Interview by Chad Parenteau
The Boston Hassle describes Genie Santiago as “a Boston-based musician, arts organizer, and collaborative artist whose music unites the spiritual and sexual realms.” Her past highpoints include the 2018 EP Know Your Worth and the 2019 single “Spirit Party.” Her newest song “Revelación” was featured this past April at the Boston Museum of Science as part of its e SubSpace Sessions performance series. Santiago will be performing on Friday August 6, bringing back her Sunflower Series and performing alongside fellow artists Billy Dean Thomas, Shellz, Naomi Westwater and Amanda Shea. Tickets are still available.
Your first live performance in over a year is next week, and the COVID cases are rising, As a performer, how does it feel to have your joy and livelihood in the hands of people who either don’t get it or pretend not to?
It’s frustrating that the arts have suffered greatly during this time, and I consider myself very lucky because I’ve been able to adapt and stay “relevant”. I believe this is a trauma response. I am always in survival mode. When life changed and everything I loved came to a halt, I went into fight mode. I wish there were more support for the arts and our venues weren’t closing, but isn’t that how it’s always been historically? Everyone wants the art, but no one truly values and nurtures the artist. The Sunflower Series event that is taking place Friday, August 6, 2021, is an event I created in 2018. I have since joined Creatives of Color Boston and brought along this series with me. I feel safe curating and performing during this event because I curated it with my colleagues Janette and Tammi. Who knows what the future holds for love music or the world, but I know I won’t take these moments for granted again.
Your most recent song “Revelación” had images of protestors, police brutality, and detainment. How much trouble did you have promoting it?
Facebook blocked my attempts at promoting the song through paid ads and general posts. They accused the song of “influencing the political election”. There are bots in place that are supposed to censor harmful material on Facebook and Instagram, but that censorship isn’t always fair. It actually silences marginalized voices. In the end though my community was just as outraged as I was, and they came through for me. The promoted that song better than any ad could have done. I also learned how to outsmart the bots by articulating my posts a little differently and creating my own target audience when creating ads.
The anti-maskers were very quick to criticize BLM protests where masks seemed to be used by nearly all attendants when I witnessed them. Were you able to engage in any protests during the pandemic?
I’ve always been an artivist. However, I did not attend any physical protests in 2020 because I am immune compromised and responsible for the well-being of other humans who are also. I did use my talent, voice, funds, and platforms as a way to protest.
How is the pandemic shaping your next album?
During the beginning of the lock down, the studio where I record was shut down. I did my best to adapt and learned new skills that would allow me to record reference tracks at home. This did slow down the recording process, but I’m also feeling like this Fall release is even better than a 2020 release. Everything for the album is flowing in a way that feels safe and there is less pressure. It gave me more time to create beautiful pieces. I’m having my album release concert at the Museum of Science Planetarium on October 27, 2021. This is an in person, free, and accessible event. I’m hoping that I won’t have to make it a virtual experience. I’m actually not really sure how I feel about that. Virtual spaces are not my favorite. For me there is a disconnect. Music, for me, is best experienced energetically in person.
Did you find any plusses to performing remotely? Do you think there are enough positives that people will continue to do so even after the pandemic ends?
Maybe virtual shows were more accessible and less accessible. Not everyone feels safe or is able to gather in public spaces. Not everyone has access to a laptop, phone, wifi, or even a home. Not all artists have access to high quality tech equipment that is needed to create virtual performances. I am privileged to have access to both types of spaces and I prefer in person. I feel disconnected in virtual spaces and I also don’t own the high tech equipment needed for quality sound and visual virtual performances.
When did you begin to collaborate live again? How scary was it? How rewarding?
I saw Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys recently and I cried. The sound was great quality, and the energy was coursing through me. I actually became very overwhelmed with emotion and cried. It is weird being in a space with a crowd, but fortunately it wasn’t that big and I was able to stand in the back away from it. I am truly excited for my show Friday August 6th. I’m also very nervous because it’s been so long. I was born to do this though and for me performing is a form of expression. My goal isn’t to entertain. It’s to share my story and create safe exchange of energy between myself and the audience.
It seems that a lot of artists have taken kind of a break after Biden got into office, which seems like bad timing. What’s the best advice you have for “staying alert” moving forward.
Everyone needs to do what feels safe for them. Those who are truly about social justice, change, equality, and more, are always woke.
Free-style question: What do you really want?
World peace and no poverty. Equality. I want to own a home one day. I want a safe place to rest and no longer worry about housing insecurity. I want people to be safe in this world. I want people released from “detainment” camps. I want the exploitation and colonization from the United States towards Puerto Rico to end. I want to see the end of white supremacy. I want racism to end. I want to sign with a wonderful and supportive independent record label that will help fund my creations and tours. I want to always do what I love and connect with humans along the way.
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