Coronavirus, Heartbreak, Death & Normal College Stuff: An Interview with DJ Sanny G
by Erin Slack // The Indie 500 and Amanda Detyens // The Landfill
(This is a transcribed interview originally recorded on September 11, 2020 and aired on September 15, 2020. To watch the full version of the album premiere, click
Do you want to talk about this album as a whole and the process of how it came to be?
“Sure, so this album has been many years in the making. I make a lot of songs every week and every month but a few of these songs were from as far back as 2016. I think 2 songs from 2016 and then I’ve just — as the years go on I keep making new music and I’ve somehow this summer put all of these songs together, which is — this album is like 14 tracks, a lot of them are from the past few years, but a good half of the songs are from this year and like all of the things that have been happening to me personally and to everyone else out there in the world. A lot of stuff’s been going on, this album’s just kind of like a – yeah a little snippet of my life through coronavirus and heartbreak and the death of some family members and, y’know, just normal college stuff I guess.”
I know you talked about how you write a lot about your life and like personal experiences — are you ever scared to share those?
“Yes, it is torturous. There [are] many songs I will never release, ever in my life because they’re too personal and this album is honestly one of my first releases where it’s me, like raw, and the things that have happened with like a breakup — couple breakups actually. And yeah just being sad all the time and dealing with my depression and how things make me feel. So yeah it’s scary. Because you don’t know if people are gonna think it’s weird that you’re talking about yourself or if people are going to resonate with how you feel about situations.”
Do you wanna tell us the names of the first few songs and what they mean, the background of them?
“So track one is called ‘Prelude to Debut.’ I named it that because this album is like a prelude to the real Sanchez, which is coming probably next year. Me and my bandmates are making a lot of good music, but I wanted to get something out now, so track one is to let people know this is not my full debut but this is close to it. So that first track is — it’s just instrumental, it’s me and my friend Adam, who goes to Appalachian State, he played trombone on that song, pretty nice. That’s track one. So track two is ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Your Friend.’ It’s a folky song, just me and my guitar, and it’s about just that, me not wanting to be someone’s friend — a former love interest. Track three is called ‘Facile Macile’ and I wrote that while I was in Spain studying abroad this past semester. It’s French for “easy peasy.” It’s just continuing the theme of track two about feeling bad about someone not liking me, but now it’s — facile macile is about, y’know, just sitting with that feeling and letting it ride through. So yeah those are the first three tracks of this album. Trying to set the tone right.”
Last time you were talking, you were talking about how you recorded with your friend at Appalachian State, how do you typically record your albums? Is it on your phone, do you use microphones, do you go to a studio — how is that done?
“It’s a bit of all of those things. For a good bit of tracks on this album, most of it was recorded on my computer. I use Logic, I don’t know if anyone out there knows what it is, but it’s a program on MacBooks. It’s very good at mixing and mastering, so I just hook up the interface and hook up my guitar or keyboard and hook up a mic and just go for it. And then some of the songs on the album actually were recorded at another friends studio — or two friends studios actually. They both live in Columbia, they both have houses with equipment just like me and — it just depends on the moment wherever I am with them and just how the energy is, I’ll record some songs with whoever’s there, whether it’s just me or friends. I do record some songs on my phone, GarageBand, and I just send it to my computer to mix and master, make it sound like a studio made it.”
So you do all the production, mixing and mastering also?
“Yeah so I do all, I do most of the production, well all of the production. Someone might like chime in or might add an instrument, but it’s all being led by me. The mastering for this album though was made by my friend, who also is an artist his name is Dytrip, D-Y-T-R-I-P, he’s also on Spotify and stuff. He’s a rapper but he plays the piano and guitar so yeah he mastered a lot of these songs and made them sound exquisite. So that’s how that situation goes.”
Well, with that we’re going to get straight into the next couple of tracks, do you want to tell us about “Dum Dum”?
“‘Dum Dum’ is one of my favorite, favorite, songs on this album. I recorded that in just one day, like three or four hours. I woke up and I was feeling kind of sad about a girl who didn’t like me. I wrote about me theoretically killing the boy that took my place, just jokes though. It was about me being the killer and I’m a big dumb dumb for killing her ex in theory — or not her ex but, her current, I’m the ex, killing him. But yeah so that’s ‘Dum Dum,’ it’s a great song it’s very folky, I love the drums I added to that song. So the next couple tracks, let’s see, ‘Pair UV Jeans,’ yeah I wrote that one 2017, about my first relationship. Great song about just, wearing a pair of jeans, and she was wearing a pair of jeans and I liked that she was wearing a pair of jeans. Track six, which is called ‘Famous,’ is like an interlude, also made in 2017. Just talking about how this album — I don’t care if it’s not going to get me famous or if it is, it’s just — I wanted to express my feelings to the world. So yeah those are the next — ‘Dum Dum,’ ‘Pair UV Jeans,’ and ‘Famous,’ those are good ones.”
What is your creative process like when you’re writing a song or producing songs?
“Okay, interesting question. So the baseline for me is I just pick up my guitar or I turn on a keyboard and make a little chord progression and, if it feels right, then I instantly start writing one line to it. That one line becomes two lines and then three lines, then — sometimes if like — it depends on the song. If I’m emotional, I’ll write a whole song in one sitting. But if it’s like I’m not really thinking of lyrics, I’ll come back to it for weeks or months or for the next song, ‘Somewhere, Out There,’ I was writing that for like two years before I ended up making that two minute song. It changes, but usually it’s — I make the music and then I write the song. Or either something’s happened and I write a poem and then I write the music to it, and it all just fits together.”
Who are some artists that have inspired you to make music?
“Intriguing, aw there’s too many, but I’ll list my favorites right now. I’ll name like six okay? Cause there’s too many artists. This is in no order, I’m just naming them. Right now in my mind I can think of Prince, he’s been a lifelong — my dad put me on Prince when I was a kid and I’ve always been inspired by him, rest in peace. So Prince, and then currently I’ve been listening to a lot of King Princess, Phoebe Bridgers, Omar Apollo, if you’ve ever heard of him. Who else? I used to like Frank Ocean a good bit, kind of fell off a little bit. In high school I was definitely influenced, like 100%, by Frank and like all of Odd Future honestly, like Tyler, Syndicate, The Internet, all of them. Clairo, love Clairo. Michael Seyer, I don’t know if you guys know Michael Seyer, he’s from California I believe, he’s got like a kind of dreamy rock jazz music. Maybe this is more than six, but I gotta name one more, and that’s King Krule who is like, one of the best musicians I’ve ever heard in my entire life. All those artists — listeners and DJs, both of you — I know you probably listen to all those people but if now, play them. They mean a lot to my heart and they’ve influenced every single thing I’ve ever done.”
So tell us about the next few songs.
“The next track that you guys are about to hear is called ‘Somewhere, Out There.’ It’s a piano little ballad, except I used AutoTune on my voice, cause I made this song entirely on my phone. I made this in high school also and just, I don’t know, I was talking about somewhere out there someone’s gonna love me someday and I AutoTuned my voice and it sounds trippy and sad and yeah, I love that song. Then track eight, the next one after that, is called ‘Boy From Carolina,’ and it’s kind of an ode to myself that I’m cool and I’m the boy from Carolina, and people will fall in love with me because I’m handsome and cool and quirky. It was just kind of — it was a song written one day this summer to make myself feel better about being in quarantine and being alone and no one hitting me up. So yeah, after that one is also another one of my favorite songs on the album which is called ‘Burn It’ featuring my friend Wren. This song is another love song — I hate that I write them all the time but like, it’s what I do. Yeah, it’s a love song about saying goodbye to love and burning it all to the ground and realizing that I don’t need to be in love to be strong and cool and awesome and live my life. So me and her just sat down one day and sang it all out, saying goodbye to love over and over again. Honestly, I’ll do another one, so ‘No One Ever Tells Me,’ track ten, is also a favorite of mine. I wrote that one in Spain too, just about no one ever telling me that they love me or that they care. So yeah, those are the next four songs you guys are about to hear, I hope you enjoy.”
I saw the cover art from your album was amazing, very Harry Styles-esque. What was the thought process behind that?
“Okay, of course, the album cover was very fun to shoot. I think I shot it like two weeks ago, I wanna say, with a bunch of my friends — not a bunch, cause COVID, but like five of my friends came over. We were just hanging out and I told one of my friends Hannah that I wanted to dress up and look pretty, because — I’m non-binary if you guys didn’t know that, and I like to just dress however cause I don’t care. I got pretty and one of my friends, she had a camera and I was like well, we can just take some photos and, so we did. It was very long, we were all sitting in my living room, someone did my makeup, I put glitter on my face and then someone did like eye shadow. Yeah, I just picked up guitars, did random things, smoked cigarettes, took a bunch of photos. Literally like the last like two or three minutes, before they were about to leave, my friends, Lydia was taking shots and I just started like jumping around and moving in different positions and she got down low, and yeah I was holding a bass guitar and I looked at the camera, she took it, and then they left. She sent me the photos and literally like, that was one of the last photos and it turned out to be the best one — or in my opinion the best one. So that’s how it came to be. I was just letting myself express [myself] in the photos.”
We talked about COVID a little bit, how have you been occupying yourself and combatting that?
“Literally I have been combating it, well one of course by writing songs constantly and trying to increase my musical talent. But besides music, I mean I do a lot of other stuff. I love painting, actually one of my paintings is behind me, well actually a couple of them I don’t know if you can see them but there’s this one right here. So I paint a lot, I read a lot of books, I love reading. Watch movies, a lot of classic movies, a lot of foreign movies, a lot of LGBTQ movies, TV shows. I write stories and when my friends do come by, which is rare, because everyone gets tested every week and some of them can’t hang out. When my friends come by after getting a COVID test and we hang out, catch up, talk about how sad we feel or how happy we feel or how we’re doing with spending a lot of house and a lot of days and weeks alone. Besides all those things, not much else, I go for jogs. I love running so much, it’s great. I’ve been learning how to take care of plants a lot more, I’ve been collecting like every other week I go pick up something new. That’s how I occupy my time, it’s very fun — slowly it’s become fun. It was tortuous at first but nowadays it’s become the new norm.”
We talked about present day a lot, but how did you actually get into music?
“I’ve grown up around musicians my entire life. My family, like dozens of them play different instruments or sing. A lot of them are church folk, some of them do music like me where it’s just whatever they feel. I grew up in the church, which is another story in itself. Being around that music all the time — and then in elementary school I started doing like singing classes at school and ended up performing at the Peace Center, I don’t know if you guys know that, it’s in downtown Greenville. It’s like an opera place, well I sang there when I was a kid. From there I knew that I wanted to do something on stage so I started acting, started picking up piano lessons. Then when I was 15, I picked up a guitar and that was when I knew I was going to be a songwriter for the rest of my life because I instantly was just learning and writing stuff out of my brain. So that’s how it started for me really, just church and then playing guitar and listening to all the music that we all grew up on.”
In a Post & Courier article, you said that you were conflicted between music and going into healthcare. Is that still something that you’re conflicted about or how did you come over that and decide music is how you really wanted to spend your life?
“So it’s my senior year, so it’s still a dilemma in my brain cause I’m still in school. But, the dilemma is because I know that if I get into healthcare I can help so many people through what I do in that. But my entire body just cries out artist and it takes up most of my days. I’m a procrastinator on homework and studying. But with music and painting, I can do that all day long. I’m ready for graduation because my plan is maybe I go to a city and I start working in something like healthcare related but, the end goal is for me to be a rockstar and tour the world once COVID’s over and just do that for the rest of my life. It’s still a problem but I’m surviving, battling it and balancing everything.”
We’ll get into the last few songs, can you tell us about “Anymore”?
“‘Anymore’ continues the theme from ‘No One Ever Tells Me.’ I’m in Spain like I was last semester when the song was written. I did kind of have a situation with a boy actually who kind of changed my perspective on liking someone and showed me that, y’know, someone brand new in my life could care about me deeply. This song is just me expressing to him how I don’t care about all the things I used to care about anymore because I finally got someone who — cause now I don’t see them cause we all got sent home from Europe but, showed me that people can care deeply. It doesn’t have to be something forced. So that’s that song. Track 12, the one that plays after that, is called ‘Song of My People.’ It’s the song of my people because I’m Black and it’s about all of the injustices that’s been going on in the world. Like, since the dawn of time I guess. But recently we’ve been seeing the protests and — yeah I wrote that song after a protest actually in Columbia. I was really upset because I got shot at a teargassed and got to witness first hand how our police and our government don’t care about us. Then the next track is my grandmother speaking to me before she died in 2018. Just telling me how she could see my future and how me and all my friends and the world around me, we were all going to be growing into the people that we’re becoming now. She was very intuitive, very spiritual, like me. She could see ahead and she just was talking to me one night and I thought to record it, so I did and added some music to the back of it and now it’s the end of the album. After that, it’s just another track, it’s just an instrumental where I play guitar and I was emotional one day and laid down with a guitar. My friend played keyboard and we made an end to my album.”
DJ Sanny G’s self-titled album is available on all streaming platforms. Be sure to follow DJ Sanny G on