“We’ve Grown Together!” Clash Meets Sabrina Claudio

Diving into her heritage, the creative process, and her excellent new album...

They say never meet your idols, but there are very few artists in this realm that can convey the toughest of emotions and somehow allow it to universally fit all scenarios. Sabrina Claudio has been a voice of emotional reckoning for her fans since her debut in 2017, so her two-year hiatus was a characteristic that was felt deeply by many R&B lovers.

‘Based On A Feeling’, the 25-year-old’s latest album which has been released today is a compilation of lyrism and production that just feels right for her at this moment.

Conveying the growth of her journey which can easily be seen simply in her body language, not afraid to try new things, new looks, and sounds while still remaining to the simplicity of her character. Like many young women, the pandemic put us all in a brief state of vegetation, installing a fear in us that we weren’t able to push past those moments. Alas, we made it out and our demeanour to be better, do better and feel better is stronger than ever before. For many of us, those moments created the best versions of ourselves, true for Sabrina which also allowed for the birth of this project.

Personally, she has been a pillar in how to deal with those overwhelming emotions that tare down your natural routine; heartbreak, grief, love, loneliness, and friendship are a minuscule in the storytelling touched on by Sabrina. Grabbing words and scenarios from all aspects around her to carefully pen lyrics, she is telling the stories of not only hers but those of her friends, family, and fans.

Born to a Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage, she grew up in the next best city for Latino heritage, Miami. Engraving her love for rhythmic beats and soulful storytelling, she grew up in a household of R&B lovers, big parties, and most importantly surrounded by love. With aspirations of going into medicine, music found Sabrina and was always supported by her family to pursue her gift. Moving to LA in her early teens, she has had all the experiences of the music industry, finally settling into her own peace with this album.

Speaking to Clash in the early hours of the LA morning, she says: “I just came back from the gym, if I don’t wake up with the intention of going to the gym, it won’t happen.” There is something so fulfilling about our conversation that humanises and allows you to fall more in love with Sabrina Claudio…

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I’ve been listening to you since I was 18, around the time of your first album release…

No way! Thank you so much I really love and appreciate that, we’ve grown together!

How has everything been in the lead up to this album, I know a lot of your fans have been patiently waiting for you to drop a project!

I am so excited to finally release something new; it’s been two years but with the pandemic, it felt so much longer. But I was releasing an album every year for four years straight. I did release the Christmas album, ‘Christmas Blues’, but that was just pure fun, so actually writing this took me a second to do it. the reason it did take me so long was a lack of inspiration which I think was because of the pandemic.

I was afraid, I’d never taken such a long break, so I was getting scared. And then in May 2021 something snapped for me and I think, taking out all the downtime and weekends I had, it took me around two months to do. It has been done for a minute, but I am so happy with the timeline and I think it is a perfect time of my life for it to come out. And I really want to go on tour again… it’s been three years!

I can’t believe it’s only been two years…

You know, it’s actually coming up to three years, which is so scary to think about.

What was that moment in May 2021 where you snapped, do you remember what it was that got you back into writing?

Going back to the lack of motivation, I really was feeling that for like two years. 2020 didn’t even count so I don’t blame myself for not being inspired then. But then I was becoming afraid when we went into 2021 and I was still feeling the same way. I even started to prepare my team and my manager just apologising and letting them know that they truly shouldn’t expect anything to come from me, even getting into a studio. And it made me feel really angry.

But I had a conversation with someone on my team that inspired the title of the album. We were on FaceTime, and he was trying to be as motivational as possible and it did work. In the situation I was in previously I just didn’t feel supported or respected by people in the business, and I didn’t want to give myself to anyone anymore. It was selfish; to myself and the people who listen to my music, so he was just like “from now on, every decision I make needs to be based on a feeling of love and authenticity.” It was so simple, but I really need to hear it, I snapped out of it and realised that I need to get back into it for myself and my listeners and nothing else really matters.

I literally booked the studio for a couple of months after that, and when I got in, every single session was so gratifying and flowed so easily. I think that’s why it happened in two months; it is honestly the album I am most proud of. I love them all but the intention behind this album is my favourite.

I love that! How do you reflect back on your first project to where this album now?

I love and am so proud of my music, the people I’ve worked with, and the things we have curated around that. But I love how I was able to take myself out of that mindset and create something I am genuinely proud of. I loved every single session; the energy was just different and a different sense of positivity. Maybe because I didn’t feel that pressure that I have to release. I feel more supported now than ever before and it allowed me to make the best decisions for myself.

Even listening back to the album, makes me so emotional because it reminds me of what we went through. There’s nothing cohesive about the songs but the intention is what makes me so proud.

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“We’ve Grown Together!” Clash Meets Sabrina Claudio

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Taking all of that in, what did you learn about yourself that you didn’t realise before?

I learnt how much I’ve evolved as a creative, a writer, an artist, and as a woman.  

I’ve evolved so much in the room and how I collaborate with everyone, it's taken me two years to realise, even though I've only been really making creating for maybe seven years, I've learnt so much and that two-year break showed me exactly that. I’m just so proud of myself for getting out of any situation mentally and making it the most positive experience thus far.

I’m proud of you too! You can really see how you have evolved over the years, even your confidence and the urge to try new things. Apart from your actual music, I think what people really love about you is your aesthetics and your creative vision. What do you get inspired by or is it coming naturally to how you are evolving?

You know what I have to give all the credit to my incredible glam team. We are so collaborative when it comes to the visuals, I really trust them with my life which is crazy because I don’t really like that when it comes to my work because I do have a vision. They’ve elevated everything, usually, I start the idea, I could give them two words and they get it.

For 'Better Version', I literally just said “futuristic, sexy and I want to do a ginger look”, and they took it and ran with it. we go back and forth with ideas and it helps so much to have amazing directors who have their own amazing ideas. It is all so dependent on the team. I am so happy too that I have become super open-minded, a few years ago, the thought of putting on a wig I hated, I wanted to show off my natural hair. Now, I love to play and dress up, I love my team and I love that we are so creative.

I think you need to have the balance of being able to try new looks and have your natural look too…

Yes! My next music video is actually really stripped back to what my listeners are used to. I am a bit nervous about that because I don’t want people to find it boring in comparison to the last two videos. But I will never leave my authentic self and always want to remind people of who I am. But I am more confident to dabble with everything.

I feel like that is something most women want to represent in themselves. The ability to feel confident in trying new things, while feeling beautiful and sexy, and still be able to come back to their natural selves. Even seeing you evolve from being so young and releasing your first album to now, being 25 years old and feeling more confident than ever, so many women will resonate with that growth…

I honestly never ever get used to the way people perceive me. in the sense of when I do the tours, which by the way is my most favourite part of all of this. social media is great because you can connect with so many people around the world at once but there is a different connection when you are in person with your fans. I’ll never get used to a woman telling me how I have impacted their life or how I resonate with them. It is so surreal to believe that I have been able to do that. I don’t ever want to get used to that because it is the motivation I always need.  

I am always doubting myself and what I do, I know I am great at what I do but in the sense of social media, you kind of forget the real people that are affected by what I do. I never want to stop doing that for myself and for the women that listen to me.

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What is your songwriting process like then – especially because you are evolving? Do you remember the first song you wrote?

I started at maybe 15/16 years old, but music did find me. I never envisioned myself creating a career out of this. I was placed in a position of being in a studio and writing, at this point I was so insecure, I had no idea who I was let alone I wanted to be an artist. So, I was fitting into these rooms just for the opportunity. During the first few years of my career, I went few some experiences of being signed and then dropped, but I would never allow anyone to hear what I curated. Nothing was my decision I was letting people do what they wanted with my music, and now I just know what I want, what I want to write, and who I want to work with.

The first song that I properly wrote was 'Confidently Lost' and it was when I moved to LA.

No way that was the first song? Look at what it turned into…

I know! That’s why I say my career didn’t really start until I moved to LA, I became a completely different person. I moved here with my family and I think the pressure of making sure I made it was what made me figure it out. I became so confident, that I wrote that song with a writer, Dan Fisher and it started my entire career.

But it also shows how natural music comes to you.

No, but there were so many not-good songs I did record before I came to LA, not trash but it wasn’t good.

In an interview in 2017, you released your first album at 21 I believe, you said that you draw inspiration from the people around you and their stories because you hadn’t really been in love before or had a lot of experiences.

When I was younger and I started doing a session where I didn’t have much input, one because I was insecure and two because when I gave my ideas they would tell me my ideas were too mature and no one was going to listen to a 15-year-old talking about love. I have always been a storyteller, and I still in enjoy storytelling more than writing about my own experiences. That’s not to say I don’t, but I just naturally enjoy telling other people’s stories or building up an idea. And that’s what I love about writing, I want to be a bit to put people’s emotions and expressions into a song. And for people who I don’t know personally, I think they resonate with me because I am able to project all these emotions that one other person will definitely understand.  

I love to tell other people’s stories. I’m honestly a very boring girl, I don’t get into relationships often, I don’t date, I don’t talk to men naturally, so I don’t have a lot of experience. And even if I did, I am so private, I don’t know how comfortable I’d be going into a studio and letting the people in the room know what I’m going through.

Honestly, that is very dissimilar as a songwriter of your own music…

It is very strange! To be a songwriter and not feed off your own experiences. But my process I am very introverted and write everything in my own space and no one knows what it will sound like until I get in the studio and start recording. I am so private so I prefer telling other people’s stories.

I’m glad you said that though because when you listen to your music you really think you're going through it…

Hahaha! I don’t want to give off I’m putting on a façade, but it’s the same as acting right? You can empathise with the story you are telling, and it is so believable you think they’re playing themselves, so I’m not faking anything I’m just channelling a different perspective.

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“We’ve Grown Together!” Clash Meets Sabrina Claudio

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Do your friends ever listen to your music and are like “hold on Sabrina” –

Hahaha oh my God no, I won’t take word for word what you told me. I’ll just take particular details and curate a concept around that. I don’t want to be telling people's business so it’s not too direct.

You grew up in Miami, with R&B playing a lot in your home, and being a Latina, you also had that influence. Your grandad also introduced you to jazz and bossa Nova, so what music or songs feel like home to you?

When I was growing up my dad was the one who introduced me to anything that was considered soulful. So anytime I hear anything that’s the early 2000s/90s R&B feels like home. Reggaeton and merengue I’ve always listened to, we’d do parties all the time, and whenever I hear that or like certain drums just brings me back to my childhood. It's embedded into my core. Bossa Nova makes me sentimental because of my grandfather, he loved to play it on guitar, and he also taught me how to harmonise. Naturally though, not like a formality, but whenever we went out we would sit in the car and play Tony Bennet and harmonise together. I have so many different genres that feel like home and have inspired me, even looking at all my work you can hear the influences of all of these.

Have you ever been back to Cuba or Puerto Rico?

It's so depressing, I'm such a fake Latina but I need to go back I have family in both countries. I am terrified to take vacations because I don’t want to get too busy while being out there, but I need to let that out of my head and just go back home. It is so important and the inspiration that will come out of that will be so overwhelming.  

I am going to make it a goal, watch you’ll see me back home living my best life.

You need to, even right now I’m imagining the music videos and the content you could make out there.

Oh my God. That is what I need to do…

You come from two stunning places as well Sabrina-

No no no, don’t rub it in! I know, I'm a fake Latina…

It’s not just you! I don’t know, I think it’s just this the thing that we have, even me being Egyptian I’ve only ever gone back once as an adult.

I don’t know what it is! But that does make me feel a bit better about not going back. It just hasn’t been the right time for us, maybe we’re not ready to be overwhelmed with inspiration… that’s definitely it.

If you had three wishes in the world what would they be?

Oh my lord, that is so hard… one would be universal happiness for everyone. Especially with things that happen everyday day, but I feel like the last few years have been more unbearable for everyone. Mental health doesn’t discriminate so I would wish for that.

I’d wish that every single animal has a home, no strays! I wish for… OK I can’t think of a third so those are my two, there’s just too many.

What do you want your legacy to be?

As an artist, I want people to remember that I have never compromised my art for the sake of reaching another level. I never want to compromise myself for people who don’t really know me. Whatever final level I reach, I want to reach it by being as authentic as I can, I want creatives to also be inspired by that and it is a necessity. It’s about timing, hard work, and dedication. That’s what I want to be known for.

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Words: Hiba Hassan

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