Get To Know: Salem Ilese
After going viral on TikTok with 'Mad At Disney', we get to know Californian singer-songwriter Salem Ilese!
After choosing the supposedly safer option of music over becoming an astronaut, Salem Ilese has recently seen huge success with her viral TikTok track ‘Mad At Disney’.
From California, pop singer-songwriter Salem was studying at the prestigious Berklee College of Music before deciding to leave and pursue music full time. She says her inspirations are David Bowie and The Killers (‘Mr Brightside’ has been her most played song on Spotify wrapped for two years now!), and Brandon Flowers would be her absolute dream collaboration. She does say however, that she’ll always love Britney too!
You may recognise Salem’s voice from the viral TikTok track ‘Mad At Disney’. The track has now gone gold after it’s success and she said that was a big career highlight for her. Her other career highlight is making merch for bearded dragons, which we are obsessed with! The song now has over 180 million Spotify streams, over 21 million views on YouTube and over 2.8 million videos have been made on TikTok with the official audio!
1. For those who don’t know about you and your music, tell us a little bit about who you are and where you’re from…
Hey! My name is Salem Ilese. I'm from Mill Valley, California, and I've been singing for as long as I can remember. I'm also a songwriter. I went to Berklee College of Music for two years before leaving to pursue music full time, and now I live in LA with my boyfriend, who's also my co-writer and producer, and my dog and bearded dragon.
2. Who/what inspired you to start a career in music?
Honestly, it's been the only thing that I've been good at. It’s been my passion from day one. I used to want to be an astronaut until I saw the Apollo crash when I was really young, and I decided to go with the safer option. But sometimes it feels like music is not even the safer option!
3. Who are your biggest musical influences?
Definitely David Bowie and The Killers, but my favorite band. Lately, I’ve been listening to The Strokes a lot too. Actually, I feel like my music has kind of been a more apparent reflection of what I listened to recently. My newest music is definitely more rock and alt inspired, and it incorporates more guitar. It's been cool for me to see the progression of my music and how it’s moving towards my influences. But also, you know, I still love Britney and Norah Jones as well!
4. Tell us about the writing and recording process of your new release…
I actually didn't really know I was writing it while I was writing it. I write every day, and I do so many sessions and never really know what's going to come out of them. Sometimes, I try and write for my artist project in those sessions, but sometimes I try to write for another artist. It completely depends on the day. And this EP was kind of just a conglomeration of six songs that I have worked on over the past three years, I'd say. They all just seem to fit really well together even though they were written at different times, with different people, in different places. I still feel they have a great cohesion to them, which is interesting because it definitely didn't go into it with the intent of making an EP.
5. What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
One of my biggest career highlights is definitely the fact that I now sell merch for bearded dragons on my website! That will always be one of my proudest accomplishments. Another big career highlight is 'Mad At Disney' going gold. I really, really can't believe that happened. And I'm so so grateful.
6. Who would you be your dream collaboration and why?
Brandon Flowers from The Killers because I think he's brilliant and amazing. The Killers really shaped music for me, because I just have spent so many hours listening to their music. I also think it’d be a fun collaboration because I feel like I don't really get to write that type of music often.
7. Have you met anyone and been totally starstruck?
This is funny actually… So I’ve worked with Charlie Puth recently. It was amazing. He's extremely talented, but honestly, it's not the first time that I met him. He went to Berklee College of Music to do a talk a few years back, and it was for Spotify. I was invited to see the talk. I was very early - I think I showed up maybe two hours early, and Charlie walks in, and I literally, like stopped. I was starstruck. I literally forgot how to speak. My manager at the time was like, “You’re here so early, so you can go see him. He's just ordering a burrito. Go say something to him.” But I didn’t. I was too nervous. I think I may have started crying. It was so embarrassing!
8. If you could only listen to one song on repeat for the rest of time what would it be and why?
'Mr. Brightside' by The Killers because it just never gets old. For two years running, it's been my most played song on the Spotify Wrapped. It's also funny though, because the first and second verse are the same, but it still doesn't get old. It's a magical song. I don't know how they did that.
9. What’s on your playlists that people wouldn’t expect?
Elliott Smith. I don't know if that's super surprising, but his music is really, really incredible. It’s been a part of some really good movie soundtracks too. I really enjoy it.
10. What can we expect from your live shows?
Expect lots of color and expect me being very excited and probably crying. I've never seen 'Mad At Disney' in front of an audience before. I really don't think I'm going to get past the first chorus without just sobbing. I'm so excited to see people connect with my music in real life. Basically just lots of happiness from my end.
11. Have you got any fun livestreams/online events planned for this year? / When can we see you live?
I have been able to do some Zoom parties for releases this year. That's been super fun. For the first one, I really didn't expect anyone to join, but there was about 80 people. I think we maxed out Zoom, and it was just so much fun. I remember being so nervous, but once my fans joined I just didn't want to stop. I was like, “I can hang out with you guys all night!” I don’t have any live shows lined up at the moment, but I really cannot wait to get back on the stage and hug people soon!