Behind the Beat: Rania Saxena
C/O Rania Saxena
Singer-songwriter Rania Saxena discusses her musical journey, passion for outer space, and upcoming EP
By: Edwin Thomas, Contributor
This article marks the beginning of Behind the Beat, a new series highlighting Hamilton-based music artists, their musical journeys and recent work.
Emerging singer-songwriter Rania Saxena’s creative journey began when she was very young. Growing up as an only child, Saxena took to making up games and drawing to keep herself entertained. Looking to explore new creative outlets, she also began taking guitar lessons. Her guitar teacher encouraged her to sing while playing to improve her technique, which unintentionally improved her vocal abilities as well.
In high school, Saxena surrounded herself in a group of friends who wrote original songs and performed at their school. Her peers inspired her to start writing her own songs. Her first few performances were as gifts for her close friends and family, with the most notable being a song she wrote and performed for her father’s birthday. She received a lot of praise from people attending the event for how relatable the song was, which encouraged her to continue writing and performing songs.
“I realized that music can not only be a way for me to express myself, but for other people to find some of their truth in my words . . . that was pivotal,” said Saxena.
She continued playing original and cover songs for her friends and family, which eventually led to her performing original songs at her high school’s talent shows.
In 2018, Saxena began attending McMaster University’s Health Sciences program. She found the atmosphere to be very welcoming, encouraging her to grow and try new things. She found herself surrounded again by musically inclined peers as part of the Health Sciences Musical. She recalled the excitement and energy she felt performing in her first performance in 2019, and later on in her 2021 performance in BHScreentime. She considers her peers in the musical her family and an integral part of her university experience.
Saxena started publishing her music to Soundcloud during her time at McMaster, using the microphone on her earphones to record and Garageband to produce. Her early songs involved only her voice and a ukulele as they produced the best quality given her resources at the time. These songs were heavily influenced by artists such as Lorde, Hozier, and Dodie. Later on, in songs like don’t you need a break, Saxena expanded her musical repertoire, incorporating drum loops, piano chords, and a plethora of other sounds in her songs.
She began to develop her writing style, incorporating events from her life, such as heartbreak, and her admiration of nature into the lyrics. Another major influence on her writing style came from her grandfather’s passion for poetry. She started with couplets which later evolved into free-form poetry that she used as a foundation for her lyrics. Her songwriting process typically begins with either the poems she has written or the melodies she has recorded in Voice Memos on her phone. Additionally, she made original album covers for her singles using paintings and digital art she created. After releasing her first few singles, she performed mini-setlists in fundraisers for the Health Sciences Musical at the McMaster University Student Centre.
In her songwriting process, she often draws inspiration from her fascination with space. The imagery in her lyrics is used to illustrate the likeness between the grandeur and vastness of outer space to her experiences with love and heartbreak, seen in the song cosmic avenue. She often uses space-related symbols to signify the importance of events in her life, such as comparing her mother’s love and care for her to the moonlight that wraps around the earth at night, in mama moonlight, a birthday tribute to her mother. Cosmic Queries by Neil deGrasse Tyson in particular has been an important inspiration for songs in her upcoming EP.
Over time, her music has evolved to include a variety of themes, including self-conflict and frustration in her most recent single, speculation, where she described an inner turmoil during a darker time in her life. She found her relationship with music became a therapeutic outlet for her.
“What started out as a fun hobby has turned into a form of therapy for myself. What started off as me just goofing around and trying out different things has ended up with me using song-writing and composition as a way for me to process my emotions,” explained Saxena.
The new circumstances of the pandemic, however, limited her access to the resources she used during her time at McMaster, so she invested in a midi keyboard, guitar and microphone to continue making music. Though the pandemic hindered her plans, she used her spare time to teach herself how to produce, mix, and master records using Logic Pro through YouTube tutorials. She found the experience to be very valuable to her musical comprehension. It was also at this time when she started writing songs for her EP.
When asked about advice that she would give to future artists, she said it is important to find your voice.
“Why aim to be the second Billie Eilish when you can be the first you?” she asked.
This is a mantra she has taken to heart to find her own music style. She encourages other artists to experiment with rhythms and sounds outside of their comfort zone to help them find their style.
Her first EP is set to come out later this year, drawing influence from Sarah Kinsley, Lorde, and Clairo. She has kept most of its details under wraps but revealed there will be rock-influenced songs as well. As for her future after McMaster, Saxena plans to continue her music career, hoping to make a debut album. Additionally, she has not been able to perform in-person since the pandemic but looks forward to more performances in the future.
Her music is available on most music platforms and can be found here.