Interview

Singer/Songwriter & Actress Saree McIntosh On “Karma Baby”, Learning Korean & Her Idols

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Photographer: Araya Doheny Photography
Hair & Make Up: Allison Noelle

Saree is a fifteen-year-old highly skilled pianist and talented musician. Despite being very young she has already written songs that were produced by Tommy Marolda. One of her personal favourites is her song Karma Baby which also has a great music video. Saree collaborated with her brother Taylor and Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora on Money On Your Deathbed. She is also planning to release some songs in Korean in the future. In addition to her musical talent, Saree is also considered to be one of the best B-girl breakdancers in America.

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Hello, Saree and thanks for joining us today. Any projects you are working on at the moment?
Hello, thanks for having me! Yes, I am busy doing a lot of different projects right now. I’m in the middle of writing/recording two new songs in Korean. I’m also getting ready to film a music video. The process of writing a song in Korean takes a little bit longer than my English songs. Since I’m still learning the language, my dad helps me out when writing the lyrics. He lived in Korea for two years and is still very good at speaking the language. So first, we write the lyrics in English and then translate them as we move on in the song. It’s an entirely new thing for me, and I’m having a blast doing it. For the music video, I’m still in the process of storyboarding, looking for backup dancers, and finding a good location to film. I’m brainstorming every day for ideas of what the music video could look like, and I know for sure that I want a lot of dancing involved. So I’ve been reaching out to some choreographers and dancers that I know, plus searching the Vegas area to find a good location to shoot it at. The planning process takes a very long time, but I’m enjoying every second of it!

When did you start playing piano and dancing?
My mom was the person who put me in piano lessons. I think I was around four years old when I took my first lesson. My dad plays, so even before I took lessons, I would just mess around on the piano. I loved piano, but the irony is once I started taking lessons, I didn’t like it. It was fun initially, but after a while, the lessons took the creativity out of it for me, and it became more of a tedious chore that I had to do. I ended up asking my mom to take me out of the lessons when I was nine, and with some convincing, she did. From there on, I just taught myself chords, learned how to play my favorite songs, and wrote my songs. I don’t regret quitting lessons, but I do wish I could sight-read better. I’ve been dancing since I popped out of the womb! My mom was a professional dancer on the Denver Nuggets and Broncos. She would teach me a few dances like the moonwalk and tricks like a backbend. I was obsessed with Michael Jackson, and when I was two, my mom got a video of me dancing to Billie Jean, and one time I thought it would be so cool to send my 1st-grade teacher a video of my moon-walking. I took dance classes occasionally at a rec center near my house, but I started to take it seriously when I was six years old. My brother Taylor began to break-dance, and one day I asked my mom if I could join one of his classes. From there on, I’ve been in love with dance!

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What Inspired you to write Karma Baby?
My dad and I yell “Karma Baby” when someone does something mean, and then it comes right back and bites them in the butt. For example, it could be like my brother roasting me about something. Then right after, he stubs his toe. Karma got him. We thought that it had a nice ring to it, so we decided to write it into a song. We wrote the whole song with my producer in like an hour! It was a fun night. We went to our favorite Mexican restaurant with my producer and his family then went back to his house and wrote the song. (P.S if you are ever in Vegas, go to Juans Flaming Fajitas, it’s so good). The story behind the song is letting karma take care of all the mean people out there. I’ve had some experiences with mean girls in my life, and I’ve learned that not giving into their issues is the best way to deal with them. Just live your life be happy, and leave the rest up to karma.

What is it like competing with your brother Taylor on Break Ninjaz?
It’s great! Taylor is my best friend, and I love being able to share the love of breaking with him. He pushes me to work harder, and I think breaking brings us a lot closer. We are supportive of each other but also competitive. Growing up, he was always the best dancer; he would beat me in a battle easily. Then one day, I started getting good, and suddenly I was the one beating him in battles. If we had to battle each other at practice, we wouldn’t hold back. We had this thing where whoever lost had to do the dishes when we got home. We did not want to lose! Having him at practice with me just made it more fun. When we were getting prepared for World of Dance, it was nice having him there. Plus, we’ve come up with some dope routines, tricks, and commandos together!

Did you come up with The “Saree the Blondie” nickname by yourself?
Well, it’s kind of a funny story. My first B-girl name was Larry! My dad was the one who started calling me Larry, and it just sort of stuck as my nickname. Once I started breaking, it just made sense to make it my B-girl name. It was funny when I would go to battles because they would say Larry’s name and expect a man to come out, but nope, a little 9-year-old girl would come out. It got to the point where people didn’t even know my real name! When I told them that it was Saree, they’d be shocked. I changed my name to “Blondie” when I moved to Vegas. Truthfully, my crew thought that the name Larry was whack. So, I decided to change it. I landed on Blondie because when I would go to battles, one thing that made me stand out the most was my bright blonde hair.

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Do you write all of your songs depending on your life experiences?
Honestly, a lot of my songs are based on things I haven’t experienced yet. For example, I write many songs inspired by love, but I’ve never even been in a relationship before. Even though I haven’t experienced some of the things I write about, I see it in movies, in other people’s lives, and sometimes I just make up a fun story to write about. Like my song Stuck on a Boy, it was not based on my personal experience. I wrote it about one of my friends who could not get over one of her crushes. Then there are songs like Right Before My Eyes, Pebble, and Rewind based on my life struggles/experiences. I find inspiration from everything, and one of the things that I love about writing is it allows me to feel what it might be like to experience things that I haven’t or help me cope with something I’m going through.

How did you feel after appearing on NBC’s World of Dance?
It was a  fun but stressful experience being on WOD. The preparation and practice period before appearing on the show was intense. I had 8-hour dance practices almost every day for two months straight. My crew and I had already done about three auditions before we had a spot on the TV audition. So, the whole process of making it onto the show took us about six months. We also lost our dance studio halfway through the process. After that, we had to bounce back and forth between random studios just to train. We did it somehow, though! We flew out to LA to film the show, but the sad part is our head coach couldn’t come with us. He had to go to South Korea to perform with Super Cr3w. Luckily, we pulled through with the help of our other coach and my mom! The coach that came with us didn’t know our dance routines that well, so my mom was there to help him out. She danced professionally for seven years and having her there helped us a lot.

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The filming day finally came, and we didn’t even know if the judges would be there. The crew on set just told us it would be the producers and NappyTabs, but I had a feeling that the real judges would be there. I was right! We walked out and saw the panel of judges. It was crazy seeing them in real life! They were far away from the stage, and when they asked us questions, I could barely hear them. We got set up and did our routine. In the end, I thought we did pretty well. Then, it was time to listen to what they thought. Derek and Ne-Yo were friendly when giving their critiques, J-Lo was very honest. They didn’t air all of what said to us, but it was kind of harsh. It hurt a little bit at the time, but looking back, she was just giving us the honest truth. There were many ups and downs through the experience, and overall I had a lot of fun and made a lot of great memories!

What motivated you to learn and write songs in Korean?
Well, my dad was sort of famous in Korea when he lived there. He won some TV talent shows and was going to make a Korean record! Ever since I was little, I remember being interested in learning Korean. I thought it was cool when my dad would speak it. He had this Korean book that I would pretend to read. I was about four years old and could barely read English, but I was trying to read Hangul. Five months ago, I asked him to show me old tapes of him singing in Korean. After I saw those, I was so inspired to do the same. He taught me one of the songs he sang called seulpeum-ui simlo (슬픔의 심로) by Kim Hak-rae. I surprisingly picked it up pretty well, so I kept learning Korean songs, and eventually, we decided to try and write our own! At first, I was just trying to teach myself Korean with the help of my dad. Now I take lessons twice a week and study on my own the rest of the time. I’m really into K-pop and K-dramas now. I just love the Korean culture overall!

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Who are your idols?
Don’t get me started on this question. I could write a whole book with my answer. My biggest idol is Freddie Mercury/Queen. There’s a 99% chance that I will mention something about them if you have a conversation with me. I’ve grown up listening to Queen’s music, “We are the Champions,” and “We Will Rock You” were songs that I heard every time I went to any sporting event. Even though I listened to their songs, I didn’t know much about the band and their story. Then I saw the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody.” When I left that movie theater, I was in another universe. I felt so inspired and wanted to learn more about Queen. I read books and watched anything I could about them on the internet, later finding out that the movie wasn’t very true to the story. I was lucky enough to see them in concert with Adam Lambert (He is amazing too). It was one of the best nights of my life. Seeing Brian May and Roger Taylor still going strong was incredible. There was a moment where Freddie came up on the screen and sang “Love Of My Life” even though he wasn’t there. He had such an impact on me. Freddie helped me gain the courage and confidence that I lacked and inspired me to go for my dream of being a musician.

Do you want to continue pursuing your acting career as well?
Of Course! I’m doing auditions constantly, and I love acting so much. Unless you’re super lucky, it takes time to book/find a role that fits you, and that’s just what I’ve been doing! One day the right project will come around, and when it does, I’ll be right on it!

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What was is like working with Adrianna Thurber?
Adrianna’s the best! Not only is she a super talented violinist, but she’s also hilarious. I love when I get to work with her because her violin adds so much to a song. It’s crazy to think I have the same violinist that plays for Rod Stewart on my songs! The first time I ever heard live violin was when she came to the recording studio to play on one of my songs. I was in absolute shock. It was magical. I felt like I was in heaven! It was so impressive to see how she could just improve these beautiful melodies. I’m so grateful to have such a talented musician as part of my music.

Any upcoming releases?
Keep an eye out for my song Twin Flames coming out later this summer! After watching “Dead Poet’s Society,” I wrote this song, and I think you can tell when you hear the lyrics. Other than that, I’m hoping to release a music video soon!

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 Anelle Aibassova
Anelle Aibassova

My name is Anelle Aibassova. I am a 21-year-old UK graduate. I have been passionate about fashion, film production, photography, and music since I was a child. I love traveling, singing, and writing in my free time.

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