INTERVIEW WITH ODESSA SENG

As “No Place Like” transitions into “Love U,” the final act of the EP, we’re guided by the chimes of a child asking, “Are we home yet? Are we home yet? I’m getting bored!” Sampled from a home video taken about 15 years ago, the voice belongs to Odessa Seng, Sophie’s younger sister, and the middle child of the Seng family. Born and raised in Davis, CA, the sisters talk about the new EP, lessons learned, leaving Davis, and the many meanings of what home can be.

OS: Live from my high school bedroom...


SS: ...it’s Sophie and Dess zooming!

OS: Why are you excited about releasing this EP?

SS: I’m excited to release this EP⁠ because it’s my first project that has a theme.

I considered my first album an introduction, with many different styles and themes. It was also self-titled, so this will be my first project with a name and a concept. I have been very deliberate about every aspect of [the album], so I’m just excited to present a coherent package, hopefully it comes across that way!


OS: What do you think you learned from your first album release?

SS: Hmmm, what did I learn? I guess the biggest thing that I learned, not to get corny, is that I could really finish a project.

I thought “Ok, I wanna put out some music, fuck it, I’m going for the full album.” Just seeing it through, seeing it come to life, that was an addictive feeling.
And after completing that first project, I learned a sort of confidence going into future releases.


OS: Exactly. And here we are. Moving on to new things. What was the catalyst for this project? What made you want to start this? What inspired you, and what was the process that led you to this EP?

SS: Mmm, ok. I think we all know by now that I like to write songs about my feelings, and I noticed a pattern in the songs I was writing. I wrote, maybe three songs in a row, that were about home. During that time in my life, I had just moved out of my first college house in Northridge, somewhere that truly felt like a solid home base, into a situation where I was staying with friends or traveling back to Davis. I didn’t really have a place to call my own or a place that felt like home. I was searching for that feeling, yearning for that feeling, and noticing that I didn’t quite feel it anywhere. You know I felt that disconnect at home in Davis too, as I’m sure you understand...

OS: Yep.

SS: ...and I was still searching to find my sense of home here in LA. So during that period is when I decided I wanted to explore the concept of home and make an EP about it. So I had my three songs written, and from there I steered my writing into that direction and wrote some more. And ended up with [the EP].

OS: Do you think in writing it, you refined your definition of home? What would you define it as now, after going through the whole EP and sorting through your feelings?

SS: I like that question. Did you make that up?

OS: I did, yeah.

SS: Nice Dess, pretty good. I would say after doing the project, the definition of “home” is still left pretty vague and multidimensional. This is something that I hopefully conveyed in the EP, that “home” can mean many different things. But for me, at this moment, I would define it as a certain type of comfort. Not only where you’re comfortable walking around in your underwear, but comfortable to be whoever you are, in that moment, unfiltered. Where you don’t have to put on a mask. Of course, that can be your living space, but it could also be people that you surround yourself with, like family or good friends.

Home to me is any situation where you don’t need to put on that mask, put on that façade. I think that is my working definition of “home,” and it was definitely informed by making the whole EP and thinking about it for a long time. So that’s where we’re at right now, but I do also think that it’s an evolving definition for everybody, myself included.


OS: I agree. Like your home evolves where you are, what point in your life you’re in, things like that too.

SS: Totally.

OS: What’s the message you want people to get from listening to your EP?

SS: I guess my main goal with all of my music is for people to feel not-isolated in their feelings and experiences. And I think that’s true for this project as well. I wanted to shed light on different home situations. And that it’s ok if it’s bad and you don’t like it, it’s ok if you don’t feel like you belong in your home, or you do, I just wanted to shed light on that rollercoaster of emotions that often come with the idea of home.

OS: Like to validate people?

SS: Yeah, totally, just to validate all those feelings. I don’t know about you, but when I moved away from home, the first time I came back didn’t quite sit right, I was like “Man, I don’t feel like I live here anymore.” I’m just visiting and it’s gonna be like that forever. And I felt very guilty about that? It was really strange. I felt really alone and not a lot of people talk about that experience. So I hope that anyone who listens to this project can realize that that’s not uncommon, that they’re not alone in that.

OS: I agree. I feel like that’s also a big part of going to school, growing as a person, and growing out of the “home-high-school-box.”

SS: Absolutely. The home-high-school-box. And then the whole process of exploring to find what you want your new home to be like. Especially as a young adult, just figuring out what I want my life, my new home, to look like and feel like.

OS: Yeah, because it’s not even just a physical place, it’s like what you want to feel like in your life? Beyond your apartment.

SS: Exactly. And a lot of the EP talks about my car feeling like a home in times of flux and it totally was! I think that’s valid too. I’ve always felt very comforted having my own little space. Like even in high school, do you remember when I would hang out in the driveway for hours in the car?

OS: Oh my god, so annoying.

SS: Right? And I still do that. Like, I’m one of the few people I know who really likes driving, like I really love it. Having my own little space, time to myself...

OS; You live in the right city.

SS: Right? I do live in the right city for that. But anyway, bringing it back, I just want this EP to shed light on different feelings and definitions of home, in hopes of people feeling less alone in those experiences.

OS: Do you think the EP says that as a whole? Or is there a specific song that encapsulates that?

SS: I would say the whole EP. My intention with each song was to shed light on a different aspect.

“Fly” was about not knowing where I fit in in LA. When I was moving around a lot, I didn’t know what neighborhood I fit in, what living situation I wanted, [or] if I even wanted to be here, so that one is about searching around the new city looking for my home. About those periods where you don’t feel at home anywhere.

The second one, “Olive Trees,” is obviously an ode to Davis; just feeling that nostalgia for all those things I really missed when I moved [to LA]. The wide-open spaces, the community, stuff like that.

“Angel” is really angry and confused and dark. That one is like—home is not working. Pessimistic.

“No Place Like” is about trying to create a home for yourself, and failing, going back to your hometown and it doesn’t quite fit, really about the sadness and desperation in searching for home.

“Love U,” the last track, represents a lot of anger and resentment that can be found in a home. How complicated these emotions can be, where you’re mad at someone, they hurt you, you still love them, and they’re still apart of your home; you still feel that comfort with them. Comfort in the discomfort, in a way.

Yeah. I would say the project as a whole is trying to communicate that diversity of emotions.


OS: I like that. I know you hate this question, but do you have a current favorite song off the EP?

SS: I would say, probably “Angel” or “Love U.” I can narrow it down to two. While producing this project, I think I refined my style a little more in those tracks. Style-wise, these two are the biggest departure away from my recent releases. Specifically, they were a lot more electronic with manipulated found-sounds. Less “pop-y.” They’re a little weirder⁠—not weirder, we’re gonna go with more experimental⁠—than my older music and other tracks on the EP. So I would say those two are my favorites right now. It changes though.

OS: We kinda talked about your process, but what was the most challenging part in getting to this point with the EP where you’re focusing on releasing it and doing the promotion?

SS: Ah, interesting, I got very nitpicky on this project because I was happy with the concept and I wanted it executed perfectly, in my eyes. As far as individual tracks, I had a really hard time getting “Olive Trees” to sound the way I wanted. I re-recorded the vocals 3 times so that one was tricky. Getting the mix and production working for me on “Love U” was also challenging. That being said, I feel like it’s always harder for me to do the marketing and everything that happens after the music is done. That’s just not my specialty. I’ve been studying music my whole life, not marketing, but I also really like being independent so I’m happy to learn about it. I’ve been learning a lot, but I suspect the challenge is yet to come. Because that stuff is still much more unfamiliar to me than the actual music-making process.

OS: I feel like you make a project with some kind of goal in mind: where do you want this EP to go? What are your aspirations for this, marketing-wise?

SS: Yeah! I guess my main goal for this release is to figure out a way to effectively reach people that aren’t in my circle at the moment. I’ve had a few times where random people reach out to me and said that they found my music and it resonated! So I’m trying to get more of that. I, of course, appreciate and love my supportive friends and community⁠—that’s how everyone starts out, but my goal for this release is to have new ears listen. I want to go for it with the marketing because I’m proud of this project and I’m not afraid to back it and blast it out to everyone in hopes that more people will hear it that don’t know me. And I’m happy for this to be their introduction.

OS: Fun. A lot of your friends are new artists, is there anything you learned from them? Recommendations or advice that was helpful in building this EP?

SS: Yeah! I mean I always take notes when my peers release music. I really try to objectively observe how each of their marketing moves work for me, as a young person consuming. So it’s not even one specific person, but I really love when anyone around me releases music. Of course, I like to hear what they’re up to, musically, but I’m also so curious to see what they try, marketing-wise. So I’m always taking mental notes, or real notes, and trying to learn from other people’s mistakes and successes. I can’t even think of one person in particular, but anytime someone releases something I always listen and really study their release strategy and see what I want to incorporate into mine.

OS: Real studious. So what are you planning in the future, after this project?

SS: Well, I wanna milk every last drop⁠—juice every last drop? Squeeze every last drop?

OS: That’s disgusting.

SS: I don’t like that metaphor at all. I just wanna⁠—I guess milk it?

OS: God, these are all bad.

SS: I’m gonna say milk. I’m gonna milk this EP as much as I possibly can. I wanna create videos for each of the songs and live versions, and I wanna tour it one day. But after that? I don’t know. After that, I’ll re-enter the writing phase, and just write songs and practice and see what happens. I think that’s the most fun and organic way to come up with new music! You just do it, every day, and eventually, something shapes up. That’s what’s happened to me in the past. So I don’t know! I don’t have any future plans, but I do feel like my next few months are gonna be busy with this EP.

OS: Do you have anything else you would want people to know?

SS: I want them to know that I hope they like it!

OS: That’s not helpful.

SS: I do hope they like it. Here’s some motivational bullshit for you: If I can do it, you can do it too!

OS: That’s disgusting. I don’t listen to music because I want to make music.

SS: Ok, take it beyond the music, it’s any project!

OS: Wow, thank you. Now I’m inspired to finish finals.

SS: Thank you for the sarcasm.

OS: I guess we’ll make this the last question: if you won a Grammy for this EP, what is your speech? Go!

SS: Oh god, I would probably stutter and stumble over my words...

OS: Ready, set, go!

SS: “I just want to say that this is so shocking considering I’ve never gotten close to this sort of recognition. I would like to thank everyone that has helped with this project! And all of my friends and all of my teachers from the time I was a baby to the time I was an adult! And my family and my sister for doing this interview! And I’d like to thank my bandmates! And designers! Special shout out to Nathan⁠—he filled in the gaps and did the mixing and mastering and the recording and the photos and⁠ he also lives with me and contributes to my home at the moment! Thank you to—”

OS: Get off the stage!



WHAT IS HOME TO YOU?

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SOPHIE SENG


Sophie Seng is a Los Angeles-based composer, vocalist, and saxophone player. Her eclectic style pushes the boundaries of genre while maintaining a common thread of honesty and vulnerability.

She grew up in Davis, CA, where she studied jazz saxophone, classical piano, and voice. When she began songwriting, she developed a passion for exploring different genres and how they could be expanded, combined, and challenged.

Her latest release is an EP entitled, Home. This experimental five-track project explores many different meanings of the word “home,” from the physical location to the abstract sense of comfort and belonging. She sings about moving from Davis to Los Angeles, her subsequent search for home, and glimmers of nostalgia along the way. Home is a deeply personal documentation of her experiences as a young adult. Seng starts and ends this project with a simple question: what is home to you?



NAVIGATION          VIEW CART
What is Home to you? → Home is melancholy loneliness, it is sweet comfort. Home is radical self-peace. ― Crust (08.28.20) Home is like the spirit of the house. Home is the smell of my elementary school gym. Home is the feeling of worn-down stucco. Home has a heart, ears, and big warm arms. Home is my friend. ― Rolando (06.12.20) Home are traditions, tacos al vapor, la Virgen de Guadalupe, Rayados, el Cerro de la Silla, el Rio Santa Catarina, cumbia rebajada, la carnita asada, soccer. Home is Guadalupe, Home is Monterrey. ― Roberto Rodriguez (06.12.20) Home is the house I’ve lived in for 21 years. Home is a cell phone number always beginning with (818). ― Anonymous (06.03.20) 
What is Home to you? → Home is melancholy loneliness, it is sweet comfort. Home is radical self-peace. ― Crust (08.28.20) Home is like the spirit of the house. Home is the smell of my elementary school gym. Home is the feeling of worn-down stucco. Home has a heart, ears, and big warm arms. Home is my friend. ― Rolando (06.12.20) Home are traditions, tacos al vapor, la Virgen de Guadalupe, Rayados, el Cerro de la Silla, el Rio Santa Catarina, cumbia rebajada, la carnita asada, soccer. Home is Guadalupe, Home is Monterrey. ― Roberto Rodriguez (06.12.20) Home is the house I’ve lived in for 21 years. Home is a cell phone number always beginning with (818). ― Anonymous (06.03.20)