Santino Le Saint is the vibrant, young model and artist setting himself apart in the South London music scene. Drawing on in uences across a number of genres, such as RnB, soul, trap, rock and even heavy metal, Le Saint is quickly gaining recognition for his amalgam of unique sounds that challenge any musical preconceptions. While these in uences dating back to childhood are undoubtedly present, each of Le Saint’s songs feels entirely new as his soulful vocals overlay a hazy fusion of synths and well placed guitar solos. What results is a feeling of depth and catharsis nothing short of striking.
Le Saint’s music serves as a portrayal of his experimental ethos and driven personality, which has also led him to explore a number of other creative elds such as design, fashion and lm. As a founding member of music coll- ective Cloud X, Le Saint utilizes this holistic approach to artist management and branding from a collaborative DIY perspective. In an era where industry seems to be propelling us at an exponential pace, leaving little room for exploration and genuine creativity, it is heartening to see a musician such as Le Saint taking an honest approach. NR Magazine sat down with Le Saint to discuss everything from early influences, to his most recent single ‘98’ and a passion for basketball which nearly took him overseas. One thing is clear, Le Saint’s inspired curiosity free from constraints of labels and genres has served him well thus far and will continue to do so in 2018.
NR MAGAZINE: For those not yet familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound? What are the major influences behind your work?
SANTINO LE SAINT: I would describe my sound as a mixture of post/alternative RnB & hip hop and rock I guess. It’s hard to put a label on it to be honest because of all of the di erent elements that go into creating it. I’m heavily in uenced by current and old school hip hop and trap as well as RnB/soul and heavy metal / rock. I think this comes through to create a sound, which is still original yet feels familiar. Some of my major in uences are Linkin Park, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Guns N Roses, Slipknot, Bombay Bicycle Club Marvin Gaye, James brown, Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, Post Malone, e Weeknd, PAR- TYNEXTDOOR
NR: You began producing music from quite a young age. Can you tell us a bit about your progression as an artist, and individual, that has led to the current manifestation of Santino Le Saint?
SLS: I’ve been making music and singing for as long as I can remember. I started playing the piano at about age 8 or 9 and guitar at about 12. From then on I started properly writing and composing songs, sing- ing them in school assemblies and school shows, that kind of thing. It wasn’t until age 15 I really started to nd my musical identity. I con- sumed such a range of music and began to identify parts from each art- ist, track and genre that I liked and then put them into my own songs. I think the early in uence of what my parents listened to really started me o . My dad was in a hip hop group from Brixton and so that style of music rubbed o heavily on me, as well as all the old school hip hop, soul and jazz we used to listen to in the car. I can still remember this one CD with about 60 tracks on it, back to back with no breaks or changes (you know those homemade CD’s where all of the songs are on one long track haha). I remember every single song just about word for word. We used to listen to it driving to my grandmas, to football games, to school. Literally everywhere had a lot of Al green, Marvin Gaye, Wu-Tang, Angie Stone, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon and loads of legends on it.
I never really listened to any modern singers until I was about 16. As I got older I started listening to a lot more rock and rap like Slipknot, Nirvana, Linkin Park to Joey Badass, Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Tyler the creator, Earl Sweatshirt etc.
I think the whole process really made my sound and made me who I am now. I seemed to like deeper, darker music than those around me. Always have and probably always will.
NR: I imagine a lot has changed over the years in your native area of South London. Having grown up here, what changes have you experi- enced in both the music industry and surrounding community? How have you responded to these changes and do they inform your musical works?
SLS: To be honest I’m still young and can’t speak out as accurately on the topic of change in London as much as say my parents or my old- er friends. at said I’ve watched the music industry change rapidly. Everything now is all about streaming and instant access to music. A good friend of mine actually calls a lot of the popular music nowadays, ‘Cheeseburger Music’. Made with little love, produced in mass and not that special, consumed easily, doesn't do much and people forget about it. Nowadays, I think there’s often such a focus on branding that it gets to a point where certain artists’ images are de nitely more important than their music. For a lot of artists, particularly the genuine musicians in a more traditional sense, I think this can be frustrating. e way I see it, with the in uence of social media, people want someone they can connect with or someone who stands for something. Just makes them feel something. at simple.
Life goes in cycles, the same as South London will forever change and music will forever change. Right now hip-hop is basically the most popular music to listen to in the world, probably be rock in 10 years, then soul, then electro, then rub, then hip hop again. It’s life. Enjoy it.
NR: Can you tell us a bit more about your most recent single ‘98’? What are the major inspirations behind it?
SLS: Me and a friend wrote 98 on a standard Tuesday in South Lon- don, raining and gloomy and shit, you know, typical London. We were just watching through some videos and talking about life you know and I was talking about my current situation with girls and stu when the idea of the track came about. We watched a Kanye west visual and went into detail about it and then found a picture of an old car, it was an ‘Oldsmobile 98’ and then the song came to life. e track idea basically started as a lm scene idea. We wanted to create a kind of post-apocalyptic Earth, where you're not sure if anyone else exists and maybe it’s just you and a girl or just you alone in a house...like some I am legend shit. en you get a message or nd a note left behind by one of your old lovers or someone who you think has died with an address. e song is basically the soundtrack to the journey and drive through this post apocalyptic world to a place and person that might not even still exist. All you have is the car and you.
NR: To me, your music feels particularly evocative both vocally and instrumentally. What message do you hope the listener takes away from this experience?
SLS: Whilst I write a lot of things from personal experience and also just make what I feel, I leave it up to the listener to their own story from whatever I create. I don't really need them to take much more away than a feeling. Some tracks are of course messages and stories that I hope the listeners really understands and is moved by but mainly the question for me is ‘does this track make you feel _____?’.
For me, music is about feeling and expression. I want people who listen to my music to feel good, sad, angry, excited, sexy, pissed o , anything and everything. I make music so I can feel. I create moods and vibes that people tap into or can be drawn into when listening.
NR: Your creative pursuits span a number of elds, to include fashion, lm and the arts. Was this a conscious decision to further you as an artist or was it simply born of its own natural progression?
SLS: It was de nitely born out of its own progression. I was always doing a lot of di erent things; I was and am still into design. I’ve ba- sically played every major sport you can think of and even got pretty serious about bmxing and basketball (I was gonna move to the states to play ball!). at said, making and releasing music has always been the priority. I’m de nitely a born and bred musician, it’s the way I am. at said, I’m going to get a BMX and make a BMX video soon haha.
NR: How have you found this exposure to di erent artistic commu- nities informs you as a founding member of the independent music collective CLOUD X? What approach does CLOUD X take to nurture its artists’ development while still allowing them to maintain their in- dependence and musical integrity?
SLS: Cloud X is solely a collective of creatives that just love to work and get shit done, that’s why it works. Everybody wants to win. Everybody has global ambitions. As a team, we encourage each other to be uncom- fortable, take our art and creativity to new places. Our approach is to collaborate and be DIY. We don’t allow each other to create excuses. We push each other. When you have a team like that, across visuals, lms, production, sound engineering, fashion, that are all very good at what they do and work hard for each other, well...you can’t lose. Trust the family, trust the process.
NR: Do you think this collaborative style of management is a rising trend in the industry?
SLS: I don’t know if it will be a rising trend but it is de nitely a great way of working for us. I think that for the type of musician it works - I’m very hands on with everything, image / branding, videos, seeking opportunities, as any musician / artist would be who really cares about the art itself. I enjoy the process of creating great things and being so close with the team just helps for us to work closely and also trust each other and learn about each other.
NR: Your noteworthy accomplishments already accrued at 19 years old undoubtedly embolden others to pursue their dreams. What would be your advice to young musicians and artists alike trying to make it in these competitive industries?
SLS: My advice would be to just go and get it. Everyone can make excuses as to why they cant do this yet or why they're going to put music out next year but at the end of the day when you're a new artist and you're just starting to make stu you've just gotta get out there. People love seeing the progression of an artist, don’t be afraid to not be “perfect”. A lot of the stu I released at rst was nowhere near perfect or what I wanted my sound to be but I put it out because I wanted to, people have bought into the journey and loved watching things develop and I’m so grateful for that. I look forward to growing more.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying don't be a perfectionist but I’d just say don't make excuses, be true to yourself, have con dence. Take feedback (even the bad!) as a good thing, their words aren’t necessarily right but it means people are at least engaging with you!
NR: What’s next on the horizon for you and your music in 2018?
SLS: 2018’s an interesting one, who knows.... I have a lot of music, a few visuals lined up, some exciting announcements and other than that, just going with the ow. Living life, trying new things, going to new places, meeting new people and enjoying shit. Another step towards running the game.