Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's new home for exclusive music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
Rising pop star Savannah Outen regularly racks up hits on YouTube with her own rendition of songs like Katy Perry's "Firework" and Shawn Mendes' "In My Blood" — just as she has been doing for over a decade now. In fact, one of the very first videos she posted on her YouTube channel was Beyoncé's "Listen," from the Dreamgirls soundtrack, in 2011. Today, it has over 2 million views. Yes, people are listening to Outen — and her latest track begs them to play her loud.
Outen still records covers for her over 646,000 YouTube subscribers, but she's also sharing something else with her wide fan base: her original songs. The latest? "Sad in the Summer," a song that's not nearly as moody as its title suggests. In fact, it's a powerful pop song that might inspire quite a few covers of its own.
Outen shared the "Sad in the Summer" music video exclusively with Refinery29, and spoke to us about her big music plans, what artists inspire her, and what she wants young women in the music industry to know.
Talk to me about the writing process for this song.
"I wrote this song with a producer named K-KOV. He’s done a bunch of stuff for The Shadowboxers, which is Justin Timberlake's new band, and he’s just so talented. And then I wrote it with one of my best friends, Colin [Dieden], from the band The Mowglis. We basically sat down, and we knew what we wanted to write about. It was about this guy that I was seeing, and this relationship that I knew was pretty toxic for me, but I just kept going back. We kind of [channeled] all of my emotions into the song.
"The emotions in the verses [are] very nostalgic sounding, sweet and innocent, and then the hook kind of comes out of nowhere and gives you that other side of those emotions; a kind of breaking free and a realization that this isn't right for you. I love how the production does that and conveys that message. Plus, it was a super fun writing process. We made a lot of scones and baked goods, so it was pretty awesome."
What inspired the theme for the video?
"Well, for me, whenever I think of summer I immediately think of the classic ‘70s summer. The clothing and the mood for the video was very ‘70s inspired. That’s kind of where we started. I met this amazing team of women; the whole video was like 90% women. Our awesome director, Roxanna, she brought my vision to life.
"It's very much so about the colors, so [there are] a lot of blues, which really stand for that sad feeling in the summer. One of my favorite scenes is [one in which I am] wrapped around these vines. They [symbolize] not being able to get out of this relationship.
"I'm really excited about the video. I think that it’s a very different image for me that I’m super excited to put out."
How is putting out your own music different from sharing your YouTube covers?
"When I do covers I always choose songs that I love and have some sort of connection to.... But with originals, it’s just all about your stories. I love writing about relationships. All of my songs are about what I’m going through. It is pretty vulnerable and scary to put those songs out there, but I love doing it. Some of my favorite artists release the most personal, gut wrenching, amazing songs that I really can relate to. I hope that people feel the same way when they listen to my songs. I really enjoy being able to share my own stories."
Have you seen any of your own music covered on YouTube?
"I have! I haven’t seen any of "Sad in the Summer" yet, but I’ve seen a few people dancing to it. This one guy did a drum cover, which made my life because I’m obsessed with drums.
"It’s pretty surreal because that’s how I started out and it’s pretty full circle. But my favorite ones are the dance videos because I started out as a dancer and it’s so cool to see people doing choreography to my music. I love seeing those videos."
What musicians are inspiring you right now? Do you have any favorite "sad summer" songs?
"I love Lana [Del Rey]. I’m always inspired by her songs, mostly for my verses because I love taking a really nostalgic, kind of dreamy melody in the verse and then changing it completely into some sort of Christina [Aguilera] approach where I can belt and sing how I love to sing.
"Lana was really a big inspiration for this one song, but I also really like anything John Mayer. I feel like his songs always have an undertone of sadness. There’s this song, 'You’re Going to Live Forever in Me,' and it’s just so sad. He knows he’s never going to end up with this girl, but she’s stuck with him in his mind forever. It's pretty depressing but also beautiful."
What advice would you give young women looking to break into the music industry?
"I mean, I’m still finding myself, but I would say to just be super persistent. There are a lot of people that are going to try to tell you who to be. I went through this journey where I had so many people trying to give their own advice and they really thought they knew what I should do, but at the end of the day, I am the only person that knows what’s best for me. I have to just be myself and be true to who I am and make the decisions that I know are right in my gut. You just have to start with the passion and the dream and not really think about the 'what if' — just go for it."