Soho Rising: Awa, the Swedish singer-songwriter to keep tabs on
For our latest instalment of Soho Rising, we invited the London-based artist to perform at White City House, and discuss her sound, influences, and what's next on her journey
By Ollie Horne Photography by Vicky Grout
Awa Santesson-Sey has come a long way since winning the Swedish version of The X Factor in 2012 when she was just 15. Yet, being catapulted into the music industry at such a tender age came with frustration for the young Stockholm-born artist, so she took a step back to reconsider her career.
A move to London and a signing with Columbia Records in 2019 helped the young artist produce her first EP in 2020: a promising debut stuffed with her biggest singles from the previous year, featuring prolific R&B artists such as Ebenezer and BJ The Chicago Kid.
Since then, she’s collaborated with the likes of Jonas Blue, Molly Hammar and Julie Bergan, and put out a new single, ‘24/7’. The steamy track comes with dance floor-ready remixes by Swedish producer Tobtok and another by The FaNaTiX, featuring Lotto Ash, and R&B heavyweight Jords.
'To any aspiring artists, I would say, if you get clear about what you want, it's easy to navigate a confusing industry. It's easy to stay focused, and know what to say yes or no to'
Awa’s sound places her powerful vocal performance centre stage. A syncopated drum beat drives the verses underneath a warbling melody with a folky texture. The sparse arrangement develops in the choruses with big string hits and a catchy synth bass line. But the main highlight is Awa’s voice – her huge range, dynamic tone, and silky harmonies.
‘I’d like my listeners to take away a sense of hopefulness from my music,’ she tells us at White City House. ‘If I bring out a feeling or something to relate to – a new perspective – then I feel like my job is done.’
Now in her early twenties, and already experienced in the machinations of the music industry, her words of advice to other aspiring artists come with weight. ‘To any aspiring artists, I would say, if you get clear about what you want, it’s easy to navigate a confusing industry. It’s easy to stay focused, and know what to say yes or no to,’ she says.