BBMAs 2018

Carlos Santana's Daughter Stella Shines in 'Switch' Video: Exclusive

Taryn Anderson
Stella photographed in New York in 2015.

Wanting to be an artist today can’t be easy -- unless you’re born the daughter of Carlos Santana, a.k.a., the most spiritually enlightened musician ever. In that case, you’re not only destined for it, but you’re also more than equipped to navigate the choppy waters of the music industry (and life, for that matter). That’s the case for Stella Santana, an emerging voice in R&B who goes by the artist name STELLA.

In the new music video for her latest single “Switch,” the 30-year-old singer/songwriter shows an innate soulfulness and sultriness not unlike the voices she grew up listening to and loving in the Bay Area -- women like Brandy, Missy Elliott, and Lauryn Hill. “That whole era of music really shaped me,” she tells Billboard. “There was a strong sense of melody, a soulful quality that I am just drawn to, so when I started making music that’s just what started coming out of me.”

Watch the exclusive premiere of the "Switch" video here:

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It was two years ago that STELLA got serious about pursuing music, inspired (like many great artists) by heartbreak. After attending Pepperdine University, she packed up and moved to New York, where she still lives. In August 2014, the yoga enthusiast unveiled her debut single “The Reason.” 

“Switch” is a collaboration with Sam Ahrendt and Don Steele, who go by the name Caswell, the same production duo behind the equally soulful track “Friends,” both of which will appear on STELLA's upcoming debut album, Selfish, due in the fall of 2015. Jared Evan (himself an artist) is handling most of the production for the album. 

"'Switch’ was the first song that I wrote after my break-up,” says STELLA, who has been playing guitar and piano since she was five. “I didn’t have a melody or a beat for it yet; I just kind of wrote the lyrics out. It was cathartic. I remember sitting on the couch, and it took the whole day for it to come out of me. I was just sobbing, but there was a feeling inside me that kept me going. When my producers played me the beat I thought, ‘This is how I felt that day.’”

STELLA says dad Carlos taught her how to write and sing with transparency. “I remember I would watch musical shows with my dad and he would say things like, ‘I don’t feel that person.’ When I was little it felt like he was judging them but now it feels more like discernment; being able to tell when someone is just singing versus someone who is giving you a piece of their soul. At the time I was like, ‘No, they’re cool,’ and he’d be like, ‘No, they’re wack,’ “ recalls STELLA with a chuckle.  

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The video for the “Switch,” directed by Taryn “Teek” Anderson, has an artsy feel to it, with STELLA wearing angel wings and wigs and making her way throughout an entire day of emotional turmoil. “I wanted to go through that first day when you wake up after you’ve broken up with someone and it hurts,” she says. “You think, ‘How am I going to go through this whole day?’ So it was about moving through those thoughts and emotions -- do you call them back? Do you text him? Do you leave him alone? You can’t figure anything out so I wanted the video to show that pain. Then at the end, there’s a switch. You feel empowered after you realize ‘Wait, I made this decision, I chose to not be with you’ instead of just wondering ‘Why me?’”

STELLA shares that she wasn’t always so spiritual -- or musical, for that matter. It took maturity, as it does for everyone. But being born into the family that she did certainly helped.

“Growing up we would always meditate as a family but I always thought it was boring; I wanted to go outside and play,” shares STELLA. “But eventually I understood it. If we saw a scary movie or something my parents would always tell us to pray, and ask for protection. So I grew up with this idea that I was protected and maybe it’s delusional but it seems to be true so far. They definitely instilled that in us and it’s ongoing. We’re always learning and developing more spiritually.”

Music wasn’t just coming at STELLA from her father’s side. Her mother, Deborah, is herself the daughter of legendary blues guitarist Saunders King, and wrote a memoir about her journey toward spiritual fulfillment (she and Carlos were married for over 30 years, had three children, and separated in 2007). STELLA's brother Salvador Santana is an accomplished musician and keyboardist in his own right, and while Stella doesn’t rule out a family collaboration in the future, for now she’s focused on finding her own sound. In fact, this dedication to herself is what inspired the album’s essence and title, she says.

“I don’t think selfish is a bad word or an insult necessarily. I’ve been called selfish in relationships and I’ve always taken it as somewhat of a compliment because I think that, especially as women, we’re taught to nurture other people and always be giving toward others but never to ourselves first. So I decided two years ago that I was going to end that relationship, I was going to pursue this dream and not get distracted. If I feel lonely or sad, I’m going to write about it -- from the heart, like my dad always says. ”

Listen to more of STELLA on her Soundcloud page.