British rising star Samira is the new pop girl on the block.
The south London independent singer-songwriter launched her debut solo single, Like This, Like That, early in 2023 and followed it up with a run of huge bangers, including Envy Me and her recent single, Toxic.
“I love 2000s music, that’s my thing,” she beams, touching upon her musical influences. “Whenever I’m doing anything, the 2000s playlist is on. I grew up with people like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears – I love the big pop girlies. JLo, onstage, back in the day – I would love to have seen that!”
Her latest release is written with Kal Lavelle (Ed Sheeran), Tancrede Rouff and Theo Douke, and centres on the push and pull of an emotionally abusive relationship. The confessional lyrics, paired with an irresistible strutting club beat, is shaping up to be Samira’s wheelhouse.
“Toxic is one of my favourite babies – it’s fun, flirty and sassy, but underneath the gloss it’s actually quite sad, tackling the important question of, ‘Why do we put up with bad behaviour in relationships, and what makes us go back to those situations?’” she says of the song.
On the process of pouring her emotions into her lyrics, the performer adds: “Each session is different because of whoever’s in the room. I love it because we all talk about our experiences, what we’re going to write about, and I do love to connect the songs with my own life. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I love that my songs are a little bit of a diary entry.”
The lyrics might cut to the heart, but you can be sure they’ll be wrapped up in dance floor friendly beats – resulting in what Samira calls ‘Sad Girl Hot Pop Songs’. “It’s like, ‘OK, the song is actually very vulnerable and she’s telling you something quite sad, but I’m still dancing to it…’” she laughs. “That kind of vibe, I love it!”
It’s a far cry from her performance beginnings; as a child, Samira took ballet classes before branching out into different styles and later entering the world of musical theatre. While both were highly disciplined, at the same time she discovered a knack for songwriting when her mum bought her a piano and she began transforming journal entries into pop songs.
When she was 15, she auditioned for ‘The X Factor’ – “I queued up for 17 hours and sang Pixie Lott’s Broken Arrow about five keys too high,” she chuckles – but the experience didn’t deter her from following her pop star dreams and she began to flesh out her identity and who she is as an artist, as opposed to the personas she channelled through dance and theatre.
“My discipline in the music industry is really good. I know things take time and you have to actually put your all into everything – the same as in musical theatre – but it took me a while to get used to the routine of not actually being in a show and playing a character. Finding your sound, what’s good for you, what you wear… It’s really different.”
She adds: “When I used to go out, I used to wear the maddest stuff and just be like: ‘It’s fine, because I’m going to be a pop star…’. But it is also interesting when you look at my writing style, because if I look back at some of my old books, the music I used to write when I was growing up as a teenager was quite dark and slow.”
Look no further than the titles of some of her earliest tracks. “There was one song called Fake Tears, which was when I was going through a heartbreak and the boy was like, ‘I’m //also// going through a hard time’, but nah, the fake tears weren’t good enough,” she shares. “Another was called Run A Mile, which I’m always trying to remember on the piano. That was the best one!”
She’s come a long way since then and reflecting on her journey so far, it’s the ‘firsts’ that stand out for Samira. “Doing my first music video was kind of like, ‘OK’ – I was really grateful because, when you actually look around the room, you’ve got the people recording it, you’ve got the choreographer, you’ve got the dancers. I was like, ‘Everyone is here for my vision,’ and it’s weird that you see things in your head and then see them come to life. It was insane!”
Heading into 2024, Samira will release her debut EP, ‘Dancefloors & Drama Vol.1’, on January 19, but she’s already looking to the future with plans for some big collaborations in the works too. “It would be sick to do something with a big DJ – Calvin Harris or Diplo,” she grins. “Or Fred again.., he’s unreal. I love a deep house dance track with a vulnerable lyric.”
And outside of the studio, she’s looking forward to returning to the stage and performing for fans, with headline dates and festival slots over the coming months. “I feel so alive on stage. I feel like that’s where I’m meant to be and I cannot wait to showcase what I can do and my songs – and maybe preview some new songs as well,” she muses.
“Working with really big producers and writers is the main focus and I think next year is going to be a really big year for me in the sense of festivals as well. Summer is going to be the one!”
‘Dancefloors & Drama Vol.1’ is out January 19 on Nightmoves.