A self-described “unorthodox soul goddess,” R&B singer and Nashville native Saaneah is poised to expand her presence in music by offering up more of her own brand of soul to the sound of Music City
By Greg Brand, Jr.
SOTG Entertainment Editor
For the past decade or so, the music scene here in Nashville has been made brighter with the presence of a young star who pours her love of soul music and a message of self-love into her performance and artistry. Now, thanks to 10 years of life lessons—including performing in both theatrical and musical venues, intensive academic music study and soul searching—this soulful songbird is ready to rise to higher heights.
Radiantly beautiful and unassumingly sweet, Nashville-based Saaneah (born Saaneah Jamison) joined me for lunch and conversation inside the Nashville Farmers Market, where we meandered into the popular, Food Network-acclaimed Caribbean eatery, Jamaica Way. In between bites of tofu, curry and collard greens, Saaneah provided insight into her musical mission in Music City and her intent of even reaching for more.
Along with monthly showcases and continuous recording for her upcoming full-length project, she even plans to release her full-length album late this summer. “I am working on making a bigger visual presence,” she said. “Videos are on the way and so is a tour.”
She is also funneling her considerable efforts into a non-profit that will launch later this month in connection with her promotion for the EP. On June 19, Saaneah will launch her non-profit organization, Healing Hearts. With this organization, Saaneah aims to replace self-hate with self-love for women of color.
“I believe my Black is beautiful,” Saaneah said. “My non-profit will work to empower and encourage women of color with support and opportunities to improve their lives.”
Fittingly, June 19 is also Juneteenth, a day of liberation for people of color; it will also be the day she launches her own musical imprint, Mantra Music. The release of the imprint will bring her first music video to the masses as well.
“I ultimately want to make music for everybody and Mantra Music is the start,” Saaneah said. “I want to make some noise in my city and I feel like this is my time to do it.”
Drawing inspiration from an inspired catalog of vocal and lyrical powerhouses like Minnie Riperton, Chaka Khan, and Ella Fitzgerald, Saaneah said she aims to bring her own style and sound to the masses. This dream has come closer to reality with the long-awaited release of her first EP, While You Wait.
Filled with soulful grooves and heartfelt melodies, the EP gives the artist an opportunity share her love of music with other music lovers. By her own admission, her love of music is what inspires her to do what she does. She has loved music since she was a little girl and intends to keep making it for the rest of her life.
“I have always been aware of music but it really became real for me when I was about 6 years old,” Saaneah said. “I knew then it was something that I could not stop doing.”
After finding her voice as a kid, she grew in music at the Nashville School of the Arts. By coupling her natural aptitude for melody with the technical tutelage of her school, she gained a rounder view of music and how to create the type of music she wanted to hear. Once she made it into college at Tennessee State University, her continued work in music imbued her with even more drive and desire for performing.
Fast forward through 10 years performing, writing and working at mastering her craft, now the singer is ready for her moment in the spotlight. While You Wait finally gives Saaneah the opportunity to share her experiences and voice with the world.
The release comes as a culmination of several years of developing herself as an artist on the stage and in her song books. According to her, there is nothing else she would rather be doing.
“God actually forces me to use my gift,” Saaneah said. “There is a passion so strong in my heart for music. It literally keeps me alive. It would kill me if I couldn’t perform—if I couldn’t write… I have to do this.”
Just because she has always wanted to sing doesn’t mean that her journey has been an easy one. After a stint as a noted performer on American Idol, Saaneah found herself looking for her next step after failing to make further in the competition. Admittedly, she hadn’t found her sound and what she wanted to do as an artist.
“For a long time, I sang mostly covers, recorded demos and performed in off-Broadway plays,” Saaneah said. “With doing those demos, I wasn’t liking it. I hadn’t found my voice as an artist.”
It wasn’t until she experienced several personal experiences that everything started to make sense. Almost at once, she graduated from college, ended a long romantic relationship and her social circle shifted.
“My relationship was a rocky one and some of my friendships were not great either,” she admitted. “I was down and performing in a play when I met a producer and ended up finding me.”
The changes inspired Saaneah to begin writing more and singing music that mattered to her. She’d found her calling. Obedience to that calling, Saaneah found that she was not only able to create and share music but she is also able to share messages and concepts through her art.
“I want to make an impact,” Saaneah said. “But as impactful as I try to be, making music also empowers me.”
And for Saaneah, making an impact is sharing a message of self-love in song—a message she has fought to embrace in both her music and in her own life.
“As a curvy woman, I’ve had to work to embrace myself and how God made me,” she explained. “Everywhere I looked, everyone (in the music industry) is very small and I had to embrace being a thicker woman as well as embrace the music I wanted to create.
“There is nothing wrong with tightening up by getting in better shape and improving yourself but I’ve learned I didn’t need to be so concerned with size all of that,” she continued. “Realizing that was liberating.”
As we begin to wrap the interview, Saaneah is asked what advice she would give young artists looking to make music professionally. Interestingly, she pauses, adjusts her flowing bright purple locks and leans in intently before she speaks, “Take risks. It might be your best move.”
“Sometimes, you’ve just got to go with your instincts. If you feel something in your soul, go for it,” she said. “Just be loud and proud!”