Premiere: “Survive” by Toni Sancho

A beautiful bop about perseverance from the London-based songwriter

From London-based recording artist Toni Sancho, “Survive” is an honest, emotional ode to self-support—an endearing call to action that’s impossible to ignore, a commitment to perseverance in the face of untold challenge. With the track, Sancho’s belief drives her precise poeticism; her melody is the sugar that sweetens the restorative tone.

Raised in North Greenwich, England, Sancho then spent years in Trinidad on her path not only to adulthood but also transforming into a singer-songwriter. “Becoming a recording artist was a lot to do with conquering and knowing myself,” she tells us. “I remember writing these songs and understanding that I now had to honor them. I had to honor the pain I overcame by following through with the process of making and releasing the music. In order to honor the pain, I needed to honor the music and in honoring the music I was honoring myself. I think releasing this music as a recording artist and being that emotionally naked publicly is a critical evolution in who I am, an important moment in how I understand myself both musically and personally.”

Courtesy of Melissa Gardner

“I don’t think a song is worthwhile without a good melody,” Sancho says of her songwriting process, “so I’ll just wait around and go about my day until a melody comes into my head, and then I hold it and frantically hum it into a voice memo. I write in my room alone because most of the time when I return to the melody it’s really quite emotional. It’s usually at this point I bring out my ukulele and I’ll start humming the melody and scatting out words and the process is pretty quick from that point. It is very meditative and intimate. I’ll sometimes sing thoughts that scare myself even, but ultimately I decide to go forward with all of it no matter the weight. I feel freer at the end every time.”

Album art courtesy of Toni Sancho

From “Survive,” which the artist wrote during the beginning of the pandemic, it’s evident that Sancho uses music as a means of ponderous and emotional expression. “Before I was able to resolve these emotions I really struggled,” she tells us. “I would just sit around and brood in the misery of what was happening to me. I think what I learned from that time in my life is that a good amount of my misery was self-inflicted. I should’ve believed in myself enough to know that I would overcome and loved myself enough to hope for the future.”

I hope that’s what people take away from this song, that you can suffer and still hope and move forward to joy

She adds that the track, “for me, is just this happy song about pain and heartbreak. It’s this big oxymoron: this groovy bop from the worst time of my life. I hope that’s what people take away from this song, that you can suffer and still hope and move forward to joy. That’s the tone of a lot of my songs; strangely hopeful in the face of grief.”

About the role London plays in her music, she adds, “I think as a young person coming from Trinidad I projected a lot of my hopes and dreams on this city. I think the naïveté of coming from Trinidad affected my music more than anything else. I thought coming here would be the solution to who I was but it was the complete opposite. I ended up feeling more lost than ever. My songs are very raw and I think a lot of that rawness is the grief I felt for the city at the time and what I thought it would be for me. Missing Trinidad, the extreme contrast to my home and the isolation I think made me express myself a lot more vulnerably.” That vulnerability is evident in her track, a beautiful representation of what we can expect moving forward.

Hero image courtesy of Melissa Gardner