Savannah Cristina got on by being unapologetically herself. The singer, songwriter, and poet loves music down to the core, describing her sound as soul therapy. She explains, “Just good moods for the soul. A lot of harmonies, a lot of positive mantras, a lot of sassiness. It’s that healing soul vent therapy, a lot of venting.”
The 22-year-old hails from South Florida, born in Miami and raised in Broward County. Coming from a place where you only hear of rappers (XXXTentacion, Ski Mask The Slump God), Savannah is a breath of fresh air in the R&B game. The content in her lyrics are relatable to individuals all around the world, no matter what the situation. Her DIY videos of her singing in public became an instant hit, planting the seeds for what’s to come.
On top of signing a major label deal with Warner Records, she’s currently a college student at Florida International University studying Political Science. In addition, family is everything: simultaneously a big sister and a little sister.
WE caught up with Savannah to discuss her upbringing, what “Self Care” means to her, and what the future holds.
You’re from Florida, what was the household like growing up?
I grew up a lot with my grandmother and my parents. The household consisted of a lot of smells and sounds. A lot of West Indian cooking. A lot of music. A lot of talking in different languages, English and Spanish. Just a lot of culture. My dad loved Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, old school rap like The Pharcyde and Cypress Hill. My mom loved Gloria Estefan and Ella Fitzgerald, she’s Dominican. It was a lot of different palettes of music that I was introduced to.
Did it start out as spoken word poetry, then it became music?
It did. I was always growing up in the church, singing in the choir, so I always had that musical capability. When I was 14 and got to high school, I started a poetry club. Did a few slams. The first one at that school, and it still goes on today. I actually go work with them all of the time. I was just there last week, helping them get ready for the slam. It’s dope because it’s like a legacy. It keeps going.
You were doing spoken poetry, at what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
It’s been 3 years since I’ve been doing it. Just the videos. Ever since I started doing visuals with my music, it got so much more of a response. Because people got to see me and who I was, behind all of the shit-talking. I guess just the viral numbers going up. The emails and DMs I’m getting from people saying how my music’s speaking to them, that’s what has me like “okay, I’m really doing this shit!”
What do you think it is about your visuals?
I always used to think “nah, I’m not going to do a music video until I got a Rolls. Until I have a nice rental, I need a stylist.” But I realized I don’t have that, so let me work with what I have. Showing people me in the kitchen cooking or ironing clothes, my videos have me just in a regular place being myself. That’s what got people. “I’m not going to wait until I get it, I’ma just do it like this.” It’s been resonating.
Do you still live in Florida?
I live in Florida. I’m a Florida girl through and through. If I don’t have to leave, I won’t.
What part are you from?
I’m from South Florida. I was born in Miami and I was raised in Broward.
I feel like Broward has a lot of rappers.
Hell yeah, we had X. We have Ski. All of them boys from that part, those are people in my area that I was watching when I first dropped. I was watching them still do their mosh pits and their house parties, at the same time. They probably lived not far from where I lived.
Was it hard being an R&B singer out of an area that was predominantly hip-hop?
Of course. It was different. I was the only one really doing it like I was, but it was because I was inspired by the rappers around me and the way that they hustled. I hustled like a rapper. All of my mentors — Iceberg, Kiddo, Majornine — those are my mentors and they were rappers. I was dropping mixtapes, dropping content all the time. Just being consistent because I seen the hustle of a rapper. It was me and another R&B artist Twelve’Len, that was about it. There’s not really a lot of R&B out there.
“Trust” was your first single, what was Savannah like then?
“Trust” was my first single that I originally wrote and dropped, yes. Back then, I was somebody’s girlfriend. I was very timid. I was finding my voice then. Now I’ve found my voice.
What does “Self Care” mean to you? It was so beautiful seeing you sing it on the beach.
The beach is my favorite place. I’m a Florida girl. All these spots I pick are places from my childhood. The basketball court, I grew up going to that court playing with my dad. That street is the street I caught the city bus to go to school. “Self Care” was so important to me because it allowed me to give myself permission to be a little selfish and take care of my needs. Inadvertently, it gave a lot of other people the permission to do the same thing. Self care for me is taking time out to handle my mental health, watch a movie of my choice, cry if I need to, eat what I want to. It’s that self check-in so that I can be balanced and centered.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
I want fans to love themselves and to know that whatever they’re going through is temporary. It’s just a song and the song will be over, then there will be another song. Everything is just a song. If they can listen to something and get through it, push past it and get to that next song, everything will be okay. I want my fans to really heal: self healing, self-love, self care. I just encourage my fans to handle yourself. Handle you, because that’s the only way you can help anybody else.
3 things you need in the studio?
I need silence. [chuckles] Nah. 1) I need cinnamon gum, Big Red. I have to have Big Red. It’s hard to find in Cali. 2) Water. 3) I just like to be warm. Studios be cold as hell, I’m like “yo, can you make it warm in here?”
How did you land at Warner?
Warner had reached out to me from my video “What You Won’t Do,” which I heard is going viral on Twitter. The video consists of me ironing in the kitchen, real hometown type shit. Dom reached out to me back then, I’m like “ehh, okay.” I didn’t know anything about that stuff, I thought “they’re not serious.” Then I started my series, they’re still like “we want to work with you.” I’m like “maybe they are serious.” About a month ago is when I signed, so it’s pretty fresh and new.
How are you adjusting to being with a Label and getting that exposure?
You know, I just started and I’m happy. I always knew that I was going to have to work for everything I have. If this is going to be my career I’m happy. I’m doing something that I love. I’ve worked 9 to 5’s.
Where did you work?
I’ve worked everywhere. I’ve worked at T-Mobile, a call center, a shoe store Journeys. I worked at a gym. I worked at a restaurant. I was a waitress, I was a bartender. I could not stay anywhere for long because music always got me fired. For this to be my job, I’m happy. I can’t complain.
What are your parents think?
My parents are happy. They didn’t realize the magnitude of what was going on until they saw my videos going viral. My dad’s like “ SAVANNAH! Your video…” I’m like “yeah, this is what I was doing.” [laughs]
Did you do anything to push it or you just literally upload it?
I literally uploaded it. No machines, no nothing. All of that is real. All the comments, all the interactions. It’s crazy.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself being a big boss. I don’t know if I’m going to have any kids. I see myself still preaching Self care still pushing that. Maybe having my own self care items to have people really get into it. I see myself having awards for my music. I see myself writing for many artists. I see myself winning my own awards for my singing as well as a lot of albums that I’ve already dropped within the next 10 years. I just see success, more growth, more self care. Just a better version of me.
What can we expect music-wise?
Expect for me to be in more places with my microphone, dropping music randomly in a city near you.