It’s not very often, but sometimes you’ll come across an artist and you just know that they’ve got that “it” factor about them. I spend a lot of time discovering new music, but an occasion like the one that I’ll be discussing today is still quite rare – for underground music junkies, it feels like you’re a kid on Christmas again. I first heard the name Samara Cyn a few months ago when I stumbled upon one of her TikToks and I immediately assumed that she was someone that everyone knew. Funny enough, when I looked a little bit closer I realized that she was an undiscovered gem that had an undeniable talent for storytelling and melody – her tone stuck in my head in a way that only the greats do. After about a week of listening to her music non-stop (especially, “Auto-Pilot” and “pride’s interlude”) and making my way through her discography, I knew that she was someone that I had to interview because there had to be more to this story than what even the outside could tell us.
Fast forward to last month and I had the opportunity to speak with the Tennessee-native – diving deeper into understanding who exactly Samara was and her musical vision. As we spoke, the picture that was being painted became increasingly more clear as I realized that Samara Cyn is indeed the needle in the haystack that we’ve all been searching for. I say that to say that it was a great honor to have the opportunity to chat with someone as captivating and critical to the future of music as Samara Cyn is and I am thrilled to be shining the Early Rising spotlight on her today. For anyone fans of Smino, Lauryn Hill, J.I.D., or Mereba, I can’t emphasize enough that this is not a conversation or artist that you’ll want to miss.
Joe: For fans who don’t know you, who is Samara Cyn? Where are you from and how did you get your start in music?
Samara: I am a recording artist and songwriter. I’m originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, but I started making music when I was away at college in Arizona. I’ve always been interested in poetry and spoken word, but I didn’t recognize it as a passion of mine at first. It wasn’t until I put it to music that I really started enjoying it. Wrote my first song at the top of 2019 and just couldn’t put it down after that. And I mean, in the morning walking to class, between classes, at work, on my days off. It wasn’t too long after that, we were on lock down and in the middle of a worldwide pandemic…. which of course gave me ample time to go absolutely nuts in my apartment by myself. Music became a fun past time, it became therapy, it gave me something to do that I felt productive in. By the time I got to graduation in 2021 I really wanted to take it more seriously.
It was cool because I had a couple friends that were musicians. I learned kind of quickly how to record and set up connections for shows and things like that. It was definitely all due to the homies that I had around me that had been doing it for a while, they kind of showed me the ropes really quickly. Introduced me to the creative community. Told me the Do’s and Do Not’s.
I moved to L.A. last year in April. I think I just did everything that I wanted to do out in AZ. I wasn’t learning anymore. Almost like I had hit a bit of a ceiling in my personal journey. I just wanted to start new and learn a lot more about what I was doing – try to get really good at the craft because at that point, I wasn’t even mixing my own music. I was recording myself, but I didn’t know sh*t really. I wanted exposure on how to really take control of my creative process. How to collaborate. How to market. How to do it the right way. I felt like LA was the right place for that.
So I moved. I feel like it wasn’t until I moved that I really found a pocket that sounded like me. I got out of the phase of making all this sh*tty music that didn’t sound like my voice. Trust, I still make sh*tty music from time to time but at least it sounds closer to home (laughs).
So that’s what I’ve been doing. I kind of took all of the year off to just work on what I was doing and figure out what the f*ck was going on since I was in a new place. Now it’s a new year, I have a sh*t ton of music, and I’m just trying to roll out as much of it as possible before I get sick of it and don’t ever want to put it out.
Joe: I hear that! That’s a tough part about sitting on music, because when you make something you really like, you might end up playing it non-stop for two months straight. Then you blink and seven months pass and you still haven’t released it and you can just get tired of some things.
Samara: Exactly. We’re always evolving as humans. I don’t want to say that I’m a completely different person than I was a year ago, but in many ways I totally am. Do you know what I mean? If you’re working on yourself and you’re growing and you’re exposed to new things, you might not connect with what you made two months ago in the same way that you do now.
Joe: Agreed! So for someone who doesn’t know your music and is just now getting hip to Samara Cyn, how would you describe your sound to someone just now discovering you? Who are your early influences?
Samara: I would say I’m a neo soul, hip-hop fusion artist. My early influences include Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Slick Rick, Outkast. Now I listen to a lot of Smino, J.I.D., Kendrick, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, Mereba. So the neo soul influences from Erykah Badu, the rawness that Lauryn embodied, and then the fast rap style that I like today that has that kind of southern swing and cadence to it. I like to merge those sounds or at least I try to in a way that feels the most authentic to me.
I like chill vibes, laid back, and warm chords. I love live instrumentation. I try to talk about internal conflict – my own journey of figuring out who the f*ck I am and the things that I like and being able to stand on that. It’s very much so about my self journey and vices that I had to get rid of. For example, “Autopilot” is about my experiences with weed and watching too much TV to kind of disassociate from my reality.
Joe: So you were saying earlier that you got your start in spoken word poetry and how that was initially a big creative outlet for you. Did you always love music (even when you were more focused on spoken word) or was it not until you started creating music that you realized that music was something that you could foresee yourself doing?
Samara: Yeah, I would say maybe like a mixture of both. As a kid, music was always around, but I didn’t come from a musical family or a musical background. My parents were always playing music though. I’m biracial – my mom is Caucasian and my dad is African American – so there was a huge spectrum of different types of music playing depending on whose car you got into. Plus I’m a military kid, so we lived in a lot of different places where I was influenced by different cultures growing up. I feel like all of that definitely influenced me in a more subconscious way than I understood at the time when it was happening.
As I got older, I really enjoyed making playlists. My favorite thing to do in my spare time was to get on SoundCloud and I would just click through songs and try to find the most fire sh*t and send them out to my homies and stuff.
Joe: Damn, you were early on the playlist curator wave!
Samara: Yeah! (laughs). In high school SoundCloud was the lick and I was trying to find artists. That’s where I found Brent Faiyaz – who at the time was going by Sonder – and a lot of different sounds that just made the soundtrack to my teens. The late night drive playlists that you could just chill out, smoke to that sh*t, and just vibe to was definitely my thing.
I did the #SoGoneChallenge when I was a senior in high school. Maybe that’s the earliest I can remember writing a rap verse. For those who don’t know, Chance the Rapper was doing this challenge for people to freestyle over Monica’s “So Gone” beat. A bunch of people started doing it where they were talking about their loved ones or significant other… and I decided to do one about my Mom. Don’t go find it (the video). It was f*cking terrible.
My mom is a teacher. She used to show Brave New Voices as part of her poetry unit to her students. I remember being so fascinated watching the passion in those kids. It inspired me to write my own slam poems. Possibly even originated the idea I have now that poetry is supposed to mean something. It’s supposed to have a moral or lesson. A clever underlying message. But that’s not always true with music. No rules to music or poetry really. It’s just expression. The way you see the world you walk in or the world another walks in.
Overtime, I found that same passion I saw in those kids. The closest you get to being free. When you can feel fulfilled. Not thinking of anything except what you’re doing in that moment… and being excited about it. I feel like that’s the only thing that I want – that’s the only thing that a lot of people want out of this life, it’s to feel connected and to feel fulfilled in whatever you’re doing.
Joe: I love that! You’ve got to find what’s going to fulfill you and it’s good thing you did! So you were talking about your time in Arizona and Early Rising happens to be founded and based out of Phoenix. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Arizona music scene!
Samara: Yeah! It’s very interesting because there are some really amazing artists in Arizona. It sucks because you get to a point where it’s almost like you have to leave in order to level up in what it is that you’re doing or you have to travel. There isn’t really an industry there, like there aren’t any established labels in Arizona—to my knowledge of course. Not that everybody has to sign to a label in order to be successful, but there’s not a lot of like musical OGs that can help push the scene forward. So in Arizona, you can only really network with the same group of people, and we’re all trying to do the same thing. I think it’s a great place to practice and fortify a foundation for creativity though. Just as another city would be to it’s local artists.
Regardless, I do really love Arizona! It was a great milestone and played a big role in my growth as an individual outside of music. The people that I was around and the sh*t I was doing out there definitely birthed my whole music journey. That’s where I learned how to perform, that’s where I learned how to communicate with my music, how to lead a band on the stage, how to network and put myself out there. So yeah, I would say that I really loved Arizona and the time that I had there – it was a great spot to be.
Joe: For anyone paying attention to your career, it’s obvious that you’ve been having quite a bit of success on TikTok. What has TikTok meant to you and how have you built on the platform and other social media platforms?
Samara: To be completely honest, I have a very bittersweet relationship with TikTok. It’s a very love-hate thing and it’s so funny because when I started posting videos for “pride’s interlude”, what made me post it was like, “Okay, f*ck it. F*ck TikTok. I’m just gonna put my sh*t up there, I don’t give a f*ck.” I think it was less about the platform and more of my own internal war with making and posting content.
I had to reevaluate why I was doing what I was doing so that the process of posting content could feel authentic and necessary and not like I was conforming. I also had to stop making excuses like “a lack of resources” and be okay getting creative with what I had. Then I had to get all the way over myself to actually post the videos up. Opening yourself up to any and every one’s perception is a scary thing but I was more so fearful of the songs failing to capture an audience. You have to remember why you’re in it. I think passion overrides fear of you’ll allow it.
All that to say, me n TikTok are getting kinda tight (laughs). But I have the power to set my boundaries with it. My goal is to post videos that feel authentic to me and not take it so seriously that it’s stressing me out to be on some sort of post schedule. It’s a battle of balance for sure. The more you put yourself out there the less scary it is too. Just got to believe and hype yourself up enough to not give a f*ck. I was putting so many rules on how much of a budget I needed and how my marketing plan needed a strategy to the point where the rules consumed me and left me putting out nothing at all. It wasn’t until I let all of that go and focused on the point. To create art that I connect to and share it for others to have the same opportunity to connect.
Shortly after, YC Imaging hit me up on IG after coming across my music on his explore page. We teamed up to get a visual done for “pride’s interlude”. Which was amazing and couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. He understood exactly what I wanted for the video. It was easy communication and crazy execution, he’s an amazing director. So that just fell hand in hand, it hit my brand identity spot on. That (the video) ended up getting a lot of organic traffic from his page and from my social media. Then one of the performance clips I posted on TikTok went viral and really boosted the streams for the song and video.
So, I do believe that you can reach a lot of people on TikTok, but you have to approach it in a way that is most authentic to you. Don’t do what everybody else is doing. F*ck how many times you should post in a week, don’t give a f*ck about any of that and just do what you want to do, how you want to do it, value good art and your abilities to make it, and it’ll be fine.
Joe: Love to hear it! I know I’ve avoided what’s most important here up until this point and that’s the actual music, so let’s get into it! Tell me more about “pride’s interlude” and your new single, “Auto-Pilot”. How did the songs come to be and what are they about?
Samara: So I made both of them last year around summer time. I had recently moved out here (L.A.), was super motivated, and I had just found that pocket. At the time I was working out of Redy Set Studio in North Hollywood and they gave me the keys to that b*tch, because the owner of it really f*cked with me – he’s a great guy. I didn’t have an engineer at the time, so I had to figure out how to make my sh*t sound the way that I wanted. Having that space really allowed me to do that. There I met this producer named Arza Arzito who produced both the singles. I would go in there after hours after the owner’s artists were done and make music. So I made both of those songs in a space by myself with a kick a** Arza beat pack. I was just having fun.
Both of those songs were about internal conflicts. One of them was influenced by a relationship that I had recently gotten out of. It was about how pride can affect how you act even when you really care about somebody. You have to get over your own ego first. Looking back and growing out of that—who I was in that relationship and who the other person was in that relationship— I realized that as I was condemning them for being prideful, I was being prideful myself. So analyzing the reflection you get from being in a relationship like that, it’s like we were both being prideful and the reality is that we f*cked with each other, but it wasn’t going to work because neither of us could get over our own ego. So that was what “pride’s interlude” was all about.
Then I made “Auto-Pilot” a little bit later, because I stopped smoking weed. I used to smoke weed a lot and it got to a point where I was just smoking to smoke it. It got to the point where it would make me so anxious that smoking socially was just too much for me. I think the goal is to be in your body at all time living in the moment. Smoking just put me too much in my thinking mind. If I know that it effects me this way, why am I still doing it? At the time I was talking to my mom, who is like my best friend, and she was disassociating by watching TV and it was like both of us were trying to detach from our routine. So you indulge in vices that you end up getting addicted to like social media, TV, weed, alcohol… literally just to be in a different reality for a little bit. Auto-Pilot came out when I started questioning if that was a healthy way to cope. As I talked about it with my friends, I realized a lot of other people had a similar experience.
I hint at the role the governement and mass media plays in this conversation in the song as well. Complicit in and possibly even intentional in the way it offers us a world of ignorance.
Joe: Amen! I feel like a lot of people, including myself, have experienced similar feelings/situations which is probably a big reason as to why these records are so relatable.
You’re currently in Brazil working while rolling out quite a bit of music. Do you have any exciting future plans or are your travels putting things on hold for the moment?
Samara: Yeah, you know, I’ll be honest, I had to come out here to get a feel about how much I’d be working and the time difference, and how frequently I would be able to make videos and different things like that. We only have a few days off every month at this job and then we’re in a different country. I want to go explore and take advantage of this opportunity. Make sure I’m being present in this experience.
However, my main goal this year was just to commit to consistency. I know if I put music out on a consistent basis, I would grow a following and be proud of building a solid catalog.
I still very much want to put music out every single month – so that is my plan this year. I started off pretty strong with music in January and February. This March I had two features come out. One is called “Fresh” with Retro Starkey – an amazing lyricist. He’s very f*cking cool and it was produced by Keys (Keyla Spencer), who is also an absolute amazing producer and songwriter. I met up with them in L.A. and we got to get in the studio. It’s very fast rapper Cyn and she doesn’t come out too often, so it was very fun to do. It’s on Retro’s album, “Lost Art”. A really incredible body of work so definitely go look that up!
The other feature with Chris O’Bannon, DaBoii, and DJ HMD is called “Bitter”. It’s very much so an L.A., West Coast vibe. Not my normal thing so I’m actually really stoked for that one.
My next song and visual rolls in May and more to follow for the summer. So I’m excited to get more out and really down to stay committed to my goals. Even as I’m out of the country working!
Joe: That’s amazing! I’m really excited to check those other songs out!
Are there any final words or a piece of advice that you wanted to leave E.R. readers with to close out?
Samara: I would say if you’re trying to do something or you feel like you haven’t found what your purpose is yet, try your hardest to work on your life force. Work on yourself, work on your health, work on your relationships. Try to have as many new experiences as you can. Frame your purpose as something greater than a job or an occupation. I feel like my purpose is to contribute to something greater than myself. I want to leave the people and environment around me in a better light than when I stepped into it. Everybody wants to connect and everybody wants to feel fulfilled so find something that allows you to feed yourself in more ways than just putting food on your table. Keep trying to find what your thing is. That’s what I’ll say about all of that.
Oh yeah, and don’t be an asshole! Those are my last words: don’t be a f*cking asshole. (laughs)
Joe: Love it! Thank you Samara!!