In conversation with Canadian R&B star Savannah Ré

Ontario-based singer Savannah Ré arrives today with her sophomore EP, No Weapons

Since dropping her debut project, Opia, Ré has been cementing herself as one of R&B’s most sought-after breakthrough stars by effortlessly racking up the accolades. In 2020, she made history that year as the first artist to win the Traditional R&B/Soul Recording award at the Juno Awards and remains the only act to have won in that category. Earlier this year, Ré also became one of the first Canadian artists to be selected for the global #YouTubeBlack Voices Music Class of 2022.

Two years following her Opia EP, Ré is taking no prisoners on the self-accepting No Weapons. The six-track body of work is not only her first to ever contain collaborations but also marks an unapologetic new chapter. In her own words, No Weapons gives listeners a taste of Ré’s bad bitch side.

In an interview with Pentagon, the emerging star discussed the creative process behind the new EP, its sequel, her runaway success, and more.

No Weapons is your first EP since your debut, Opia, in 2020. How would you say this project differs from the previous one?

I just think I’m at such a different place right now. You know, I think we all are coming out of the tail end of this pandemic as changed people. I wanna say it’s for the better, I hope it’s for the better, but it’s also kind of just like I’m in a very accepting state. This project is more, for lack of better words, the bad bitch side. All of these experiences have happened, but I love who I am on the other end of it. I’m just at a very different place.

When did the creative process start? You appear to be someone who is always working on something. Did you go into the studio with the mindset that you were going to be making an EP?

Usually, I tell myself that I’m gonna go in and work on a specific body of work but honestly this time around, I wasn’t always creating. That’s because during this time I found my creativity was kind of fleeting. I wasn’t always feeling like I was inspired enough to make music right now. That was a new journey for me because I used to wake up every morning and create. But I guess the affairs of the world and just how everything was, it wasn’t inspiring. So for this one, I started in May 2021. That’s another thing, I really like to take my time with projects. With Opia, I always joke around but I’m serious that it was literally my life up to that point. Opia was years and years and years of trials and tribulations. And this one kind of falls under the same thing. It was well over a year that we started working on No Weapons.

Do you have a strict routine or process when it comes to your songwriting? Are you someone who only writes in the studio or are you making notes all the time?

Definitely not only in the studio, but I am also like chaos, personified. I can be in a conversation and somebody says a word and then it triggers a song for me. So I literally have to stop the conversation and either sing into my voice notes or literally type out what it is that’s happening. So no, I’m a person where I can pick up that inspiration anywhere, and then it’s taking it to the studio.

Out of all the songs on the new EP, was there one that was particularly a challenge to write or complete that you thought wasn’t going to make the cut?

“WTF” kind of took the longest. So, I actually had that song prior to May 2021. I wanted it to be right because the messaging behind it is so intense, I really wanted to make sure I was capturing the emotions in that song. So I and the co-writer, Rahim, had the beginning of the hook but I wanted to make sure that the verses also took it home. So it took a long time to even get that song done.

One of two collaborations, “Last One” with Dylan Sinclair, has been so well-received so far. When creating that song, did you always envision it to be a collab?

Yes and no.  I knew I wanted to do a song with Dylan. Me and Dylan are really close and I think he’s incredible but I’m a person who really likes things to be organic. I never wanna force a collaboration because I feel like you can hear it. For us, we were in LA at the time and I had this little, it didn’t sound like how it sounds now, but I had like this little demo, with my verse on it. I don’t even think it had all the lyrics in it, but just like melodies and the beat the way it is because that “woo” on the beat is me sampled. And so we had just like kind of done the vibe myself and Yogi and then I played it for Dylan and he literally started to like freestyle all over it. I was like, oh, okay, that means that this is the one, this is the one that we do because if he’s having such a natural inclination to hop on the song, then I think we should just do it. I still think it’s one of my favourite songs on the project.

Talking of favourite songs, “Closure” is a stand-out for me. Sonically, it’s very different from every other song on the EP. What inspired it?

First of all, thank you so much. When we started “Closure,” we were actually in Halifax in Canada and we were just chilling, drinking and we started talking about like kind of all the bad things that happened when it hits that time of night and you’ve had a little bit too much to drink. You know, when you end up phoning that ex or doing that sort of thing. Yogi started this overall drum loop that you hear and the chords and I was like, oh snap. We had the skeleton of the beat and we brought it to Wanda because I run all of the music past him, including the things that he’s not necessarily on yet production-wise. And he heard it and he was like, I know exactly what this needs. And then he just did his Wanda sauce and his crazy drums and it brought the whole thing to life. 

You teased a trailer for the EP. Is the plan to release a mini type of film?

That’s the goal. The initial trailer was just to stir it up and just kind of show what No Weapons is about. It’s kind of a little bit of foreshadowing too with this trench coat vibe because the next visual I have is pretty heavy It also has that sort of like femme fatale thing to it. And for me, when it came to No Weapons, the reason why I even thought of that for the title of the project is cuz I wanted to get it as a tattoo. All of my tattoos are like messages. In this trailer, I wanted to actually show the tattoo element and then also my mum’s voice and just kind of tie everything together and also give a little bit of, ‘Oh snap, what’s coming?!’

There is going to be a part 2 to No Weapons. Is it all ready to go or are you putting the finishing touches to it?

I’m doing the finishing touches right now. I already know which songs are going to be included and it’s gonna be very different than part 1. They are still two halves of one story, but it’s definitely gonna be more cold, emotional R&B. I’m going all the way there for the second half.

Your first EP gained you a lot of acclaim and accolades. Did that exceed your expectations?

Oh my goodness. Absolutely not. No way, my goal with the first project was to just have anybody listen to it. In my head, artists and creative people were hypercritical. So in my head, I was just like, everybody’s gonna hate this and only five people are gonna listen to it. So, for all of the things to kind of happen and come full circle, it was number one on iTunes and then all of these awards and stuff, it’s very affirming to me. It’s not the reason why I make the music, I make the music to connect, but it’s also very nice and it definitely gave me the ammo to kind of really, really go there on this next project. It gave me the confidence to really do what I wanna do on this project.

Talking of awards, you became the first ever artist to win the Traditional R&B/Soul Recording award at the Juno awards. How did that feel?

It’s crazy. To even sit there and to be the first of anything is madness and I’m so glad that the Junos did that because that gives R&B an opportunity to not be sort of one thing. To not just be like a monolith where there are so many different sounds, but we’re all in the same category. It’s an honor. And then also to have won it again, the same award, as in I’m the only person to have won this new award is just like, I’m just sitting here, I don’t even know what’s happening, but I’m grateful. 

You’ve been on a roll releasing new music this year. Are you ever comprehensive of what people are going to say about it? Do you ever have a look?

Absolutely. I know they say not to go like look at comments and all that stuff, but I’m human and I’m sensitive about my stuff. I definitely just try to remain in my bubble as long as I can, like not going and searching out what everybody’s thinking or whatever but I’m definitely affected by that. I hope that people like it, even when it came to Opia, I was expecting to see people say, ‘Oh, this sucks.’ And it was just all positive. But I know also on this one, I’m taking more risks, sonically, like even to me, “Closure” was a risk and I’m so happy that it seems like it paid off. A lot of people love “Closure, but I already saw a comment that said, ‘Oh, that doesn’t sound like your earlier stuff.’ I’m honestly prepared for it mentally because I definitely wanna start taking these risks at this point in my career.

And lastly, when fans do get to hear the new EP, what are you hoping they will take away from it?
I’m hoping that they’ll be able to still take away some of those heavy subjects and those things that they don’t necessarily wanna say that they can listen to but also that it still makes you move. My objective with this project is not to make anybody sad. It’s almost like I want you to dance through the stuff. And honestly just that wherever you’re at, there’s another end. No Weapons is literally that it’s just anything that’s happening, anything that’s super negative, you can kind of just brush it away because none of those things are gonna prosper. They’re not gonna be able to actually stop you. I hope everybody just kind of feels like a bad bitch listening to this project.

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