A portrait of Samara Lennoxx with chains draped around their neck and arms, their eyes closed, against a dark background

Samara Lennoxx Finds Fresh Answers on Dark-Pop Debut, ‘What Are You Running From’

by Alexa Peters

“Tell me why we downplay our pain to survive?” 

That’s the central question on “Shallows,” the newest single from smoky-voiced singer-songwriter Samara Lennoxx. It’s one of many questions the Seattle-based, Mexican American, nonbinary singer has explored over the transformative past decade of their life since seeking treatment for anxiety and ADHD, living as openly queer, being diagnosed as neurodivergent, and healing from domestic and sexual abuse. 

Now, fresh off performing at Capitol Hill Block Party and Tacoma Pride, and gearing up for the release of their debut LP What Are You Running From in October, Lennoxx is done downplaying their pain and has finally found the answers they spent so long seeking. Lennoxx’s newfound self-knowing is all over the three elaborate, moody pop singles they’ve released since March in promotion of the debut: “Shallows,” “Fears That Keep You Running,” and “My World.” 

Samara Lennoxx standing against a chain-link fence, holding it with their hands and leaning forward toward the camera
During the pandemic, Lennoxx was determined to make use of the downtime by writing songs for their first album. (Photo: Gemma Cross)

“Basically, [the album] is about what it’s like to experience a really intense trauma, [to] go through, like, PTSD and dissociation, and to heal and find yourself again,” said Lennoxx. “And the album asks a lot of questions. Why do we feel like we have to struggle by ourselves? Why do we feel like we can’t rely on each other, and we can’t share these like, dark, scary parts of ourselves with each other? Because if we did, we would realize we’re not the only one experiencing them.”

Though born and raised on the Eastside, Lennoxx spent most of their time in Seattle. When Lennoxx was about 12, their mother signed them up for as many of the youth programs put on by Seattle Theatre Group (STG) as she could, including STG Songwriter’s Lab. It was in this program that Lennoxx, who’s now been songwriting for over 14 years, first began to learn the craft.

“They would put us in groups of people and we would have a certain amount of time to write an entire song from start to finish. And then we would come back together and perform that song for each other [and] give each other feedback. And then the next morning, a mentor from the industry would come in,” said Lennoxx. “After I started doing those [labs], that’s when I started getting gigs.”

STG was also instrumental in helping Lennoxx get early gigs at Starbucks and other venues around town that booked teens and young adults. And the performing opportunities really began to pick up in 2019, when Lennoxx had their first headlining show at Belltown Yacht Club. 

When the pandemic hit and performance opportunities dried up, Lennoxx made a vow to use the downtime to start writing their debut record. Around the same time, they also teamed up with artists network Parke Ave to host “Hour Sessions,” regular songwriting sessions on Instagram Live inspired by the STG songwriting labs Lennoxx had done as a teen. 

Saram Lennoxx leaning backward and looking up at the camera above them
On “What Are You Running From,” Lennoxx processes trauma as well as healing. (Photo: Gemma Cross)

“I would host three artists a week,” said Lennoxx. “We would all write for an hour, and we had to finish the entire song in that hour. And then as soon as the hour was up, I would bring them on to the live, and then everyone would perform their songs.”

Many of the songs Lennoxx wrote during these virtual pandemic-era songwriting sessions ended up on What Are You Running From, which includes hip-hop-influenced beats from Lennoxx’s musical partner, producer Jaymes Crux. Additional songs were written prior to the pandemic, as Lennoxx addressed mental health challenges and processed their abuse. In truth, Lennoxx had hundreds of previously written songs to choose from as they created the record.

“I think that the only reason why this album even came about was because I was going through such a big transformation,” said Lennoxx, who also got the “validating” diagnosis that they were neurodivergent during the pandemic. “Making music and writing music has always [been] how I process things. A lot of times, I don’t even know what I’m writing until I’m done with it, I just kind of, like, sit down. And by the time I’m done, I’m realizing things about myself that I didn’t know before.”

The resulting 16-track What Are You Running From marks the opening of a new chapter for Lennoxx, as each rhythmic, emotive track conveys a different angle of Lennoxx’s healing journey with intense honesty. The upbeat, neo-soul-inspired “My World,” for instance, conveys what it’s like living inside the mind of someone with severe anxiety, while “Shallows” slows down to consider the personal toll of the bleak moments in the world, and “Fears that Keep You Running” shares the complexities of identity, and — as Lennoxx sings, “Take my hand and breathe, we’ll get out of this alive”— the healing balm of human connection.

“My mission as an artist is just to help people navigate things that they’re going through and find the light in the darkness,” said Lennoxx. “That’s why [I believe] I’ve been through certain things in my life, because I know it’s giving me the knowledge and the healing to be able to turn around and help others.”

To keep tabs on the debut, follow @SamaraLennoxx for updates.

Alexa Peters is a freelance journalist and copywriter living in the Seattle area. Her work has appeared in The Seattle Times, The Washington Post, Leafly, Downbeat Magazine, Healthline, and more. Her Twitter is @ItsAllWriteByMe and her Instagram is @AlexaPetersWrites.

📸 Featured Image: Samara Lennoxx’ debut album, “What Are You Running From,” debuted last October. (Photo: Gemma Cross)

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