The singer Soraya is about to release her 6th studio album through her very own record label, Valentia Records. Comparisons with the Swedish firework of a popstar, Robyn, who left her own major label SonyBMG to set up as an independent, have been made and understandably so. With the release earlier this year of the stand-alone single Con Fuego under her belt, tomorrow sees the release of Soraya's first single, Plastic, from the new album Universe In Me. On the eve of this new chapter in Soraya's career, as she firmly parks herself in the captain's chair, DSTP spoke to the singer about the creation of the album, the good early reviews of Plastic and what it feels like to be boss!
So lets start with the album! It has elements the disco movement of the 1970s, Moroder and of course the 1980s..what was the genesis of the album
I was inspired by the early legendary pioneers of electronic dance music - the likes of Donna Summer, Grace Jones, The Supremes and Gloria Gaynor. I wanted this album to be different from my last five. I wanted to create a journey through the album. As if it told a story. A story of music. I wanted the music to be central to my first album released through the label I set up myself. I had so many ideas so I called up Tortuga as I wanted this album to be a little bit like Robyn's Body Talk, Madonna's Ray Of Light and Donna Summer's Greatest Hits. All rolled into one. I wanted this album to be dance, but to feel live. With real instruments. Alive. That was very critical to me from the start. To feel the passion of the dance within.
You're completely in control on this album.
Yes. I am a businesswoman. I run my own music company now. That was the central framework to the album. At the very beginning of the process, I would sit with the songwriter Isabel Guzman and we would brainstorm where to start. I love that funky disco sound by Nile Rodgers and I absolutely loved a particular song she demoed and put aside especially for me and a project like this.
Plastic. It became the starting point. That's where I would work to create and direct the vibe of the album. Isabel had written the song Plastic a few years ago and hadn't discovered the right project for it until now. When I heard the demo I knew it was right. So Isabel and my production team Tortuga flew out from Stockholm to Madrid throughout the year and we'd really start to work on formulating the sound of the album. The rest of the album was written and recorded in Spain.
Was Plastic always going to be the first single from Universe In Me?
Yes. Two other songs were quite popular in the studio when we first started recording. One was actually the second song we recorded for the album called Walking On Water. I cannot wait for you guys to hear it. I wanted a song about empowerment and picking yourself up after you've been knocked down and Walking On Water was that for me. I picked Plastic. It had to be Plastic.
It is a turning point for you? Sound-wise.
Yes. My producers wanted to really push me, which I loved! And naturally I pushed them in return. It was vital for me that parts of the album explored the dark side of relationships but also the beauty of love. That's the spirit behind the song Something. I loved layers of that song. The strings are thrilling. When that was being written the studio came alive. The sparks flew. It was amazing to hear the strings filter through the speakers. The same must be said for the Vega song El Huracan and Armour which is a big electronic ballad. Vega and Björn of Tortuga created an amazing production on El Huracan as I wanted to experiment with trip-hop. The arrangement is enchanting.
The Vega song is a little bit like the British bands Massive Attack and Portishead.
Yes! Exactly. I wanted this album to be different yet follow from Dreamer and Sin Miedo. Universe In Me has different moods but the songs are all interwoven together. They had to fit.
What was it like recording the album?
A joy. I had a very specific story of the album in my mind. In fact, there was a moment when we recorded what was going to be last song of the album, Is It Worth It, when I challenged Tortuga to up the ante. I wanted two more songs on the album. I really wanted this album to sparkle with all the glamour of the disco era of the 1970s. Isabel thought about two demos from the same session as Plastic; Love Song and When You Were My Friend. Those were actually the last two songs to be a part of the album. Like Plastic, they were waiting for an album just like Universe In Me. It all fell into place. The moment I heard them I needed them. They sounded like disco gems you'd hear at Studio 54 and Danceteria. That's what I wanted the sound of the album to be. For me, the album became immediately one in that moment!
Yes. Although the album feels retro, it is also very modern and forward. For instance, the title track is a little AlunaGeorge meets Disclosure meets Eurythmics.
That's an interesting comparison! Jocke, Isabel, Bjorn and myself have the similar music tastes and are roughly born around the era of the cassette and disco so I think that's why the writing, production and direction came together very naturally in the studio in Madrid. Actually it was a few years ago when we met in London that the stars already began to align for the album. I wanted it to be retro but modern. If it could be described as a colour I'd say it was neon blue.
Yes! When You Were My Friend fits that description. It is very dark.
Yes. I liked Isabel's demo. But I wanted changes. I wanted it to be darker with strands of Depeche Mode. When Vega gave me El Huracan it was a revelation for the album. So the album needed a connecting song and that had to be dark and maybe a little sinister. So I had to re-direct the ambiance of When You Were My Friend. Tortuga are excellent in listening and delivering exactly what I wanted.
The reaction from fans, djs and music critics to Plastic and the shift in that direction have been very positive.
I am so thankful for my fans. It is humbling. Especially during this moment. Words cannot express how I feel about it. My fans are the best.
It is a massive step you are doing with this album which just also happens to be the first under your own record label. I mean, its the first album with Valentia. You could've played it a little safer.
Yes, this album is a shift. A development from the last. I had to. It was in my blood burning in my heart. I wanted my voice to be really be free. In many ways, this is what the song Armour is about. You have to meet the challenge that you set yourself. Armour has a lyric that I love that goes "When the curtain falls, then its up to you". You have to be bold, an artist and strong. I had to take this next step with this album.
How did you come up with the title of Universe In Me?
The Universe In Me conveys a lot to me. It says everything. Yes, it is me on stage but I am also about my family, fans, friends, my community and loved ones. My label, management and my production team. They are all a part of this...All my fans are a part of this journey. I can't overstate this. That is the meaning behind the title. What makes this dream possible is the universe around me.