undeniably influence sales. I am aware of that when I promote my music. My songs are very visual, so I want to create a package that is visually stimulating. As an independent artist, I luckily have complete artistic control.
I always look at the visual aspect as a tool to complement my music, not the other way around.
Has the internet brought you many new listeners, expanded your audience and improved your connection to the fans?
Absolutely, yes to all of the above. Without a major label to promote my CD, and without a distributor, the internet makes it possible for an artist like myself to create a buzz and to maintain an international fan base. My website (www.san-drine.com) is a safe platform where my fans and I can communicate directly. It is priceless!