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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2008, 08:21 GMT
Talking Shop: Santogold
By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Santogold has supported Bjork and MIA on tour
Philadelphia's Santi White studied music at university, became a talent-spotter for a record label, sang with a punk band and is now solo under the name Santogold.

She has become one of the hottest new artists in the US and was recently named in the BBC's Sound of 2008 top 10.

How did you go from being a record company A&R person to an artist?

I was at Epic for about a year-and-a-half. I had the illusion that it was a creative process - I thought if you found some good music they'd say 'yay, good job done'.

But they were like 'let's keep signing up terrible stuff just because it's associated with this person, and spend money and not take any risks'. I pretty quickly realised this isn't for me. So I switched to the creative side of music and started being a songwriter.

So as an A&R person, you didn't just decide to give yourself a record deal?

Santogold can be heard on Mark Ronson's hit covers album Versions
No! And as an A&R person you couldn't have asked me to sing in front of anyone, I never would have done it. It was a gradual process.

I thought I was just going to write my own record and never perform, so that's what I did, and then I ended up performing of course and I loved it.

Your music is hard to categorise and describe. So as a lazy journalist, I'm going to ask you to do it for me.

I'm not a journalist so I don't have to have a term for it. But basically my record is a mash-up of all different styles and influences, from dub to punk, new wave, electronic.

All my songs have elements of all different things and they're all mashed together.

You sang a cover of The Jam's Pretty Green on Mark Ronson's album Version - how did that come about?

Mark and I have been friends for a really long time - we met on a photoshoot when I was in [previous band] Stiffed. So we've been friends and hung out in the studio for a long time.

He asked you to help write a Lily Allen song - are you still writing for other people?

I worked a bit on Ashlee Simpson's record. A song that I wrote on is going to be the first single.

But it's like two different hats that I have to wear. It's like the difference between writing fiction and writing ad copy. It's like a formula versus your art.

In the States, the songs that get on the radio are formula songs. So you have to write like that. You can't use certain words, you can't use crazy harmonies - give them what they need.

So if you wanted to, you could just churn out hit after hit with your pop hat on?

I could do that, but I think I'd be pretty miserable as an artist.

If you could give out the Santogold award for the best album of last year, who would you give it to?

I don't have a favourite album of last year. To find a really good album front to end is really difficult these days.

I'm sure there are still great records, but they're not the ones that are in your face all the time
You know when you watch a play, you get this plot that has ups and it has downs and you go left and you go right and then you come out at this place?

I feel like a lot of records are just straight nowadays. I'm sure there are still great records, but they're not the ones that are in your face all the time. So it takes a lot of effort to find them.

With your insight into the music business, and with CD sales going down and record labels in trouble, how would you fix the industry?

You've got to spend millions of dollars to break an artist on a commercial level, and then it puts all this pressure on the record to sell crazy numbers in a very short period of time, so there's no time for artist development, there's no time to slowly build the record.

When you get this fast food music, it doesn't stick around for very long
The models major labels currently operate off, which are totally falling apart and they're struggling to change, has been to dump all this money in a very few artists. Also we've taken a lot of the good and interesting music out of the mass market.

So the majors should start operating more like indies, which they are, where they don't spend a lot of money and they spend a little bit more time with artist development. When you get this fast food music, it doesn't stick around for very long.

Do you still play lacrosse?

No but I wish I was. There's a league here [in New York] and I want to join so bad. But my schedule is insane, I can barely even exercise. Lacrosse is my ultimate favourite sport.

Sound of 2008: The Top 10
04 Jan 08 |  Entertainment
Talking Shop: Mark Ronson
15 Jan 08 |  Entertainment


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