Staying Afloat: A Conversation with Shenna Somsmieh

(Photo by Shenna Somsmieh)

2020 was supposed to be the year for indie-pop artist SHENNA.

Fresh off the release of her album Blue Memories and its subsequent tour in Japan, SHENNA was gearing up for a slew of performances across the globe pre-pandemic. She was beginning to find structure in the unpredictable life of being an up-and-coming star, which included attending business meetings, establishing her team, recording in the studio, and even finding time to head to the gym in between. 

“The ball was really supposed to start going,” she says. “Then, it just felt like an immediate stop.”

I had the opportunity to sit down with SHENNA and hear first hand about her experience as a rising artist during the COVID-19 pandemic. In our conversation, she discussed the effects of the pandemic on her professional dreams, how the impact of social media has affected herself and the industry, her hopes for life after the pandemic, and her advice to those going through similar experiences.

Below is her story.

Still Surviving

How has your professional life been affected by COVID-19?

“Right when it started, I had time for once in my life to hone in on my craft. I put myself on a schedule because if I don’t stay on some type of schedule I go crazy. I get depressed. I feel even busier than before because there’s just so many deadlines I have set for myself. I’m so stressed out, but I set myself up.

All the tours got cancelled. I was supposed to go on a college tour. I could do music full time and my band could also get paid, so I was excited for that. The ones that I signed contracts with, they have to book me again. That might not be till spring, that might not be till 2023, who knows. But, I know that I’m good there. As far as the other shows, they’re all canceled. There’s no way to get that back. 

I can still survive. I have my rent money for music. I get royalties. But, now I can’t really invest into my career how I want to, so that sucks.”

The Stress of Social Media

What are your thoughts on the industry’s transition to social media during this time?

“It was really starting to lead to a social media driven industry even before COVID-19. Now it’s even crazier. It’s 100% social media now. We have no choice. I’ve seen a lot of people come up during this quarantine as far as the introverts who don’t like performing on stage, who are really creative when it comes to Tik Tok or challenges. Me, I get frustrated. Social media used to be a little fun escape thing. All of these live streams, I feel like it’s content overload and sensory overload. I can’t handle it. 

SHENNA performing pre-pandemic (Photo by Shenna Somsmieh)

I just feel like my social media has plummeted since COVID-19. I never want to be somebody who cares about if their likes went down, but as somebody who makes money off of social media it makes a difference. Now, everybody’s throwing out content. I’m getting maybe 300 impressions on a post because I’m not doing anything. My life was interesting before COVID-19 because I was always on a plane somewhere doing some show. Now I’m in my house. My life’s not interesting.

I just feel so much pressure for social media. I feel like I have to always be on. I like to have a conversation face-to-face, so now it’s like my biggest nightmare. But, I feel like the industry is going to reverse for some of these creatives when these things come back on, when you have to perform. For me, I’m gonna be like, ‘Thank you. You saved me and my career.’”

Passion, Planning, and Pressing the Button

What are your personal hopes for life after the pandemic?

“I’ve been focusing on another market besides the United States. There’s so much great appreciation for music overseas. Just being able to unite through music, even though people may not know all the lyric content. I’m seeing that things are starting to open up more. They’re actually doing concerts. I want to tap into that market because I still want to make money. I feel like a lot of artists are chasing fame, but I’m chasing a career in something that I’m passionate about. I’m trying to think of more of a lucrative money making market that’s gonna keep me afloat and also make me happy.

I hope that I’m able to keep things going with a solid team. I feel like it’s just very important to just schedule your content and just stay in the eye. Not overdoing it, but just having your plan. I feel like right now is the perfect time to get all the music done and all the planning done. As soon as I find that opportunity where things are feeling a little bit better, I’m going. Press the button, let’s go right now.”

Challenging Yourself

Do you have any words of inspiration to those who may be going through or have gone through similar experiences?

“The thing that’s helped me the most is finding something to challenge yourself during this quarantine. Pick up a hobby that you always wanted to do because when you stay busy your mind can’t think of how bad this whole thing is. Don’t make an excuse. Everything’s on YouTube. This is the time to figure out things and become super DIY. It’s rewarding to see your project come to life. It is almost like a science fair project and you can be proud of what you did.

We’re gonna get through this. We really are. This is not forever. Things are only getting better.”

Make sure to follow and support SHENNA at the links below:

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