It’s been a long time since fans have heard from Santigold — but the versatile artist has finally made a triumphant return with the new single “High Priestess” and accompanying video short. Influenced by the debilitating restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, which included isolation from her creative community, the song finds Santi reconnecting with her “personal strength and purpose” as a way to reignite her powers.
“I had started working on this beat and I didn’t have anything in mind for a topic, I just knew I wanted to do a sort of rap punk song, as dangerous as that sounds,” Santi says in a press release. “My buddy Ray Brady and I started working on something, trying to add in all the elements that made sense: kicks, subs, new wave synths. Boys Noize ended up bringing something super cool that really built the song and made me get even more excited about it. It was coming along quickly, until it wasn’t.”
Smacked with a jolt of uncertainty, Santigold determined the “punk rock energy and the angst” she wanted to communicate wasn’t coming through.
“I tried adding guitar and a live drum kit, and that was a big red buzzer ‘X,’” she adds. “I ended up tagging in Psymun who brought in Ryan Olson, and they brought the final missing element. The energy I was looking for couldn’t be the old version of punk rock, it had to be the future sound of punk rock. They brought the angst, the push and pull that was missing, but it was very fresh sounding and totally unexpected.
“It all came together in a way I could never have imagined when we started, but it was exactly what I set out to make. I want to make music that sounds like the past and the future all in one; music that makes you feel safe enough to jump in, but then takes us on a journey to where we needed to go but have never even heard of. I want my music to be the bridge.”
Throughout the songwriting process, Santigold was reminded just how much she missed collaborating with her fellow artists, or as she calls it, “a meeting of minds and hearts.” The COVID-19 pandemic, which began its rampage in March 2020, brought that to a screeching halt.
“I made this song over the past two years during the pandemic and was desperate for this type of connection,” she admits. “I started working on it in my studio with Ray a few weeks before the first lockdown in 2020 but after that, I was completely by myself in a room. Part of the time, I was in a room in a cabin in the middle of the woods in Canada, completely isolated. Technology was amazing though, because I felt like I was hanging out with these guys the whole time.
“My engineer recorded me on my computer in my studio from afar. Boys Noize and I hung out everyday on Zoom and talked and laughed more than we’d had a chance to in years. I worked with Psymun for the first time in this way, over Zoom with us in different countries, and immediately figured out what I love about him as a producer. It was like teleporting a vibe into the studio, being able to sit for hours face to face working on songs together.”
The mother of two was also in “mom-mode” for months and found solace at the cabin, a welcome respite from the round-the-clock grind of parenting.
“It literally saved my spirit,” she adds. “And that brings us to the name of the song. I called this song ‘High Priestess’ because this song was about my greatness. I needed to be a witness to myself at that point, calling out my own power, my own fortitude, my own wisdom, because I felt like I had become disconnected from it, having been stripped out of the rhythm of life that I had cultivated for myself, and thrust into this smaller, one dimensional version of myself, grounded and isolated for too long. The lyrics are fun though, rap lyrics in general, boastful, cocky, but that’s what I was talking about underneath it all.”
Santigold’s latest project, Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions, was released in 2018. There’s presumably more where “High Priestess came from. In the meantime, check out the video above.