Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Connecticut’s Nehway Sahn. Together we discussed their time teaching themselves music, their foundation Coffee & Kala, their upcoming song “Wonder World” and so much more!
1. Hello! Mustard is grateful to have you join them. How are you?
I’m floating in gratitude, Mustard. Thank you! I hope you’re doing well too!
2. You are a self-taught musician. When did you begin teaching yourself?
I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, perhaps since seven or eight years old, but I hadn’t picked up my first instrument, which was an ukulele, until I was about seventeen. I spent a lot of time watching The Ukulele Teacher on Youtube and twisting my fingers trying to play that treacherous E-minor chord, but I’m blessed to say I’ve come a long way. My dad later gifted me his acoustic guitar and I’ve been obsessed ever since.
3. Who (or what) inspires you?
A lot, really. My growing faith in God, for starters.
Additionally, I have a lot of artsy folks in my circle here in Connecticut – most of them are either poets or musicians – and seeing how much they’ve grown & continue to grow is enough to inspire me.
Another source of inspiration, frankly, comes from all I’ve been through and healed from. Hanging up on my wall are a few images of myself from childhood, almost to remind myself who I’m doing this all for.
My sister inspires me a lot, too. She’s been one of the main forces keeping me going, to be honest.
4. What is your songwriting process? Does your background in poetry help with your songwriting?
I love this question!
I minored in creative writing during my time in college, specifically with the intent to improve my songwriting process. Did it help? Eh, perhaps indirectly.
To me, the processes of writing poetry and writing music are like the same side of two different coins. Poetry is, ironically, a visual art. You’re almost painting an image with all these different words and juxtapositions, extracting from the in-betweens of very simple sentences. You can either say “I love you and you bring me peace,” or you can say “You are a gentle breath, transcendence into REM rest.”
Songwriting is much easier for me. It starts at the guitar, a chord progression that carries a certain mood, and I just babble until melodies piece themselves together enough to allow for words.
5. You’re the founder of Coffee & Kala. Could you share more about Coffee & Kala?
You really did some digging. I like it.
Coffee & Kala is an event series of open mic nights for the school I just graduated from – Central Connecticut State University. I interned for this cultural center called the Center for Africana Studies where it was mine and alongside other interns’ responsibilities to curate events that serviced the student body.
I had this idea for a jazzy, sultry, coffeehouse-type event and, y’know, I’m Liberian so, I tied the two together. In Liberian culture, we have these bomb-ass pastries called Kala; they’re like lil’ fried dough balls. Nonetheless, the mission of C&K is essentially to provide a space—a safe space—for the creative minds on campus while highlighting Liberian culture. The event series grew pretty popular on campus, as we accepted everyone at any point in their creative endeavors.
The ultimate goal is to extend it beyond CCSU, but for now, I trust my baby in their hands.
6. You’ve shared some covers and demos on your Soundcloud. Do you have a favorite cover?
Y’know, my favorite cover probably has to be the one I did of Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood back in, like, 2016, because that was the year I started using my microphone for real. While I still have a long way to go in my career, it’s an absolute blessing to be able to look back at how far I’ve come. Y’feel me?
7. Last year you released your first song “Better.” What was the inspiration behind this single?
This question makes me smile.
The song is almost a combination of, like, three songs in one. I did a lot of singing and writing in the staircase in my campus dorm (the acoustics were phenomenal) and I would always freestyle whatever came from my head and record it in my phone. I like to listen back to my old memos from 2018-2020, and when I finished writing “Better” I was like “Oh shoot, this song has been here the whole time.”
Regarding inspiration, well…life, really. The song pays homage to time and change and how challenging it is to do so. Not to say it’s impossible, but there really is a lot of pressure that comes with deciding to do things differently, with deciding to do right by yourself. Growing pains and all that jazz. I love the song a lot and I can’t wait for more people to hear it.
8. How was it performing at Painting in the Park? Did you get a chance to paint as well?
The set was lovely, but my, were tears shed. The show was the day after my 23rd birthday so my sister, cousins, and friends were all there. Ashley, the founder of Painting in the Park and Qommunity, secretly had asked my fam what my favorite cake flavor was and bam: they surprised me with a strawberry birthday cake. I’m always surrounded by love, but the love I felt that day was astronomical.
I did paint a lil’ something, but I’m accepting that my artistry seems to cap at what I do with my voice & guitars. Ha!
9. “Wonder World” is your upcoming single. What can fans expect from this single?
A sonic hug. Validation. An imperfect smile.
10. What’s next for Nehway Sahn?
A whole lot. I can feel it in my bones.
11. Where can readers listen to your music?
You can find all the avenues on my website, nehwaysahn.com. 😊