In an industry where over 50,000 songs are being released daily, tastemakers everywhere are always on the lookout for the artists who stand out above the rest. If you’re familiar with Spotify playlists, then you know that over the past couple of weeks, there has been an artist who has been doing just that. salem ilese is that artist and if you don’t know about her yet, then you’re in the right place to get introduced to the rising hitmaker. salem made it onto our radar after her popular song, “It Gets Better” made an appearance on Spotify’s Fresh Finds Pop Playlist. The placement was well deserved as this tracks boasts an impressive professionalism that is rare these days. From salem’s unbelievable vocals all the way down to the production, “It Gets Better” is a track that everyone needs to know about; so much so that we decided to call up salem to learn more about herself and what made this song so special.
The following interview was conducted by Lyrical Lemonade’s Nick Mueller and Sam Morrison:
Nick: So Sam and I would love to start this off and just hear a short version of your background/journey and where you are right now in your career!
Salem: Yeah! I’m originally from San Francisco and I went to college at Berklee College of Music in Boston and eventually dropped out after two years. Right after that, I moved straight to Los Angeles and basically just tried to throw myself into the scene; so I was doing double sessions basically every single day when I first moved here. I was just trying to write for anyone and anything. My goal overall is definitely to be an artist and writer for other people. I’m a writer on my own records and I collaborate with a lot of people, but I also love writing for other artists or for pitch, you name it! I moved out here with my boyfriend who is also my closest collaborator. He co-wrote and produced a lot of my artist project with me including “It Gets Better” and a lot of the stuff on Spotify, so its been fun!
Nick: Amazing! So what’s your creative process like? I was looking through a couple of your credits on Spotify and it looks like you work with a couple of different people, but I’m always interested to hear how you go about making your songs or where does the song process usually start for you?
Salem: So for me, I’m very focused on the Lyrics and the concept. I’m like a big nerd for lyrics…Berklee probably had something to do with that. I usually start with a concept, whether its a chorus line or some clever spin on some topic that I want to talk about. Then, I’d say I usually write the chorus first just to get that part over with because I feel like if you have a good chorus then the rest of that part just kinda writes itself. But yeah, I’m definitely more of a word nerd; thats when I have the most fun.
Sam: All of that is really awesome. Now if you don’t mind, tell us a bit about the story behind your latest song, “It Gets Better”.
Salem: Yea for sure! So, “It Gets Better” was actually the last session I had before Quarantine, so that was a really recent one. The session was with me, Bendick Moller and Ben Camp who is a teacher at Berklee but he’s working in LA for a little bit so I was really happy because he moved out here around the same time we did and he was my favorite teacher. Now we have sessions together and it’s just dope getting to work with him. For the “It Gets Better” session, we were in Bendick’s studio in Burbank and Ben was telling us a breakup story that he had gone through in his past; We were basically trying to write a break up song, and originally that’s what the song was about, but the whole concept was: I know that I’ll get better before it will get better (from a heartbreak), so I know I will get better right now before I can get better at loving someone. That was originally where it stemmed from, but we were also talking about Corona Virus and the pandemic while we were writing and we accidentally had bunch of words written down along the lines of distance and anxious and contagious. We just had bunch of those little words in there, so we just sent it around; Bendick sent it to his publisher and I sent it to my manager and they were both like, “wow this is a quarantine song”. We didn’t even mean for that to happen, but we went back in and did some online sessions and tweaked everything to make it a little more applicable to the current situation. It ended up turning into something that it wasn’t intended to be, but I’m really happy with what it turned into. And also, all of the proceeds go to the Covid-19 Relief Fund through Music Cares.
During my couple of years in writing, I have never heard someone articulate their story as well as salem did during that conversation. Her meticulous approach to her creative process is just a testament to why her music is so good. I advise everyone to take a listen to “It Gets Better” if you already haven’t. Throughout these wild times, it’ll be the pick me up that you’ve been longing for as it points to a hope that things will definitely get better. I’ve attached the track down below, so make sure to check it out when you can! If this Q&A has intrigued you to learn more about salem, make sure to connect with her on instagram here!