Ten years back, SATE asked me this question: “Please, name me a Black woman in rock in Canada. It’s fucking pitiful, and can really kill a spirit!” Fast-forward 10 years, and you’d be hard-pressed to name someone other than her. [Um, Fefe Dobson? BACKXWASH? But still very few. – Ed.]
While the fierce rocker has developed a reputation for being one of this country’s most charismatic frontpeople, she confesses she internalized the thinking that hard rock is “white boy music” when she played with Blaxäm, a Toronto band that mixed rock, funk, blues. and jazz in the late ‘90s.
It was after SATE heard about the Black Rock Coalition that the daughter of the legendary, recently deceased singer Salome Bey recalls thinking, “I’m not weird, I’m not doing something wrong, I’m not doing something that Black people don’t do or don’t like. It was an affirmation and inspiration.” SATE admits she still struggles with “absorbing it [the stereotype of who can play hard rock] or deflecting it,” along with a desire to appeal to as many listeners as possible.
She says she named her latest album The Fool, after the hero of the Tarot deck, because that card is about “taking the leap into the unknown over and over again. Trusting your intuition. Opening yourself up to be this artistic vessel in spite of any doubts, fears, or insecurities that creep in.” Not only does that perfectly sum up SATE’s musical journey, but she experienced all those emotions when making The Fool. It left her emotionally spent.
“I hated everything I did,” she says. “I was like, ‘I suck!,’ ‘People are lying to me when they say they like my music,’ and I cried a lot.” She says she was also stuck “in this place of wanting to please people who don’t give a fuck about me.” SATE says. “It took this global pause” (the pandemic) to follow her intuition, and to trust in herself wholeheartedly.
So she re-visited The Fool, which she’d completed in 2018, but felt “wasn’t ready to be released,” and not only fell in love again with the songs, but re-recorded some vocals, and added background vocals and interludes. She also learned how to engineer, and produced several tracks on the album. “And when I sang, I was, like, ‘This is my rock! This is my voice! This is the way I do my thing!’” she says defiantly.
The self-doubt – and consequent revelation – she experienced has paid off. The Fool was nominated for a 2022 JUNO Award in the Alternative Album of the Year category, and SATE now sits on the SOCAN Foundation Board of Directors – helping to foster and empower the next generation of music creators in Canada. She also signed a publishing deal last year with Ninja Tune, the U.K.-based label started by Coldcut. It signed her after hearing “Warrior,” a song from her debut album that’s on the Voices For The Unheard playlist on Spotify.
“(The deal) gives me the opportunity to write with other people, work with other producers, and have my music placed in a TV show or a film,” says SATE. “As a songwriter, I don’t necessarily need to be onstage – even though I love performing – but my music can live in so many other places.”
On the topic of songwriting, SATE gives props to her mom, who was recently immortalized on a Canada Post stamp, for inspiring her to “protect her work and get paid for it if it got airplay. My mother was a member of [SOCAN’s predecessor rights organization] CAPAC, and she signed my dad, my sister, and I up,” she says, adding that it’s a no-brainer for musicians to join SOCAN.
“It’s nice getting a cheque from them,” says SATE. “It’s like, ‘My shit is out there and someone’s playing it.’”