Santigold remade South By Southwest into an eccentric dance party on Friday, turning the annual music conference and festival into a participatory event for some of her lucky fans.
The delightfully uncategorizable singer from Brooklyn pulled 17 fans on stage and invited them to dance to her upbeat anthem "Creator" at the SPIN Live Party at Stubb's Barbecue.
Santi White debuted songs from her new album, the appropriately titled "Master of My Make Believe," out May 1, and displayed her unique sense of style as she took the stage with a band dressed in Egyptian-inspired headdresses and necklaces and backup dancers who moved robotically throughout. White, dubbed the prom queen of SXSW by one music writer, wore a crown, sunglasses and kaleidoscopic outfit.
It was just one of a handful of colorful high-profile appearances for the critically acclaimed White, who also had a starring role at MTV's Woodie Awards on Thursday that will be televised Sunday night.
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The shows were the first that displayed her almost total takeover of her own career, from heavy production work on the new album to all the small details that make up her act.
"I'm really interested in making art all over the place in so many ways," White said in an interview Thursday before her appearance at The Woodies. "That's why I'm so hands-on with so many different aspects. I do my music, but I also do choreography and design the costumes and direct my video because that's fun to me. The more things I can get my hands on, the more fun for me."
She talked about the new album; a rejuvenating if terrifying boat ride in Jamaica with producer Diplo at the helm that helped her get rolling on the new album; her move to Jay-Z's Roc Nation management team and the possibility of working with Odd Future's enigmatic rapper Earl Sweatshirt.
The songs on "Make Believe" didn't flow immediately when she first started working on it, she said as she balanced on an uncooperative recliner in her trailer. Suffering from a touch of writer's block and a few false starts, she took a trip to Jamaica with friends Diplo, Switch and John Hill, the creative team who largely helped her with her first album, "Santogold."
She found herself riding in a speed boat with Diplo and a seasick Hill and found inspiration on the waters around the area where the movie "Blue Lagoon" was shot.
"We were flying, like flying, and I was sitting cross-legged and every wave we hit my body would just fly up," she said. "Like, it was so dangerous. I was just like, 'Ahhhh!' Waves were crashing and there's a little stereo and it was blasting music, but it was distorted. It was just like a really dangerous element, but it was also exciting and at the same time there was all this beauty around, and I was just like, 'This is what my record should feel like."
Fans can get a glimpse of her experience by watching her video for "Disparate Youth," the first single from "Make Believe," which was filmed using the same boat and locale.
Shortly after that, White took control of her album. She would work with producers and other artists, but at the end of the day she took her tracks home and mixed them herself, looking for that vibe that so excited her in Jamaica.
"I'd say I was sort of the orchestrator," White said. "I was working with so many people, but at the end of the day I was the one who had to like glue it all together and actually make it work. Last time John Hill was my partner. This time I was the only constant and it was difficult, but at the same time I grew a lot as a producer and an artist and a person. I just had to dig down deep and trust myself, and I'm really proud of how it came out."
Oh, and that track with Earl Sweatshirt? It's possible, but not confirmed. "That's just Twitter talk," she said. "They're so cute. I was like, 'Hey, are you coming to South By Southwest?' And he was like, 'I have to go to school.'"
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