Popstar Sabrina Claudio was raised around music. It showed up in family gatherings, parties, cleaning time, and chores. And while she never initially thought she’d be a well-known songwriter and performer growing up, she’s become just that, earning millions of song streams and airplay around the world. Today, Claudio, who is set to release her latest LP, Based On A Feeling, on Friday (May 6), considers herself an R&B artist at heart. She’s soulful and insightful in her craft. Yet, she also calls herself normal—perhaps even “too normal”—honoring authenticity in her work more than accolades or marketing manipulation. These roots have proved valuable as Claudio continues to grow and mature, both personally and professionally. In fact, she’s finally been able to hone her vision to one central tenant and that has inspired the bloom of her newest work completely—though it almost never happened.
“I had a conversation with somebody who is on my team,” Claudio tells American Songwriter. “And I’d had many conversations about how unmotivated I was and how fearful I was about not getting my motivation back. I guess I was at a vulnerable point. It’s the simplest thing for someone to tell me but I clearly needed to hear it.”
That piece of advice? To have everything she does moving forward be based on a feeling of love and a feeling of good intentions. To have everything serve the art. From then on, Claudio says, she had something of a “stamp of approval” for all that she had been feeling in recent times of worry and lack of clarity. Now, though, with that thought in her back pocket, she’s ready to take on all doubts, all difficult roads.
“I decided to name the album ‘Based On A Feeling‘ based on that conversation,” she says. “I went into every session with that message in my head and I think you can hear it in every single song.”
As a teenager, Claudio says she was insecure about her perspective and her writing. Though she had a close-knit family and grew up around music, she wasn’t sure of her direction when first opportunities began to pop up. As a kid, her father listened to hip-hop and R&B. Her grandfather played guitar and taught her how to harmonize. And while music was something she enjoyed, it wasn’t necessarily where she saw her future. When she was 14 years old, though, her parents got her a microphone and a camera for her birthday and they encouraged her to upload songs to YouTube. Those songs earned Claudio some attention at school and the thought of doing more began to push through the proverbial soil of her mind.
“Music found me,” she says. “Now I’m grateful that it happened. But it wasn’t something I imagined doing ever until I got in a studio.”
Claudio always loved writing. In school, her favorite subject was English. She was raised in Miami, Florida and her family is of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent. Those are both musical cultures and while she doesn’t implicitly make Cuban and Puerto Rican music, the sensibilities of both certainly do seep into her songs today.
“I wouldn’t say there’s anything specific that I grabbed from being Hispanic,” Claudio says. “But just naturally growing up, it’s just in there and comes out in my songwriting without me even realizing it.”
After posting some songs on YouTube, a family friend who lived in Los Angeles proposed an opportunity for the teenage Claudio, who was still living in Miami at the time. So, she and her family flew across the country and Claudio began to work in a studio with a producer for the first time, organized by the family friend. Years of traveling back and forth and writing began to slowly pay off. She found industry contacts and began to grow her name and experience levels. Yet, doubts remained.
“I started out extremely insecure about my songwriting,” she says. “I allowed a lot of people to tell me what to do and guide me—because I had no idea what I was doing.”
She wrote mature songs for her age in her teens and as she continued, she began to grow out of the connections she’d made early in her life. In 2015, she linked up with her manager and more chances came her way. From then on, she hasn’t stopped thinking about her career, even during its public and private ups and downs. Claudio released her debut EP in 2017 and her debut LP a year later. Now, she says, authenticity is paramount.
“I’m just trying to be as authentic and as real to myself and to my listeners as possible,” she says. “Luckily, that’s worked out for me. Whether it has taken longer than I would have hoped for or if it’s the exact right timing it needs to be, I just hope I can be that for whoever loves and supports my music.”
Today, Claudio sees herself as a bit of an outsider in the industry. She says she’s too normal for her own good. She cares about making songs and writing—not status. Yet, not every aspect of her life and career is so mundane, of course. Claudio has collaborated with big-name artists like The Weeknd and Alicia Keys—and these still blow her mind.
“I just find it surreal to be able to say that I have worked with people who I grew up listening to and admiring,” she says. “Going back to the idea of my dad playing music for me when I was younger and constantly listening to R&B and soul music, Alicia Keys was one of my top-5 artists that I grew up knowing every single song.”
Now, Claudio, who is as fashionable and aesthetically lovely as she is sonically creative, says she aspires to be someone like Keys. On her new album, she compels. Songs like the philosophical “Better Version,” honest “Basic Needs” and sticky “Put On Repeat” stay in listeners’ minds. Though, if it wasn’t for the aforementioned conversation with one of her team members, they may not have come about. Claudio had spent three years without releasing a new record but after hearing the important insightful words, she got back down to business, starting in May of last year. From then on, after waiting years to get back in the studio formally, she churned out the new LP in a matter of months. Now it’s upon the world.
“Because I had so much time off, I had so much to write about,” she says.
Now, as she looks to the future, Claudio says she wants to continue refining herself and her vision all while sticking to the central theme of serving the songs and the work with love and good intentions. Looking ahead, her whole career—not just this new LP—will be based on that feeling. She wants to be happy, and confident in what she does and brings to the world, every song and every tour stop along the way.
“I love how we’re able to connect in so many different ways and with so many different people,” Claudio says. “Music is a separate language that for some reason everyone knows.”
Photo courtesy The Oriel