USC artist discusses musical inspirations, collaborations

Pop performer Soraya Alizadeh, a senior majoring in public relations, cites Whitney Houston and Elton John as major influences on her style of music. (Photo courtesy of Soraya)

The Daily Trojan sat down with Soraya Alizadeh, an avid singer-songwriter and pop performer. Alizadeh is also a senior majoring in public relations at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and minoring in music industry.

Daily Trojan: You write and create your own music. For those who haven’t heard your work, how would you describe it?

Soraya Alizadeh: That’s the million-dollar question. I would say that it’s a mixture of Alina Baraz, Lorde and Joni Mitchell. That’s the type of music that I like to sing and write.

DT: What is your main inspiration for writing?

SA: Growing up, I would write senseless songs just because I enjoyed coming up with melodies and lyrics, but as I grew older and had more life experiences, I started to base the writing processes more on those. I’d say I’m a very candid, open book, and I don’t like to hide anything from anybody. I speak to a bunch of different things I’ve experienced: Heartbreak, being raised by a single mom and not having the best relationship with my dad.

On the more lighthearted side, I’d say the most attractive part of writing a song is coming up with the melodies. That’s always been the case ever since I was three. It really depends if I’m writing alone or writing with somebody else. Even if it’s just on my own, it really depends on the day.

DT: Who have you collaborated with before?

SA: On the artist side, the first single I ever released was actually a collaboration with [electronic artist] Beshken. That was really the first thing that I released; that was when I was 16, and it was the most serious I’d done. It wasn’t just something I’d written and recorded for friends or people in smaller circles. That was actually when I started to get more interested in taking music seriously.

I’ve also collaborated with other people like Kap Slap, and on the songwriter front and the producer side, the most influential people in my songwriter and artist career would be Spike Stent, Harry and Steve Kipner and Andrew Frampton. I would say those people have provided me with the most support and confidence in my songwriter and performing abilities. They really taught me a lot about how to best approach the music industry.

DT: Which artists are your main inspirations?

SA: Whitney Houston is by far my No. 1 main inspiration. Joni Mitchell, Carole King, more recently Ariana Grande, Aretha Franklin and Elton John are some others, too. They’re artists who really care about the actual art itself, and they represent the creative side to the music industry that, in recent years, hasn’t really been the main focus. All the artists I’ve mentioned were purely in it for their passion for singing and performing. They were really interested in learning and being able to be criticized about their art. It wasn’t just, “Oh, I’m so famous!” but more about the creativity and the heart. That’s what I’m doing this for.

DT: Do you have a favorite song of yours? Why is it your favorite?

SA: When I was 17, I wrote a song called “You Mean Nothing to Me,” and it was about my dad. I’ve been very open about him in my songwriting. My dad isn’t really involved in my life, and he’s very vocal about that choice, so growing up with that was something that I struggled with. That was the first song I felt very emotionally invested in, as opposed to before when I would just write about things like summer or whatever was catchy, things that would focus more on the melody. I think that was the turning point for me to a certain degree: I realized that, as a singer-songwriter, it was important to talk about emotionally charged things in music if that’s something I was feeling.

DT: What do you like to do when you aren’t producing music?

SA: I love to cook and I love to travel. I’m very extroverted so I love being around people, but I also enjoy being on my own and zoning in on my work. I’m very much the kind of person who always has to be working, and that doesn’t bother me, like, I’m never just sitting around doing nothing.