Sabrina Claudio grew up in Miami — under palm trees, surrounded by music. There were often backyard parties with Cuban pastries, family and friends listening to merengue and dancing salsa.
"For years we had parties for every occasion," Claudio tells NPR. "It's good music, good vibes, good people, and so that's really contributed to my music."
"Stand Still," the latest song from About Time to get a (carefully Tia Rivera-choreographed) music video, started with a melody. Then Claudio found the story in the sound, writing to her voice. It's about two people in the middle of miscommunication, accompanied by the kind of unsure silence that might sporadically break into shouting, and Claudio takes her time building the moment. For nearly a minute, there are no words, no rhythm section. Claudio's voice then glides over the sort of backdrop you might hear in a quiet thriller movie, anchored by electric piano. Influenced by both bossa nova and jazz, Claudio's vocal performance is almost whispered, but she never loses her footing in the reverb haze – she hits difficult notes with focus.
"She's got this incredibly elegant, angelic voice, and it brings a lot of Latin elements so subtly that I don't even have to think about it," says Stint, the song's producer. "I tried to bring a little bit of darkness and kind of deep, almost aggressive elements to balance out how beautiful her voice is."
The singer, whose heritage is Puerto Rican and Cuban, learned how to harmonize on car rides with her grandfather, who played the guitar. At 14, she started posting covers online, and even though her videos became popular, she still experienced the challenges of being a young woman trying to make it in the music industry.
"I was signed at some point and I was stuck in a contract, and the producers [were] continuously manipulating me ... in terms of them wanting to change who I was as an artist," she says.
That experience lasted for a few years, and she admits it took a toll on her. But after moving to Los Angeles at 19, things began to change.
"I just learned that speaking your mind is always best, especially as a female to these men," Claudio says. "There's such a stigma against females and them speaking their mind and them being confident and stubborn that it's almost like it becomes a fear that we don't want anybody to think of us in a specific way."
In "Stand Still," clarity comes in the chorus, cutting through in a moment of transparency: Both people want the same thing. "I want lust too / I want love too / I want this too," she sings. It's an everyday moment that now more than ever, should be celebrated — a young woman acknowledging that her needs and wants match those of the person she's communicating them to. And it all happens before anything else, including time, can move forward.
About Time is out now via SC Entertainment, LLC.