Meet Senhit, the Stage Superstar Turned Pop Star Who Is Ready to Be Pop's Next Big Thing
Born in Bologna, Northern Italy to Eritrean parents, Senhit is no stranger to the spotlight, previously wowing crowds throughout Europe in various blockbuster musicals, including The Lion King, Rent, Hair and Fame. She has since branched out into the world of pop music after being approached by publishing company PANINI. Developing her solo act ever since, she has released several music projects in Italian, represented San Marino in the Eurovision Song Contest and even rubbed shoulders with the likes of Madonna and Meryl Streep.
Now primed to take her career to the next level, Senhit is eyeing international stardom and will release her first full-length album later this year, which will include contributions from Xenomania's Brian Higgins (Little Mix, Kylie Minogue, Rebecca Ferguson) and Busbee (Katy Perry, Timbaland, P!nk). We met up with the rising songstress a few hours ahead of her debut London gig to talk about the journey so far, her upcoming album, life on the road and her celebrity fans.
We know that you started out in theatre and have starred in some very successful musicals, but did you always want to be a pop star?
I always wanted to be a performer. I started with musicals in Italy first and then around Europe, like Germany and Switzerland, and then I met this Italian company that decided to invest in me as a solo artist, so for me it was a shock because it went from theatre to another level. It was very, like, wow! But I'm happy. I'm very proud and very thankful because I didn't expect so many things [in my career] to happen.
How did you find the transition from musical theatre to doing what you're doing now?
It's funny because I love theatre. Yesterday I was watching Dreamgirls, the musical, and I miss the adrenaline. I miss the energy of the stage. In the beginning it was quite difficult because when I'm in The Lion King I play Nala. It's not me. It's Nala. So, now with this project, I have to be completely naked and be Senhit, so you have to go inside yourself and then try to collaborate with the people that write your songs that you have to sing. It was a little bit difficult in the beginning. Now it's much, much better. It's much, much easier.
On your forthcoming album you've worked with Brain Higgins, who has written and produced for a lot of major artists. How did that come about, and how was the whole experience working with him?
My manager, this Italian guy that I'm working with on this project, has known Brian for a long time because they've worked together for other artists. My manager decided to meet him and introduce my project. I'm a pop star but still I'm Italian, so Brian was very curious about this mix, and we worked together. I came to the UK; he has a studio south of London, so a couple of hours from here. It's a beautiful place. Very peaceful. You can breathe music. I had a very good time with him. Brian Higgins is a legend and an amazing producer, so I feel very privileged that I worked with him, and I hope he can come tonight.
What else can we expect from the album?
It's very light, and it's very positive, optimistic, spontaneous, authentic and passionate, so I hope people will enjoy the album and enjoy listening to the songs because it's very real.
How did you go about choosing the sound and the direction you wanted to go in?
Brian Higgins helped me a lot in mixing a good sound with a commercial sound because, of course, I need to sell my music in the end. But still I wanted to be real, so I said to Brian, "Let's think about a fresh sound that's dance, rock, melodic and everything, but it has to be real, and it has to start from me", and that's what we did.
Who are your musical influences?
I'm very vintage. I like Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner and even Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and all these commercial and pop artists. I love Italian music; I like the melody and the romantic [elements]. I didn't have any inspiration from anybody, but I listen to a lot of music-everything.
What do you think of the UK music scene?
I love Ed Sheeran. I love the guy. I love the way that he writes and the music. And Adele, of course, but Ed Sheeran, right now, is the artist from the UK that I like.
You just mentioned that you hope Brian Higgins can come to your gig tonight at the Tabernacle. How are you feeling ahead of your first live performance in London?
I'm so excited, and I'm scared. London, for everybody in the music business, is, like, a big step. Everybody's like, "Oh my God! You're going to the UK?" It's very scary, but I'm positive about the show. I love the songs. I love the alchemy with my musicians and with the team, so I will do my best and try to enjoy it.
What has been your best experience so far whilst on the road touring?
Being on stage. It's my element. I think it's something that I took from the musical experience-the stage. To be in front of people, to see the people, to talk with the people. I love it, and I love to travel, so, yeah, the stage for sure.
You've bumped into some really famous faces along the way, such as Madonna. How was it meeting her?
I was in New York for a concert, and a friend of mine that practises Kabbalah was in a Kabbalah place with Madonna. Because I was in New York and by myself, my friend, who lives there, said she wanted to introduce me to this person, Madonna. I said, "Are you crazy? She's fucking Madonna!" But she's a very beautiful person and very down to earth. We talked about music, and I introduced myself. I was very shy, and I was like, "Wow, I'm talking to Madonna", but she's a really nice person. I love Madonna's music, and I've met her more than a couple of times. Very nice.
So you just talked about music?
Yeah, we talked about music. I met her daughter. I met her son. And we talked about life in general. It was a very nice conversation.
You also met Meryl Streep too?
Yes, she was amazing! We had this film festival in Rome a long time ago, and I met Meryl because I was singing a song during the festival, and she was a guest there. She came and congratulated me, and I told her that I was a fan of hers. We started to talk about Italy, and I found out that she had a daughter that studied at university in Bologna. So we talked about the university and the city, and then after four or five years, this year, I met her again during a festival, and she recognised me and said, "Hi!" It was very nice. She's a beautiful lady and very smart. I hope she will win [the Oscar] for Florence.
As well as touring, you took part in the Eurovision Song Contest a few years ago. What was that like?
When they offered me the Eurovision Song Contest, I have to confess I didn't know what Eurovision was. I heard something about it-Celine Dion, Abba. But in Italy it was not so famous. I was shocked because I did it in Germany in Düsseldorf [pauses] and it was indescribable. It was amazing. It was big, and it was a beautiful adventure, and now if somebody asked me if I wanted to do Eurovision again, I'd say yes immediately. It was a beautiful, beautiful experience, and unfortunately that time I underestimated the contest. So many people from all over the world have music in common-people from Russia, Spain, Turkey. We speak the same language, music. It was amazing. It was [pauses] impossible to describe.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
After London I have Berlin. I will tour all year: one month in America and Canada and then Amsterdam, France and all over the world. Then I come back for summertime in Italy and a few festivals and then Japan, Australia, Singapore. I will tour all year because I think it's a good occasion for me to present my music. The internet helps me a lot to promote my music, but still, as I told you before, the stage is my element. So when they offered me this tour I said, "Let's go!"
Interview by Nathan Miller.
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