Arsena Schroeder is an American soul artist with pop, R&B, & inspirational influences. Based out of Charlotte, NC, this multi-talented singer-songwriter is known for her heartfelt tunes.
Having recently released her sophomore album "Sleep Talking", Schroeder has accomplished much in her nearly seven years touring as an independent recording artist. This list includes but is not limited to headlining her first international show, successfully funding her own company Dear Soul Music Co, and winning over hearts with a standing ovation from Michael Jordan at The Time Warner Cable (now known as Spectrum) Arena. Schroeder originally from Pittsburgh, PA has impressed her way into the hearts of the regional and national scene.
Joni Deutsch of NPR says, "She has the voice of an angel and the hustle of a Forbes 30 under 30". The Next Gig Europe says, "Arsena Schroeder is one of those artists who progresses step by step. For several years now she regularly releases excellent records and singles. What is constantly constant is the beautiful voice of this soul / pop singer and the uncompromising songs, where her feeling has priority over hit sensitivity or pleading the listener. [Sleep Talking] makes for a very personal and very beautiful album. Arsena is scheduled to make her west coast debut January of 2019.
We recetnly had the pleasure to interview Schroeder to learn about her new album, the pros and cons of crowdfunding and her songwriting process.
Breedlove: Tell me, how long do you think you've been working on this album, from when you started songwriting to when it was completed?
Schroeder: I started writing the songs and looking for producers in 2016. I thought I had the producers that I was going to use & I was audaciously counting on grant funding to fund it - but that funding fell through.
Then I found a local producer - but we weren’t exactly a match & I decided to go in a different direction. Finally, in late May of 2018, I found the perfect producer, in sync with my workflow and rhythm. I wish he had crossed my mind sooner. He’s an artist friend, who lives ten minutes down the street from me. Once we got the ball rolling, we got the production + post-production done out of his home studio in three months.
Breedlove: Roughly two years from beginning to fruition, some speed bumps along the way, finding the right production team. I envision that there's this moment where you get a finished album in the mail, and you get to open this package up and hold and see the fruits of your labor. Is that the final milestone or are there other steps which are more rewarding?
Schroeder: Yes. Holding the physical CD, looking at the packaging and the album credits is pretty rewarding.
I think the most exciting moment of completion was sitting in the car listening to the final masters. That was a joyous moment & I stayed up through the entire night excited. We finished the masters around midnight. I didn't ever go to sleep, and I just kept listening to them. I had already listened a million times before, but I think that day was the day where I was like, "Wow, we did it." Hearing the final version was great.
Still, with a CD, it ’s still really cool to see everything tangible - all of the time that went into recording the songs, the years of experience that inspired me to write the songs, and the crowdfunding, and everything. It’s nice to see a tangible product. Your vision is now a reality.
Breedlove: Let's talk a little bit about the album and the project. "Sleep Talking." When I listened to the different titles, from a creative standpoint, does this represent moving through your life throughout a couple of years, or does it represent kind of a specific moment in your life?
Schroeder: I think that the overarching thing that I see and feel is this tension between where you are and where you want to be. I think it is representative of my music career over the past almost seven years. As an independent artist, I often feel like I’m capable of a lot of things. I have “So Many Plans” and am full of potential that I’m often waiting to be realized.
A lot of the songs, like the song "Right On Time," is about trusting that what's for you is for you, and timing is everything. Then you have songs like "Like a Fool" which is more like, "Ugh, I'm so frustrated cause I feel like I look stupid out here, giving my all and my everything to this passion of mine."
And then you have more hopeful songs like "Greater Things," which are more prophetic, "I know that there is gonna be a better time." So all of these songs are within that theme of a yearning and longing to be and do the Greater thing you know you can. Sleep Talking is a restless state - you’re half asleep, half awake or conscious. You’re at an in between. That’s where I’ve been the last few years - trying to embrace the tension while in between.
Breedlove: This is a glimpse into the psyche of an independent artist who's pursuing this very challenging dream; "So Many Plans," "Run Forever," "Right On Time." I assume there are many personal sacrifices that you have to make along the way. This is not an easy question to answer, but do you have a favorite on this album?
Schroeder: Each of them, they're like my babies. That’s like picking a favorite child. I like them each for different reasons at different times. My feel good song is "Neglecting You." I can listen to that over and over. I just like how it makes me feel. Then I like the swag and vibe of “Jealousy”, which has been a crowd favorite too. I like this one when I’m reminded that on your journey everyone is not going to be excited for you or cheering you on. Some people hate & that’s OK, just fly away! “Flying Away” is about just that, focusing on the positive. I like them all for different reasons.
Breedlove: From a songwriting perspective, what does your process look like? I've spoken to a lot of different artists over the years, and everybody has their own way of finding inspiration and the way that they write. Do you typically start with a melody? Do you start with something from a sound perspective and then work into the lyrics?
Schroeder: For me, the process is different for different songs. The most common thing, honestly, is freestyling. I'll just start playing around with some chord progressions and just singing my thoughts or my feelings. So I guess lyrics and melodies tend to happen at the exact same time since it’s more like a venting or introspective session that starts off, and then later turns into, "Oh, let's clean this up and put it in a format that makes sense." Other times, I have a chord progression I’ve been toying with for a while and when a topic finally hits me, I’ll go back and add lyrics and melody around that theme to the chord progression.
Breedlove: I'm very curious about the crowdfunding side of this project. Talk to me about the crowdfunding approach, the woes, the great successes, the ups and downs of the workflow.
Schroeder: Crowdfunding is the scariest and most uncomfortable thing I've ever done in my whole life. It's really uncomfortable because you're asking people to believe in your art and your vision with THEIR money before anything tangible exists. You have to be vulnerable and say, "Hey, I need help." which is SOOOOO HARD.
It's uncomfortable, but it is also really empowering because once you jump that hurdle, you eventually have people backing your music and it allows them to become part of the process. When you self-fund as an independent artist, it's kinda like you’re saying, "Okay, here guys, here's this thing I created, buy it if you want to." Whereas crowdfunding, is like, "Hey, this is what I would like to do, will you join me? If not, I won't do it...so let me know" haha. You’re essentially saying, "Do you want to do this together?”
Breedlove: Congratulations. It's a huge accomplishment. What is next on the horizon in regards to how you take this completed album to the world?
Schroeder: Well we just had the album release concert this past September. That was cool to perform the songs in a live environment. There's a lot of work that goes into a live event. Recording and performing are two completely different art forms. But since then, I’ve been on a mini album tour, which is the fun part! You get to travel and share the new album and create moments with different people all over. So far, we’ve been to Louisiana and are headed to Virginia next. Then I have more dates in my hometown (Charlotte, NC)ranging from solo, acoustic band, to full band shows depending on how folks want to experience the album live. Those are the upcoming plans!