“I Started to Trust Myself More”: Seneca B Retraces Her Artistic Development During The Making of “Bloom”
Things are moving rather quickly for Palo Alto-based producer Seneca B. Since posting her first song on SoundCloud a little over three years ago and releasing her debut Rascal EP in May of 2015, Seneca is now on pace to break 3 millions Spotify streams by the end of 2018 — a remarkable rate of progress for an independent musician in a highly saturated genre.
With Seneca now juggling grad school and her growing popularity as an artist, she graciously offered to take a break from her busy schedule and talk to me about her October 2016 release Bloom — the album she considers her most important to date. Notable for being Seneca’s first full-length collaborative album, Bloom combines her lush instrumental compositions with vocalist-assisted tracks from London-based producer A D M B. The two artists demonstrate a natural chemistry throughout the project, while the mix of strictly instrumental numbers and songs with vocals makes for a potent listen.
Taking a moment to look back on Bloom now, Seneca feels like the album was a watershed moment in her brief but successful career. “Bloom is probably my favorite,” she tells me. “It was a unique experience getting to work with ADMB on the whole thing and it felt like I was taking a bit of a leap into music. It felt more like me than my prior projects.”
“It’s all on you to make sure it sounds good together, rather than relying on a really dope sample to do it for you.”
In addition to taking a leap and feeling more like herself with the music she produced, the creation of Bloom helped Seneca define her artistic voice and gain the confidence to move away from strictly sample-based production. Finding her voice made Seneca trust her own abilities more. “I became much more comfortable with what types of sounds I liked and wanted on my mixes,” Seneca explains. “Before I felt like I always had to compare myself to other songs, but on this project I started to trust myself more.”
The process of trusting herself and taking risks helped Seneca create a new level of depth and texture in her music while pushing her creative limits. “A lot of the songs where I didn’t use samples, I was able to learn more about song structure and how to make the sounds,” she says. “On ‘Rain’, I played the keys, drums, and recorded bass to it.”
Though being responsible for all of the live instrumentation in her beats wasn’t always easy, this new way of composing songs was deeply satisfying. “It’s a really different experience putting your own non-sampled stuff together, but I think it’s very rewarding,” she explains. “It’s all on you to make sure it sounds good together, rather than relying on a really dope sample to do it for you.”
“Before I felt like I always had to compare myself to other songs, but on this project I started to trust myself more.”
As Seneca recorded “Rain”, she learned to appreciate the patience needed to get the sound of each individual instrument just right. “Getting the instrument to sound how you want it to while recording is a challenge,” she says. “Finding the groove and melody you want isn’t really that hard, but then timing comes into play. ‘Rain’ was the first song I played every single element out on instruments, so it was hard getting the bass and piano sounding right together. But it gets easier as time goes on.”
The rewarding challenges that came with the making of Bloom weren’t limited to Seneca recording her own live instruments, as she also employed a number of found sounds during the recording process. Seneca used her iPhone to capture snippets of jingling car keys, scribbling, and paper crunching to make the sublime track “Wednesday”, while “Pineapple Soda” features her using a pineapple soda bottle to help fill out the percussion section.
Although Bloom features an increased use of found sound and live instructs, Seneca still wanted to mix in some sampling on the album. “It was nice getting to combine those types of songs with more sample heavy ones like ‘Haunted’,” she says. “It helped me feel like my sound was more coherent, as opposed to separating my music into sample-based vs. electronic stuff.”
“It’s also cool sometimes to have a song that means something to me mean something else to a bunch of other people. It shows how subjective everything really is.”
The process of making “Haunted” reminded Seneca of the emotional power of sampling, as she found a record with special resonance during a difficult transitional point in her life. “‘Haunted’ is probably one of my favorites because I made it in a trio of beats all using the same album for samples,” she says. “‘Haunted’, ‘May’, and the beat in ‘Passing Notes’ with Jay Squared and Amber Alyse were all made after a weird breakup-type situation, so they all hold a bit of significance for me.”
Seneca made three songs in a swift, cathartic creative burst that all happened rather quickly. Now she looks at each track as an important time capsule. “I made all three of those songs in a few days and ran with the vibe that I had gotten into,” she says. “I have a habit of making songs in twos and threes, so it’s always cool to me to hear them in different projects because they’ll always remind me of each other.”
Having these powerful remembrances of a specific time her life remind Seneca how grateful she is to have music as a way to express herself. “It’s nice to have an outlet and I appreciate it,” she says. “It’s also cool sometimes to have a song that means something to me mean something else to a bunch of other people. It shows how subjective everything really is, but still lets me keep the original meaning just for myself.”
Regardless of how interpretations of the music may differ from listener to listener, Bloom remains “a show of how far I’ve come and in what direction I want to start taking my music,” for Seneca over a year since its initial release. Whether Seneca’s next full-length project is a collaboration or a solo effort, Bloom will endure as a testament to the value of moving outside of your comfort zone, pushing your creative boundaries, and channeling your truest emotions into your work.
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