Cassandra Steen is well established in the German music scene. We accompanied the singer through Stuttgart in a W111 Cabriolet. Between Weissenhofsiedlung and the Christmas Market, she talked to us about her work, her desire for freedom, and the pressure women face in the music industry.
At the age of 14, Cassandra Steen decided to train as a classical singer. Three years later, she met the members of a German band called Freundeskreis, who were immediately thrilled by her voice. It was with them (Max Herre, DJ Friction and Philippe Kayser) that Cassandra had her breakthrough. Shortly after, Cassandra signed with a Hamburg music label, however, this excursion did not bring the results the young singer had in mind. She decided to make a clear cut and returned to her home near Stuttgart, where she soon began to collaborate with Moses Pelham and Martin Haas on 'Glashaus' – a project of the heart that succeeded almost instantly. Since 2009, Cassandra Steen has increasingly appeared as a solo artist, proving how well soul music and the German language can go together. The new Glashaus album comes out in early 2017.
You've been making music since you were a teenager. When did you realize that this passion would lead to something more?
I knew from a very early age that I wanted to do something creative – it wasn't just singing, but also the idea of freedom I associate with that. I love the freedom of shaping my own life. I could never be happy in an average nine-to-five job.
I love the freedom of shaping my own life. I could never be happy in an average nine-to-five job.
You now have a lot of hits behind you. Does this put you under pressure when working on new material?
Personally, I have never felt any pressure. It usually comes from the outside. Of course, a song also has its positive side effects. After all, music is how I make a living. Despite that, to me a song is something that touches others as well as myself in a personal way. If I feel that my song has meaning for someone else, then it's a hit as far as I'm concerned. It's a pity that this industry is often concerned with sales. To survive as a musician, many people are forced to adapt at one point or another. Yet artists should be free. They should be a free spirits and inspire others.
The music world still seems to be heavily male-centric. Do you think it’s harder for female artists in your industry than for their male colleagues?
It’s definitely harder for women. But they also make things harder for themselves. That's a problem of society. Women are often much more self-critical, less self-confident, and they feel the need to justify themselves for things in a way that would never occur to men. They should do their own thing more often. I think it's healthy to learn to assert yourself.
As a woman, you're also much more likely to be reduced to your looks – no matter how good you are at what you do. People always find something wrong with you, and the industry is very much out to mould you. The pressure is great. I've known female artists who underwent plastic surgery because that was what was demanded of them. That is totally unacceptable! I don't understand why so many women allow that to happen. I have no interest in that kind of thing, my voice is sufficient. And if it's not enough for someone, then goodbye!
Women are often much more self-critical, less self-confident, and they feel the need to justify themselves for things in a way that would never occur to men.
Is it important to exchange ideas with other women to initiate changes?
Yes, I think it's important and it's fantastic! Everyone needs their niches to draw inspiration from. Far too many women fight lone battles. It's important to be able to exchange ideas with people in similar positions or situations. Especially when you're working in a male-dominated field.
How important is peace and quiet to you – particularly if you're on the road a lot?
I seek peace and quiet whenever I can. I'm not looking to burn myself out (laughs). I need a balance in order to clear my head. To unclutter your mind, it's important to relax. Then you’ll realise soon that, in the hectic rush of life, some things seem far more important to you than they actually are.
How much of you is there in your songs?
When I write my own material, I certainly include things that are personal to me. Yet when I'm working for other people, it's also interesting to see things from a new perspective. That's the only way you get to grow as an artist. At least, that's how I see it. There's really nothing better than to be able to immerse yourself in a different world.
You mentioned that you drive a Mercedes-Benz. What makes for a good car in your opinion?
Yes, I drive a GLK. But I was also lucky enough to drive a G-Class for almost six months. That's really my idea of the ultimate car. I have two dogs and it's the perfect size. You see, a car should adapt to its owner's personal circumstances. We drive everywhere in it.
Is there something you'd really like to do?
My husband and I plan to go on a short trip with the dogs in the car. Simply spur-of-the-moment. Ideally for half a year. That can be a great source of inspiration for writing. I don't know when or whether we'll actually do it – but it's an ambition.