New Noise: Senhit

We chat with Bologna-born Senhit ahead of her album release and first UK tour.

Senhit is the newest pop sensation set to take over the world. Having performed on Eurovision, she went on to work with producing legend Brian Higgins and to make friends with the one-and-only Meryl Streep. This year, she is releasing her first full length album, full of upbeat pop classics. Sweet and sincere, she is a ray of sunshine and is setting off on her first UK tour later this month.

In a break from us dancing around to her new single “Something on my Mind”, we had a chat to find out all about her.

You were born in Bologna, Italy, but your parents are both Eritrean. Do you feel like the mix of cultures is a big influence on your music?

Yeah. My parents moved to Italy 40 years ago. We were born here (me, my brother, my sister) and we grew up here. My parents kept their culture from Eritrea, and we still keep traditions from Africa. When my mum is very angry with me, she speaks in her language. It’s very funny. At the same time, we went to a public school, we learnt the language and were educated in Italy as Italian people, but at home our parents still kept the traditions and the culture from Africa. I think this nice mix went directly into my music – the soul, the feeling, the emotions, the power, the joy.

What kind of music did you listen to when growing up?

I’m the kind of person who likes and loves music in general – pop, R&B, blues. We listened to all kinds of music in my house. My mother liked popular Italian music, R&B, Blues, Evergreen, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, everything!

Have you always wanted to be a performer?

When I was young, we grew up with music in the house but I never thought about being a singer. I always loved to be the centre of all the parties, and do imitations of people, like Michael Jackson dances and Whitney Houston songs. Then I finished school, and this famous karaoke TV programme became very popular in Italy and I said “I wanna try, Mum” and she said “Just try!”. I started to study and I watched more music TV programmes and listened to more music and became more involved. I finished school and started university but it wasn’t the right direction. I love to study but it’s not my dream. So I thought I can work and I can do something with my passion. And here I am doing a job that I love!

You made your musical debut in Germany, performing in huge productions like The Lion King, Rent and Hair. What made you want to transition from stage star to pop star?

It was very natural. I was in theatre for a long time – first Lion King, then Rent, then Hair and Fame, a lot of musicals around Italy and Europe too. Then I came back home to my family and my friends, and I took some free time to myself. At the same time PANINI, a company in Italy which is very famous for football stickers, called to ask me if I could be part of their team because they were looking for somebody to represent them as a singer. And I was like “How is that possible? You make football stickers?” and they were very honest and said that it was quite an experiment for them. And I said, “You know what, let me try”. It was a shock at the beginning, because it was weird for me not to be somebody else – in Lion King I was Nala, in Hair I was Donna, and then when PANINI came to me and wanted to invest in Senhit, I didn’t know what to do! So we started slowly. I’m very happy to still be part of this beautiful company. I’m surrounded by amazing writers, and musicians, and producers, and they have given me a lot of opportunities.

You’ve worked with producers Brian Higgins and Busbee, who have worked with artists like Katy Perry. How did this come about?

It was amazing! I found a manager who’d worked in London for about 12 years and he knew Brian. And he said he wanted to introduce me to this producer, and when he told me the name I was like “What! Brian Higgins! Of course!”. So I came to the UK, and I worked 2 or 3 times with Brian and it was a beautiful experience, very nice. And it was so nice with Busbee too. Part of the album coming out in Spring 2017 has some of their work with me.

“This is Senhit, who loves music and being on stage, it’s my element to perform live music.”

You mentioned your album, can you tell us a little bit more about it?

It’s a very Senhit album. After 3 albums, with the first two in Italian and the third in English with Michael Baker as a producer, I consider it my favourite album because it’s something that I put a lot of time, energy and emotion into it. It’s very light, fun, disco, you can dance, you can sing. Plus it’s something serious because I looked for a good producer and Brian Higgins is one. I was very picky for this album, I paid a lot of attention. Almost like looking for a dress – I found a very good dress on me.

You’re about to embark on your first UK tour (Sound Control, Manchester on the 22nd January, and The Tabernacle, London on the 2nd February). What are you most looking forward to?

I’m so scared, I have to be honest with you. When my manager told me that the UK would be the first gig of the European tour I was like “Woooooow”. I start in Manchester and then I come to London. So I’m quite scared, but I will do my best and I will be honest with the audience too. This is Senhit, who loves music and being on stage, it’s my element to perform live music. It’s something that I really put a lot of energy in to and I will do my best and I hope it’s something that you enjoy because it’s very cool and energetic and honest.

Aside from your upcoming album and tour, what else do you have planned for 2017?

Well the tour will be very long. I’m in Europe until March/April and then I have one month in the US and Canada and then I come back to Italy and do festivals here and in Europe in the summertime and then in September/October I go to Japan, Australia, India, Singapore. It’s a very long tour. And I’m very happy because I’ve finally found a great team who believes in me.

In 2011, you represented San Marino at the Eurovision Song Contest, performing your original song, “Stand by Me”. What was that experience like?

There was this guy at PANINI and he mentioned Eurovision and everyone was looking at him like he was crazy, like “What do you mean Eurovision?”. Then San Marino called me because they were looking for someone to represent them, and I said “OK!”. I was a bit unsure but then I came to Dusseldorf for the contest and, oh my god, I was shocked. I’d underestimated it. I was very shocked in a good way. I remember there was Blue from the UK and it was a huge stage and you could see all the nations from Europe, singing in different languages from different cultures, all together. It was amazing. It was beautiful. If I was asked now to do Eurovision, I would do it immediately.

Finally, we’ve heard Meryl Streep is a big fan! How did you meet?

We met in Rome probably 6/7 years ago. She came to a film festival and I was performing there and she was in the audience. She came up to me to say congratulations and it shocked me because I was embarrassed because she’s one of my favourite actresses. And I said, “Well, I have to congratulate you because you’re fucking amazing!”. And she asked me where I came from and I said I came from Bologna and turns out her daughter was at university in Bologna and she knew it and loved the city! Then 3 months ago I went to Rome again and I met her again and she recognised me! It was very nice.

New Noise: Senhit

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