Beka DeSantis is an 18 year old singer/songwriter from Memphis, TN. As a crossover artist, she writes both Christian contemporary and pop music. She has already received national and international recognition as an artist. Most notably, she was an international finalist in the 2013 John Lennon Songwriting Contest, a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition, and the first place winner of the 2013 Nashville International Song & Lyric Competition for her song “Light of Bethlehem”. Beka is also the first place winner of the 2014 American Songwriting Awards pop category for her song “Magnetized”.
Could you tell us a bit about your musical background? What initially inspired you to begin writing music and performing in the first place?
I have always been drawn to the allure of music. Some of my earliest memories as a kid are of spending hours (it seemed) picking out songs on the grand piano in our living room. My parents recognized my interest in the piano, so at the age of four I began studying classical piano. After a few years, my piano teacher encouraged me to push my limits as a performer, and as a result of competition I had the amazing opportunity to play in Carnegie Hall twice. However, I was never completely happy playing other people’s music. I wanted to write my own, it was just in my blood. I wrote my first song when I was seven years old. And I never stopped writing. The reason that I love song writing so much is because it’s the sacred place where I belong; a place where I can truly express my feelings and connect with God. That’s why I will always write. Anyway, by the time I was eight, I had written songs that made the national finals of the MTNA (Music Teachers National Association). Around that time I began experimenting with writing songs that had lyrics as well; these were all faith-based worship songs inspired by my relationship and love for Christ. As I grew as a musician and artist, I began exploring different genres and styles of music which helped me to discover my own personal style- a unique form of pop/ rock and Christian crossover. During my junior and senior years of high school, my parents allowed me to homeschool so that I could record my music in Nashville and work on developing as an artist full time. Now that I have graduated (I am eighteen), this is my full time 24/7 project. I truly began “playing gigs” both solo and with my band about a year and a half ago. And I am in love with it! My heart as an artist and entertainer is to share the hope of Christ that changed my life.
What was it like growing up in Memphis, Tennessee? What can you tell us about the music scene of your hometown? Have you visited Nashville yet?
I would say that Memphis was the perfect place for me to grow up as an artist. Because of the community in Memphis, I was able to foster my artist career and be mentored in a safe learning environment. The music scene in Memphis is very diverse. For emerging artists, it is mostly coffee shop and bar based, which has made it a little more challenging to for me to reach my demographic that way. As in any city though, persistence eventually pays off. And in all of my experiences, the local artists and musicians have been incredibly kind and fun to work with. There is a trove of undiscovered talent hidden in this city. Also, Visible Music College (downtown) has been a great center to network with other young musicians. The other plus about Memphis is that it’s just down the road from Nashville. When I was fifteen, I went on my first road trip to Nashville and had the opportunity to be mentored by Grammy winning producer Paul Ebersold. Paul gave me the direction and wisdom that I really needed to become a better songwriter and artist. After a year and a half of nonstop work, I sent him my new demos which he was pleased with. Paul ended up producing my two albums at the Sound Kitchen, and it was the most amazing experience as a young artist. I think I smiled the whole time!
You had a big year in 2013; could you tell us about some of your accomplishments during that year? How has the recognition you received in three separate contests (Int’l Finalist – John Lennon (2013), Winner – Nashville Int’l Song / Lyric (2013), Winner – American Songwriting (2014)) validated what you’re working towards within the music industry?
Yes, 2013 and 2014 have been good years! During those years I spent a lot of time developing as an artist, but in the meantime my songwriting was beginning to pay off. I had the honor of being recognized as a finalist in the International Songwriting Contest (2013), the first place winner of 2013 Nashville International Song & Lyric Competition, the 2014 American Songwriting Awards pop category winner, and a 2014 John Lennon Songwriting Contest finalist. In 2014 I also released my albums O2 (pop) andYou Are Hope (worship). I think that receiving those awards really helped me gain a healthy amount of confidence as an artist- to know that yes, other people really do think my songs are good. Also, adding those few items to my resume just helps in general when making connections as a songwriter.
What life experiences and events led to the writing and recording of your albums “O2” and “You Are My Hope”? How do the albums differ from each other? How are they similar? Could you tell us about some of your favorite tracks from each release?
Every song on my two albums is a personal story. For the O2 album, named for my song “Oxygen”, all of the songs are tied to having strength as a girl, whether that be saying bye to a dude who is trying to manipulate your emotions (“Crocodile Tears”), loving being unique and not a cookie cutter person (“Pair of Gypsies”), or dealing with bullying in school (“Oxygen”). As a young teen, I went to a kind of preppy school and had a really rough time with the other girls. There were many days when I felt completely left out, rejected, and alone. For a while, the situation messed with my head. But one of the things that God was able to teach me through that is to stop depending so much on what other people think and just be myself, no matter what anyone says! That is what I wrote Oxygen about, which makes it one of my favorite songs on O2. For the You Are Hope album, I focused on writing songs about my relationship with God and how He is working in my life. As reflected in the title, the theme of the album is hope- the hope of Christ that has radically and beautifully transformed the way I see the world, the way I act, and the way I treat other people. As an artist, I really want people to be able to see the hope in my life and to know that Christ is alive and can give them hope and healing as well. My favorite track on the album, even though it’s one of the simplest tracks, is “Beautifully Broken.” I wrote that song about one of the most important lessons God has taught me in my Christian walk, which is that my strength comes from Him. Even though I am a broken person with flaws and weaknesses, I am strong… not because of my own strength, but because of the power of Christ in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is all that you need for my power works best in weakness.) TheYou Are Hope album also has a few purely worship songs on it, which is great to mix in with worship sets at churches.
The O2 and You Are Hope albums are similar in that they are personal, relatable, and tell a story. They differ in that O2 is a little more whimsical and focuses in the “strong girl” theme, while You Are Hope focuses on my relationship with God, the source of my strength.
How will you ring in the new year? What does 2015 hold in store for Beka DeSantis?
2015 is going to be an extraordinary year. I believe in it. My band is receiving new opportunities to play in schools and churches and connect with students. We’re excited about festivals in the summer as well. Also, this spring I will also be dropping a new single (my favorite ever!) God is continuing to open doors and I can’t wait to see everything that is going to happen this year.