In January of 2020, things looked bright for singer Snoh Nowrozi, better known as Snoh Aalegra. She was in the studio with the Neptunes working on the follow up to her critically-acclaimed sophomore album Ugh, Those Feels Again. The silky, emotive collection of soulful R&B earned praise from Pitchfork, Variety, and a headlining North American tour. This year she started working with her heroes, “that was one of my biggest dreams coming true, working with Chad and Pharrell. It was like everything I ever imagined,” she told Billboard. “Then lockdown happened. I felt really uninspired for a few months. Didn't make any music. I tried to write from home, but I just didn't feel it.” Searching for the right environment for her emotions to grow and thrive in has been a lifelong mission.
Born Shahrzad Fooladi in Enköping, Sweden, Aalegra’s childhood was quiet, but not without significant heartbreaks. Her father left Iran to study and look for work just before the Iranian revolution. Her mother joined him shortly after along with the rest of her family including aunts, uncles and cousins -- one of whom, Izabelle Pourreza Wilson, is Aalegra’s current manager. Aalegra’s father, who taught math and science, was hesitant when she decided to pursue music seriously. “He was more conservative-minded,” she explains, “while my mom's always been very liberal and free in her way of thinking.” Aalegra’s parents split when she was 2 years old, her mother worked hard to support her kids, writing poetry on the side and encouraging her artistic pursuits from a very young age. In 2009, Aaelgra’s father became ill and died shortly thereafter, a tragic loss she grappled with openly on her debut album Feels. “I wasn't so close with my dad growing up … I think by the time that we did establish more of a healthy, normal relationship … I didn't have much time left with him. That's what made me write the song ‘Time,’” she explains. “Because I wish time never mattered. I wish I spent it more wisely with him.” To heal, and to process her feelings Aalegra has always turned to music.
She was a shy, introverted kid -- a stark personality in the context of a large, boisterous Persian family. Her cousin Pourreza Wilson recalls childhood family gatherings, “it would always start with her being shy with the uncles and aunties, even though she saw them last weekend … And then as the night would proceed, she would start performing and entertaining,” she laughs. Aalegra says she knew she wanted to be an artist from a very young age, asking her mother for support and writing her own songs by the time she was nine. Mimicking her heroes -- Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill, Michael and Janet Jackson, a young Snoh Aalegra tried to write about love. “Growing up with Swedish and Farsi as my first languages, and then kind of learning English at the same time through TV and subtitles and school, I don't know what the hell I was writing about.” A self-described day dreamer, she liked to disappear into her own imagination.