21 year-old singer-songwriter Satya was born in Oakland, where she attended Oakland School for the Arts, and she is currently living in New Orleans. Credit: Rayno Malone

Two of the most recent times that singer-songwriter Satya Hawley came home to Oakland, was to shelter from catastrophes. 

The 21-year-old Oakland native, who now lives in New Orleans, left there in March 2020 to move back home shortly after shelter-in-place orders took effect. She returned to Louisiana at the end of summer that year to continue pursuing her music career but had to again seek protection back home in Oakland when Hurricane Ida ravaged the Big Easy.

Coming back to Oakland at the beginning of the pandemic was disruptive for the young musician. Not knowing how long the travel restrictions would last, she’d left all of her musical equipment behind in New Orleans. Her in-studio sessions with producers were replaced by Zoom meetings.  But Satya found a silver lining in the loneliness of the shutdown, sitting in her room—now a de facto recording studio—with nothing but her thoughts and plenty of time to write.  

“The shelter in place was a weird time, especially for musicians. We were all making a living off our art, and suddenly everything was gone,” she said. “When I moved back to my mom’s house, I began writing a lot. Writing for me is therapeutic.” 

It was during this time at her family’s home in Oakland that Satya wrote her newest single, Summertime. “It’s about falling in love with someone’s truest, most authentic self, and really loving every part of them.”

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Summertime isn’t Satya’s first recording. A self-released debut EP, Flourish Against Fracture, came out in January 2020. That project, said Satya, was inspired by the growing pains she endured as a young Black woman. Like her newer work, the sound is soulful, and her personally revealing lyrics speak of growth and healing.

Listening to her music, it’s clear where some of her inspiration comes from. 

“Growing up, I really loved Corinne Bailey Rae, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and India Arie,” Satya said of some of her favorite singer-songwriters. “Those artists were very important to me. Especially just being a Black woman and having artists like India Arie speaking so positively about herself being a Black woman. That was really inspiring.”

At least one other Oakland artist was also part of Satya’s musical inspiration growing up.

Back in her high school days at Oakland School for the Arts, local singers and musicians would occasionally visit campus and talk to the students about their journey in the music industry. One of those visitors was the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Goapele

“This beautiful woman was talking about her music and growing up in Oakland,” Satya said of how impactful that visit was. “Growing up, my mom loved playing Goapele’s music.”

Satya’s musical influences aren’t limited, however, to neo-soul singers. In high school, she would also listen to alternative rock bands like Mazzy Star and Seattle’s Band of Horses. “These bands are inspiring,” she said. “I know some people say that they love all types of music, but I really do love everything.” 

Satya also credits her eclectic taste in music to growing up in Oakland and being surrounded by countless local artists, like Goapele, and to getting her musical education at Oakland School for the Arts. 

“Going to OSA was such a beautiful experience. I was getting gig opportunities and being able to meet big artists,” she said. “It was inspiring being a kid and constantly being surrounded by just talented, genuine people.”

This Sunday, Dec. 5, Satya will make her stage debut at The New Parish, a venue that holds meaning for Satya because of its location on San Pablo Avenue just a short walk from her old high school, and because it’s also where she got to see one of her last concerts before the pandemic, by Grammy-award winning artist Thundercat. Satya will be opening the show for another female artist from Oakland, Mara Hruby, who is celebrating the re-release of her own EP, From Her Eyes. 

“I’ve wanted to tour since I was really little and just to be able to travel for my music and meet the people that I want to meet,” she said. “I’m feeling really grateful. I’m coming home for a brighter reason.”

An Intimate Evening with Mara Hruby, Satya, and  DJ Wonway Posibul. Sunday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.), $15, all ages, The New Parish, 1743 San Pablo Ave.

Azucena Rasilla is a bilingual journalist from East Oakland reporting in Spanish and in English, and a longtime reporter on Oakland arts, culture and community. As an independent local journalist, she has reported for KQED Arts, The Bold Italic, Zora and The San Francisco Chronicle. She was a writer and social media editor for the East Bay Express, helping readers navigate Oakland’s rich artistic and creative landscapes through a wide range of innovative digital approaches.