Santalina This incredibly talented beautiful R&B singer has currently made a huge name for herself due to her journey through MSN.com and SPRITE to visit Violator’s Chris Lighty. After being the headline for www.msn.com (over 20 million hits daily) for almost a week, Santalina has proven to the world that she has what it takes to be the next big artist. After opening for Elton John on live television and having one of the tightest stage shows around, Santalina speak to WHO?MAG about the worldwide spread controversy and her video located at www.exposure.msn.com.
interview by Ron Carter
WHO?MAG: What made you get into music? SANTALINA: I have always loved singing ever since the day I learned how to speak. I was about 2 years old when I was already trying to imitate my sister singing her nursery rhymes. My father has multiple tapes of us singing on tape. When I was 7 years old, I was influenced by artists such as Michael Jackson & Madonna. Those artists inspired me to want to entertain & write music. I was one of those kids that would stay home while her friends were out, and just sang, danced, and played the piano/saxophone all day in my room. I grew up in a very musically oriented family, so up until the day I die, music has and will always be a part of me – in my heart & in my blood.
WHO?MAG: What makes you different from other singers? SANTALINA: Well, the number 1 attribute that differentiates me from other singers in the mainstream music world is the obvious reason; which is being a Filipina-American. I feel that Asian/Pacific Islanders are coming up. It is a gigantic market, but at the same time Filipinos are known for being a huge mixed nationality. Spanish is the number 1 ethnicity in our blood, Chinese, British, French, Japanese. It’s like all the nations joined in the Philippines and impregnated everyone. Haha, just kidding. Having my Filipino background is an advantage because the industry needs something new & tasty!
Another thing that separates me from other artists is the fact that I am willing to prove that you do not have to drop out of high school or college to follow your dreams. I graduated from Temple University with a Business/Marketing degree & managed to rehearse, perform at various venues, record 2 albums, become the top 10 contestant out of 3000 in the Philly Idol competition, and get a couple of my songs aired on one of the biggest stations in Philly. Having a business mindset and background doesn’t hurt in this competitive music world. I want to be a role model for kids all over the world & touch lives everywhere. I think this fact would be a plus marketing point.
WHO?MAG: How did you get with Jaxum Records? SANTALINA: Before Jaxum Records formed, it was initially just Eric Cui and I writing and working on music for the love of it. We met through mutual friends, so we decided to bump heads and work on what we were ultimately passionate for. Our seriousness with our music endeavors grew more and more as we wrote and learned more about the R&B/Pop world. Eventually I caught the eyes of Universal Records & a few other interested industry heads. To make a long story short, it is bitter sweet that Jaxum Records initiated from two individuals in Atlanta GA, who had sublimate management interest in me as an artist. They tried to manipulate us and sign an illegitimate contract only 5 days before a supposed meeting with Sony Records. This outrage was used as fuel to fire our dreams. Thus Jaxum Records formed. As the saying goes, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
WHO?MAG: How did the MSN/Sprite situation come about? SANTALINA: Someone from About Face agency in NYC & the company formerly known as the Russell Simmons Music Group under Def Jam, discovered my demo hit Valentines Day single “Would You Be” with Odysy. About Face received audition information from Sprite stating that they were looking for a 5 person group for their online Exposure Project. Odysy and I auditioned specifically stating that we are 2 separate acts. They loved us! The rest is history.
WHO?MAG: What was the road like to meet with Chris Lighty? SANTALINA: It was definitely exciting meeting an executive from Violator Records. This man has worked with extraordinary hip hop artists such as Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, etc. I was anxious to go to NYC and be in the same office that those artists apparently auditioned in. I knew that there were no guarantees from the beginning. Chris Lighty simply heard of us through someone from Sprite/MSN. I don’t think he really heard any material or seen or read about us prior to meeting with him, but it was still a thrill knowing that we were going to be receiving some feedback from a man who is well established and obviously knows what he’s talking about.
WHO?MAG: How was it seeing yourself on the front page of MSN.com which gets over 20 million viewers a day? SANTALINA: It was crazy!! It’s a huge deal! It’s tons of exposure & brand/name recognition! At this point in any aspiring artist’s career, just about any press is good exposure. As long as it is not degrading, you’re good to go. The fact that my name and photo was next to Paris Hilton’s ad, Tiger Woods & the Osbourne’s right underneath was pretty damn hot!
WHO?MAG: Do you feel the “hyped up” battle between you and Odysy was something that MSN did for publicity? SANTALINA: Yes. I definitely think that the so called ‘drama’ that arose between Odysy and I was overwhelmingly hyped and became the main focus. I was highly upset about this and posted more about it in my MSN blog: http://spaces.msn.com/santalinaodysy. I felt that this was what they wanted all along. I just want to clear out that ODYSY is a SEPARATE ‘4 BOY GROUP’. SANTALINA is a ‘female solo artist’. Neither of us had any intention on joining forces until about 3 months ago when someone outside of our team circle brought up the concept. It’s a shame that the unnecessary drama had to come about, but like I said, name recognition doesn’t hurt. The 4 minute long episodes on http://exposure.msn.com does not amount to how much work we put into our careers & how strong we are as artists.
WHO?MAG: How did the whole national TV show Elton John performance come about? SANTALINA: “Welcome America” is a huge yearly event that occurs on July 4th, Philadelphia – the nations birthplace. Our management contacted the booking department for the event. They wanted a patriotic song. We only had 1 week to come up with a strong song in order to meet the deadline. With CEO & producer Eric Cui’s keen insight in song formulation and creativity, we were able to mail them a very strong, upbeat traditional patriotic song that we made ours. They loved our press kit so much they decided to have us open up for the concert, which was aired Live on ABC! We then rehearsed with 20 high energy backup dancers for hours on numerous hot, summer, humid days in a dance studio with no air conditioning! The result was phenomenal & the show was a success, which ended in confetti machines and men flying down from parachutes!! It was an awesome experience. Hard work pays off.
WHO?MAG: Tell us about your current album. SANTALINA: Right now my EP album has about 4 tracks on it. I’m in the process of working on tweaking it and adding it to my new upcoming album, which will feature various producers and collaborations with a few artists. I’m pretty excited about it. There are going to be many sleepless nights and hard work, but overall it should be fun. For those who have heard my previous self-titled album, should be able to notice a big change vocally and artistically. I think I have grown a lot from the last album. This album will still be R&B/Pop, but with a more soulful sound. It’s lyrical content is inspired by my personal experiences and those that I am close to.
WHO?MAG: What separates your live performances from other acts? SANTALINA: I think the choreography is very unique and articulate which is a different style from a lot of artists today in my opinion (props & shout outs to master choreographer “JAM” aka “Jae Em Style” — Jeff M. & assistants Danielle, Kristie & Daquan). I think that another characteristic about me that separates me from other live performers, is not being afraid to let ‘me’, my personality shine through. When time permits at a show, I talk to the audience and am not afraid to be weird, or a tad goofy & cutesy. People are not only drawn to your music and talent but to your character. I think aside from the live production, singing, dancing and music, what matters most is that you can show that you love what you do & love the crowd just as much.
WHO?MAG: What’s next for Santalina? SANTALINA: I’m always on my grind. I’m excited to work and plan new things with my management. I’m going to keep doing what I do. There are a few haters out there and people who try and slow me down, but no one can stop me. I’m determined to do this. I’m determined to change the world and make my mark. Therefore, I will continue to strive for perfection with my singing, dancing, writing, performances etc. Nothing is ever easy, but I’m a hustler. At this point, I will not stop until I get to the top.