Meet your new music crush: an interview with Sedona

Our very own Jeremy Quist interviewed Sedona to celebrate their debut EP, Rearview Angel, which is out today via Terrible Records. And you will want to listen to it as soon as possible.

If you are a regular reader of HighClouds, then you know that there are some favourites we keep writing about whenever they release something new. One of those artists is LA-born, Brooklyn-based Sedona. About a week and a half ago, we spent several hundred words gushing over one song in particular— “Best In Show” — from the band’s brand new debut EP. And then we got the opportunity to gush about it, and the rest of the EP, directly to Rachel Stewart‘s face. Well, over Zoom, at least.

While Rearview Angel might be a bit of a departure from the sugary pop of previous singles like “More Love” and “Closer,” it is still prime Sedona. There is so much to love about her ever-evolving songwriting, lovely vocals, elegant arrangements, and quirky video accompaniments, and in conversation she is open, honest, delightful, and generous. Check out our interview below where we discuss the new EP, perfecting pancakes, and the idea of your own rearview angel.

HighClouds: Hi Sedona!

Sedona: You’re wearing a Carly Rae Jepsen hat!

HighClouds: I am wearing a Carly Rae Jepsen hat. I am a big Carly Rae Jepsen fan.

Sedona: I love Carly!

HighClouds: First and foremost, I just want to ask how are you doing? We’re living through such a bonkers time right now. You’re healthy, you’re safe, you’re sane?

Sedona: Like everyone, I’ve had some ups and downs this year. But I think that this year, as much as it’s been a trip to hell, it’s also allowed me to journey into places creatively that I might not have gone before. Just from being forced to stay inside. I’m a very social person, so mentally it’s been really hard for me. I thrive off my friendships and my relationships. I love playing live shows. And it’s been so hard not to do any of that! But with that said, I’ve been writing a ton of songs, and taking this time to organize demos, and work through concepts that I’ve had but haven’t fully fleshed out. So, I would say that I’ve used this time productively. Almost too productively.

HighClouds: I have the exact opposite problem. It’s very clear from your work that you’re a social, collaborative person. How are you maintaining that during these times where we’re having to keep a separation?

Sedona: Well, Tia [Cestaro] the drummer lives downstairs. Claire [Gilb] the guitarist and Margaux [Bouchegnies] the bassist are like a ten-minute walk. Merilyn [Chang] the keyboard player lives a bike ride away. And so we’ve all made a quarantine pod in the last month. The past six months we were all pretty much apart except for me and Margaux. We wrote some new songs, and now that we’re all back together we’ve been working on a full-length.

HighClouds: [Excited fist pump] Let’s talk about the name of your project. I know Sedona is a city in Arizona, and it also functions as your stage name. How did you decide on that?

Sedona: Sedona is the only place I’ve been with both my parents. They got divorced when I was very little, so it’s the only moment of them both together that I remember. It’s also, more importantly, my earliest memory as a human. When I was like 2 or 3, I was in Sedona with my parents, and I watched a horse slip on a rock, crossing this little stream. And I remember feeling scared and now in hindsight, I was probably just starting to realize, “Whoa, what the hell? I’m a little creature who feels emotions!” I don’t know why that memory always stuck out. But when I was thinking about a project name, I knew I wanted it to serve as my alter-ego, but also something that’s very true to me and my human experience. So I thought, “What better than Sedona?”

Sedona is also a place that people say is very healing, the energy there. People go there for healing retreats, for all sorts of stuff. So I thought, music is something that I find—the process of writing and performing—to be healing to me. And if it’s healing to me to write music, maybe it’ll be healing for people to listen to my music, or at least provide some sort of temporary distance from whatever they’re going through. You can listen to a song and suddenly your day’s a little bit better… Or worse. Whatever you need for that day.

HighClouds: True.

Sedona: I’m making pancakes for the first time, and I have rehearsal in 20 minutes. I have a question, cause you’re a dad: Should I make the pancakes on this flat thing? Will it work?

HighClouds: Absolutely. It’ll probably be easier to scoop and flip over with the spatula.

Sedona: You think it’ll be easier?

HighClouds: I do. Let’s talk a bit more about how the Sedona persona is an alter-ego for you. I feel like it really comes through in your videos. You do so much cool costuming work, creating what appear to be different people. And it feels like you put a lot into that.

Sedona: Can you hear me when I talk over here near the stove? I definitely wanted Sedona to be a place where I could go to escape. I am really into writing creative non-fiction, and I try to incorporate that in my videos. I try to create these kooky caricatures of myself. If you were to find a streamline through all my characters, I feel they all connect in a very feral, kind of glamorous yet painfully authentic version of all my different selves… But I try to do it in a pop way. And every day I get closer and closer to just being Sedona fully.

Sedona Rearview Angel EP interview

Sedona by Nicole Hwa-Young Chan

HighClouds: Your debut EP, Rearview Angel… I just love that title. It’s like this balance between confidence and self-deprecation. I envision this image of a beautiful angel that diminishes in the background as you’re driving away from it. I don’t know if that’s what you intended, but it’s a really cool image.

Sedona: The idea of your rearview angel…it’s like your custom shadow, you take it with you wherever you go. It’s a sort of blob of energy that follows you, and it’s made up of all your past, current, and ever-changing selves. It reveals itself as the inner-dialogue in your head, the voice that tells you one day that you’re amazing and the next that you suck. Some days it’s nice to you, some days it’s not. Some days you have to calm yourself down and say, “It’s okay, past trauma, we’re gonna get through this!” Your rearview angel can basically be your best friend or your worst nightmare depending on how you treat yourself, how you deal with what you’ve gone through, and how you move through the world. It’s like a guardian angel, but instead of giving religion all that credit, it’s you. You are your own rearview angel.

HighClouds: That’s such a lovely concept. So, I have to admit that the new EP took me by surprise a little bit. It’s still very you, but it’s not quite a “dirty pop” bop like “More Love”. It’s a lot more understated. Not experimental, but “Best In Show”, for instance—it’s almost like the song is changing in real-time. I imagine you in band practice and your drummer going, “But wait! What if we did it in a swing style like this?” And it comes in for only four seconds and then it’s gone, and it’s so easy to miss the first time, but now it’s one of the parts that I look forward to the most. So how would you describe the sound of Rearview Angel to someone who’s never heard Sedona before?

Sedona: It definitely has more of an indie-pop undertone, but I think the commonality of all my songs is they have some sort of nostalgic undertone driving it forward. I think there are two types of artist: There’s one where they have their sound, and every song sounds like a variation of a previous one. And that’s cool. So many of my favorite artists and bands have that. Then there’s the other, who have varying different sounds and concepts, but perhaps their songwriting or voice is the constant throughout them all. I know with me, at least for now, I’m in the second category. I just do what I can with what I’ve got. I love that the songs are different, I love how they evolve together. I guess we could call it nostalgic pop. Another genre I like to use is myth rock. I teeter depending on the day or who I’m writing with. I try not to put myself into too many boxes. Oh my god, these pancakes look good!

HighClouds: Nice! I want to hear more about your songwriting process.

Sedona: I definitely enjoy co-producing my songs and being a part of forming the arrangement, in terms of what I’m hearing and what I want to have come next. I kind of just feed off who I’m jamming with. But whether it’s a song with a producer or a song with the band, I’m always co-producing and seeing the final vision alongside them. And it all usually starts with the top line. I try to let it happen as naturally as possible. My songwriting varies—sometimes it starts with a poem or a lyric, other times it starts with a melody, it just depends. I’d say my favorite thing to do currently is write top-line melodies.

HighClouds: Sitting at a keyboard? Strumming a guitar?

Sedona: In the shower, in the car, on the train. I also hope that I’ll eventually get to do some songwriting for other people.

HighClouds: Anyone specific?

Sedona: Carly Rae Jepsen! [Laughs] We love Carly. I’d write for Julia Michaels, I’d write for anybody! You know who needs a new writer? The Chainsmokers, blech.

HighClouds: 100%. So, your videos are always very fun. I haven’t seen anything really quite like them, and it looks like there’s just a lot of people involved that are all having a really good time. I just saw the video for “Call Me Up” recently—the way it starts with you alone in the woods, you’d never guess that it would end up with a full-on choreographed dance routine.

Sedona: The concept for “Call Me Up,” I thought of while driving in a Suburban to Jersey. And I just had this image of me waking up in a human bird nest. So I took the back of a Suburban manual and just started writing it all down. As a child, I was always obsessed with more gruesome, off-kilter stuff. That’s probably where my idea to eat that deer leg in Call Me Up came from. That’s a real deer leg. [Laughs] I’m just trying to keep it freaky.

Sedona Rearview Angel EP interview by Yohance (@yhnce)

Sedona by Yohance (@yhnce)

HighClouds: How did you end up here where you are now? I had read a bit about plans for a debut album in 2018, and then there were plans for a different EP last year. But now there’s the release with Terrible Records of Rearview Angel. What was that journey like?

Sedona: Well… I have a lot of unfinished demos. I had a concept for an EP and then backed out, thinking, “Oh god, no, I’m not ready, the songs aren’t there, I only have two singles out, and I’m not sure how I want to present it all.” I’ve been enjoying the process of revision, and the process of knowing when it’s time to say something is finished. This EP all happened really serendipitously. My friend Sophia, who’s now my manager, we grew up together—at the beginning of the pandemic, I didn’t have a manager at the time, and she was like, “Yo, let’s do this.” Same with Terrible, I’ve always wanted to do something with them, they’re a Cali label, I have friends on it, and so we began fostering a relationship with them via this EP. And it’s been really cool.

HighClouds: What were some of the biggest challenges making the EP?

Sedona: No money. The pandemic. But the biggest challenge was learning when to say, “It’s done.” I’m someone where it’s never done, I’m hypercritical, I’m never satisfied. So saying, “This is done, let’s focus on what’s next” is something this EP taught me. And I’m definitely there. I’m very happy. I’m still learning to love what I’ve done, but very happy nonetheless. I still don’t like listening to my songs in front of people. I like knowing it makes other people happy, and knowing other people listen to the songs, but I’d love to get to a place one day where I can sit in a room with friends and listen to my own music, and feel proud. I’m not there yet. I’m still figuring it out.

HighClouds: What surprised you the most? Did you learn anything about yourself that you didn’t know before?

Sedona: Hm… I have trust issues. I’m a perfectionist. And I definitely go a thousand miles a minute, 24/7. But I know what I like and I know how to make things happen. For me, my current goal is to just really soak in this release. I want to learn to feel proud of myself. I’m getting there! I’m starting to feel it, even talking to you right now. And I’m honestly just so grateful that people want to listen and that people care enough to. I feel the love!

HighClouds: Well, you should be very proud of the EP. Congratulations on the release, we’re very excited for you. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat, and have a great band practice!

Rearview Angel is out now via Terrible Records. Stream and grab it now.