Off and on again, we’ve heard her beautiful covers being played at cafes and restaurants in Malaysia. So when we were told that we’d finally be able to meet her in person, we jumped at the opportunity.
Sabrina (real name Roli Alexandra Xanxan Orial) is a Filipino recording artiste and acoustic singer of cover versions. She first gained recognition for her renditions of popular hit songs, which later inspired her to release an “I Love Acoustic” record.
It proved to be a success and to date, she has a total of 8 studio albums from the “I Love Acoustic” series. We say “success” because Sabrina effectively won over the hearts of music fans in a time when YouTube cover musicians were quickly gaining momentum.
We took it back to basics when we met up with Sabrina in the Philippines last weekend and spent a little time with her. Here’s what went down:
You’ve successfully launched a career on acoustic music and song covers. At which point in your life did you know that you wanted to do this?
That’s a good question! It all happened very fast. I started doing it when I was 18 year old and I didn’t know that it was going to be an album series at first. It was actually just like, “Okay, let’s try acoustic” and then they told me, “Hey, sales are good so we’re gonna do another one.” And before I knew it, I was working on my 5th album. I’m very blessed because it’s still going on, it became an album series. That motivated me to keep making every volume amazing. I want to make every album better than the previous one.
Having released so many beautiful covers of popular songs in the past decade or so, how do you decide which artiste or what songs to cover?
Basically, it’s decided by the listeners. Because we always pick out the hit songs from the charts – that’s when Universal Music Malaysia, Universal Music Philippines, and Universal Music Singapore come together and are like, “Okay, what’s really popular in your country?” Then we make a compromise because it’s just one recording and one setlist, and it’s going to be released in so many countries around Asia. So it’s a team effort to make sure that the songs work in every country.
Personally, what do you think draws people to your music, considering it actually centres on covers of original songs by some of the world’s leading artistes?
Actually, you know what? The trick is..I love singing but I don’t love listening to music. So it comes naturally to me to sing the songs in my own way. Because, you know, when you listen to somebody, you don’t know it but you tend to copy him or her, the way he or she sings. Also, my mentor previously told me, “If you’re going to cover a song that’s already there, you either do it better than the original or do it totally different” and I chose totally different. I just do it my own way. It’s a challenge especially when the song is about something that I can’t relate to like partying or going somewhere that I haven’t been. But my mentor told me to sing it as if I’m telling somebody else’s story.
Your fans call you “Asia’s Acoustic Sweetheart”. But what are some wacky qualities about yourself that they’d be surprised to find out about?
You know, they’re going to be hearing a lot of my wacky qualities in my new album because I’ll be releasing original songs. And those are songs that I’ve written myself and the thing is, I only write songs when I’m feeling negative emotions. Because I don’t wanna verbalise it or call my friends up when I’m sad and share my burdens with them. So I just get a pen, a piece of paper, and my guitar, and write a song. It’s like making something good out of a situation that isn’t necessarily good. Coming out with original songs..it’s like, you guys are really going to get to know me. Wacky qualities and all.
How many songs are there on your original album and which would you say are your personal favourites?
8 songs and out of those 8 songs, 7 are mine. I love them all. Really! Each song is a different emotion. My single right now is “Hypnotized”, so it’s kinda like my side that’s..sexy because it’s inviting the one that you love to be with you. Like, “I will show you that I’m the one for you” and me fighting for my love. There’s a song about anger and another song about being rebellious called “Just Cause You Want To”. It’s like inviting you guys to do whatever you like, to hell with what everyone thinks about it, do it just cause you want to. The album should be out within this year, I’ve just wrapped up the photoshoot ;)
Have you got a bucket list of dream collaborations? Who’s on the list?
Bruno Mars. I think he’s..not only an awesome performer but also an awesome composer. The songs that he has put out, they all seem to have come out of nowhere because they’re not alike. I’d like to work with him one day and make a “Lazy Song” kind of song. And I’m that kind of person. Very chill, go with the flow..
Do you have any music listening guilty pleasures? What are they?
Yes, reggae. Reggae! I don’t mind who it’s from, of course Bob Marley is the best but I also like this band called Kolohe Kai. I think they’re actually Jamaican like legit reggae. They’ve disbanded but their music lives forever.
Last but not least, what can fans look forward to from Sabrina this year?
You guys should really watch out for my original album. Originally, it was supposed to be released only for the Philippines market. For Malaysia and the Southeast Asian region, it was supposed to be just the “I Love Acoustic” album series. Fortunately, I think we’re going to release it in Malaysia too, we’ve been talking about it. It’s amazing, right? Because these songs are kinda like my battle scars, these are songs that I’m proud of and are my actual experiences.
We honestly can’t wait to hear it, Sabrina! Thank you so much for the chat. We’ll leave you now with Sabrina’s original single titled, “Hypnotized” off her upcoming original album. Enjoy: