It’s a pleasure to share my interview with Sareena Rama during “release week” of her first single, Catastrophize. Knowing Sareena before this reenergized pursuit of a songwriting and vocal career, I have been struck by her genuine kindness, enthusiasm, and tenacity. When I first learned of her music and performing aspirations, I was pleasantly awakened to this young woman’s incredible talent. Already aware of her vivaciousness, it’s inspiring to witness her push toward her passion.


A song about relationships


What is the inspiration behind the release of your first single, Catastrophize

So far, my twenties have been filled with experiencing “unserious” relationships. I started writing Catastrophize after feeling exhausted from the experience of being the person in a relationship who gives all their effort while the other person does the bare minimum. 

I wanted to create a happy-sounding anthem that captures this defeated feeling. [I try] to emulate the tone of the relationships that are “not that serious”. My hope is that this can be a dance-along and sing-along cathartic release. It’s for anyone who has experienced this so they can feel at least 1% happier after hitting play. 

Your demo version of the song won Christina Tripp’s songwriting competition. That must have felt phenomenal!


Dropping a contest-winning song


Tell us about winning the contest!

Yes! In February, I very bravely submitted my demo version to her songwriting competition on Instagram. It was only a few months into my self-learning of music production. So it was a massive confidence boost. [I took it as a] sign that I was on the right path. I am so grateful for that experience!

I know that you set out to create your own stylistic blend of pop, punk, and rock. So who are your current musical influences, and what is it about their styles that resonates with you?

My music draws inspiration from a lot of artists, from Green Day, No Doubt, Miley Cyrus, Avril Lavigne, My Chemical Romance, Sum 41, Demi Lovato, and Vampire Weekend. More recently, new artists I’ve been loving are Olivia Rodrigo, UPSAHL, Caity Baser, Emei, and Chappell Roan. [These are] all incredible performers and lyricists who inspire me to be my most authentic self as an artist!!


Musical influences


Who were your musical influences growing up?

Growing up in the Bay Area shaped my appreciation for all art forms and music. I was so fortunate to have exposure to a lot of art growing up — from Disney pop stars on TV like Miley Cyrus, the Cheetah Girls, and Hillary Duff; to being so close to the San Francisco Broadway productions; to watching my vocal coach’s indie alt-rock band; to experiencing the rise of California rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Venice Staples, and YG; to hearing California punk and rock bands on the radio like No Doubt, blink-182, and Green Day. 

Tell us about being born and raised in the Bay Area and how that shaped your musical style.

I grew up with a lot of pride in supporting California-based artists. I was also so privileged to have access to watching live music from a wide array of genres in Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco. I always walked away from concerts feeling so much positive energy from crowds, and I tend to still cry when I see live music. It makes me incredibly happy to watch other artists perform songs that they’ve poured their heart and soul into. 


Auditioning for American Idol and The Voice


How did rejection as a teen when auditioning for American Idol and The Voice affect you, your career pursuits, and your personal development?   

I grew up watching American Idol religiously. As soon as I was old enough to audition, I went for it! It was a fun experience until my anxiety took over. Ultimately, I faced rejection. When I finally thought I could overcome it, The Voice producers in New York offered me the chance to audition, but I completely tanked.

I almost lost trust in my ability to perform. It just wasn’t fun anymore, and I wasn’t doing it for my love of music. I was doing it for praise and acceptance which ended up very negatively impacting my self-image. All of this led me to therapy at a young age. I am so grateful for having access to mental health support services to help me understand my experience and work through it. 

Sareena is a free spirit.
She’s a multifaceted gem.
A peacock of vibrant colors,
Following her passion — sink or swim.


A philosophy of self-worth


At the age of 26, what has become your philosophy on overcoming defeat? And how has it made you determined to chase your dreams? 

As an adult, I’ve learned that this is my life. So I get to choose what I do with it. Even if no one resonates with me or my music, I’m so f*cking happy I believed in myself enough to let this dream take over my life and that I’m giving it my best shot. That’s really all the validation I need, and it’s coming from myself. I think about my 6-year-old self, and my 96-year-old self often. How would they both feel knowing I gave them their shot? They would be so proud we had fun doing it! 

But I have been so incredibly grateful for the support from my family who has been equally delusional with me.

I love hearing about that kind of support from those closest to you. You’re fortunate to have your family to turn to in the unpredictability that can be the music biz.

I moved back in with my parents after living on my own and they are literally my fan club president and vice president. My older brother and his fiancé are cheering me on from the East Coast. My new friends, old friends, and strangers on the internet have been so supportive and kind to me as I pursue music!

What was significant about 2023 that brought you full circle and back to your love of music and performing? 

I had been working full-time at a corporate company that focuses on women’s health and always felt so great about the mission we work towards. I was also teaching group fitness classes around San Diego, which is how you and I originally connected!!

Yes. And when we first connected, your kindness and responsiveness were illuminating. At the time, I did not know this energetic vocalists was also who you were, too. It’s been a fun surprise getting to know this beautiful side of you!

[Back then] I knew that something was missing. It never felt like I was living out my true calling. Honestly, the moment I realized I had to make my way back to music and performing was when I had a breaking point of stress at work and life. It was like 8pm on a Tuesday and I decided to have a “concert” singing and dancing to my favorite Disney pop songs on my bed with my Swiffer mop as a mic, singing to a crowd — my dog and a mirror.

After my “set” I just broke down crying tears of joy and sadness that a singing career was never going to happen for me. I was filled with feelings of future regrets. But that planted the seed for me to search for vocal coaching again. From there, I came across an artist development program. I applied on a whim and got accepted in December! Since then, I’ve been working incredibly hard to make my lifelong dream a reality! 

It sounds like that was several months of intense “musical therapy” which led you to produce new music. It also sounds like it was an inspiring and motivating time for you. I know you’re hoping in hindsight the experience also inspires and motivates others. 

What can we look forward to hearing later this year as a result?

I can’t give you any sneak previews BUT what I can tell you is that I am working with my friend, Laura Van Houten, who is an LA-based cinematographer. We’re collaborating on something that will be released in July. And I am in production for my second single to be released soon. I am incredibly excited about it.

In this slowly evolving, yet increasingly diverse, industry, how do you feel your South Asian American image and perspective will help propel you to stardom?

I think I have a unique background that a lot of South Asian Americans can relate to, but it has yet to find its place in the media. I’m excited to connect with others who can relate!! 


SoCal gigs


Where can we find you performing in Southern California? 

I just had my first performance playing Breaking Sound at Durango Cantina for their Gimme the Mic series! I am actively looking for more opportunities to perform and find new friends who resonate with my music. Please reach out if you’re interested

You’ve released your debut single today! You’ve put so much work into this singular event. Congrats on this exceptional accomplishment!


Get the song


To download Sareena’s music visit

Interview and text by María Felicia Kelley — @1mariafelicia, 28 June 2024
Writer, Publisher, EP – SoCal Spotlight
Copyright © 2024 María Felicia Kelley | Circle7531, LLC

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