Interview: Son Savage
Hello, Son and welcome to the Sanctum! It’s great to have you, needless to say an honor. To break the ice, here’s a stdard, favorite question of mine: How did Son Savage come to life and what separates you from the persona you’ve built? May we have your real name?
Around 2009, I began putting out music under “Belime”, a mix of the last three letters of my first and last names: Charbel Ghanime. After a 6 year hiatus, during which I must’ve written, composed and demoed more than 150 different songs, I realized that the material and sound I developed does not necessarily offer continuity to “Belime” and needs to be put out as a project on its own. The name “Son Savage” came to me in a dream & I believe it was an unconscious link that my mind made between my music and my existential need for a legacy. I am unlikely to have a son of my own, so my music is the “son” that I’ll be leaving behind long after I’m gone. Son Savage is an amplification of my own artistry and personality, and provides me with the platform to express myself in a way that keeps the focus on the art rather than on me.
Are you a full-time musician or are you occupied by other jobs/activities as well?
It’s tough to start off a career as a full-time musician, especially with the financial constraints of the post-pandemic world. I currently lead the Social Media Department at a Creative Agency based in Dubai, UAE - and the skills I have earned in the past 6 years in terms of Digital Marketing have really helped me in targeting the right listeners for my music.
Is Son Savage a solo project or is there a band behind it? Are you 100% in charge of the creative process from concept to finished product?
Son Savage is an entirely solo project. Each song on the album was conceptualized, written, composed, arranged, produced and performed by me. I did work with a number of co-producers and session musicians, especially since there is a major live element to my sound: you can hear multiple guitar solos, funky bass lines, sax solos & brass sections, gospel choirs and live drumming on the record & very little of what you hear on ‘Folie à Deux’ is VST/digital instrumentation - most of it is live.
Your discography begins –powerfully if you ask me- with Folie A Deux. How long have you been working on this album and what does it mean to you?
I would say the album is a culmination of my entire experience in music - so I’ve been effectively working on this album since the day I wrote my first song in 7th grade. However, effectively, I got serious about this project on the day of August 4, 2020 when I was in Beirut and experienced the 3rd largest explosion in history which completely destroyed the city, and lead to the tragic deaths, injuries and displacements of thousands of my fellow Lebanese. Upon seeing my studio in complete destruction, I realized I need to actually put something out & that there is no such thing as “someday” anymore. This album means exactly that to me: it is my insistence on putting my music first, despite the nearly “nuclear”, “savage” circumstances around me.
Your sound has a strong 90’s vibe emanating from your harmonies and overall instrumental direction (Sticky Situation, Superglue, Better than you). Was it intentional? Are you a fan of this era?
I’m a 90’s kid, so yes I totally grew up listening to and learning from the music of that era. I believe the 90’s really brought melody to the forefront & we started seeing acts that really stretched the boundaries of vocal production, harmonies, and overall song structure. I also am a huge fan of Swedish pop songwriters such as Max Martin and Denniz Pop and even spent some time in Sweden in 2012 where I worked with established Swedish songwriters like Gosta Hulden & other international songwriters such as Jeffery David (Echosmith) and Thomas Stengaard (The Baseballs).
As an artist myself, I know they are all your children. But is there a song or two that hold a special place in your heart for some reason?
Good question. For two completely unrelated reasons, I feel like both “Please Don’t Let My Heart Break” and “Sunflower Anthem” are my proudest moments on the album. The songs have a sense of magic to them and their entire inception and production stretched my abilities as a musician and they give me a sense of satisfaction whenever I listen to them.
It’s obvious that everything in there is radio-hit material. Are you purposefully working on making a more commercial sound or is it all flowing naturally, effortlessly?
Like I said, my Swedish pop influence in songwriting really allowed me to “crack the code” in terms of writing catchy radio-friendly pop music, so much so that it is the only way I know how to write anymore. Every song I sit down and come up with has some sort of melodic element that sticks & I find pleasure in creating songs that sound like mantras that you can repeat over and over again to yourself to really absorb their essence.
In my opinion tracks like ‘The River’ and ‘Spiraling’ are too good for a debut. But if you could pick one track to explode you into the mainstream scene, which one would it be and why?
It was a conscious decision to have ‘Love Therapy’ as the lead single off the album. The song, like the album (which translates in English to “Madness of Two”) really delivers the core message of the album which is “love is madness”. I even directed the music video myself in order to properly create this world in my head for audiences to experience. I’m hoping that the song connects with people and they get to find something in the work that they can relate to.
I couldn’t help imagining you on the stage of Eurovision after listening to ‘One-Man Disco’. Would you consider entering such a contest? In what ways do you feel this would serve Son Savage?
Oh I would absolutely love to be a part of Eurovision. I don’t think Lebanon has ever officially participated but I’d love to change that. I’m a huge Eurovision fan and watch it every year. One of my favorite artists right now is actually an act I first saw on Eurovision. He’s an Icelandic artist called Daði Freyr and he’s absolutely brilliant! I think I definitely have a Europop aspect to my music and being on Eurovision would definitely allow me to reach a wider audience that is already accustomed to my songwriting approach.
Are you currently resting, knowing your hard work in finally out in the world or are you planning future releases/live performances?
There’s no rest for the weary. In today’s world, there are new artists popping up by the hour and you can’t just sit back and watch. Once the ball started rolling, I just continued to scale it and currently a week after the release, I’m focusing on promoting the album to the best of my abilities as well as locking deals on some future performances with my agent. I also began writing again recently and already have a good 5-6 new songs that I’ve pretty much written out. These will obviously need to be developed further but there definitely is no stopping this creative flow anytime soon.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
I don’t. Being from and living in the Middle East really puts the future into a “not guaranteed” perspective. I’m living day by day and trying to make the most of today. In 10 years, I hope to still be doing what I live for, and that is to make music and connect with people through my art. I dream of touring the world and meeting new fans and music lovers from different countries and backgrounds.
Enjoy Son Savage here: