Glass Meets global alternative-pop performer Stephanie Poetri

INDONESIAN and American-based singer Stephanie Poetri’s positivity radiates through her debut six-song EP, titled AM:PM, that was released earlier this month. Poetri, the daughter of Indonesian pop singer Titi DJ and her father, a music teacher, tells Glass that she learned about the industry and how to write country inspired lyrics from her parents.

The guidance that Poetri received resulted in her first global breakthrough track I Love You 3000 in 2019, which has 105m Spotify streams. Poetri, a Mnet Asian Music Awards award winner, is mindful of her international audience and “wants [her] identity more prominent in the writing [by bringing her] Indonesian-ness to the music.”

AM:PM, has two sides that musically emote both morning and night. Poetri gives listeners an option to choose a side and tells Glass that she wants to provide “a soundtrack to someone’s life.”

Through her lyrically vulnerable songs, AM:PM does just that. Poetri discusses her first major project below and before signing off, Poetri excitedly states that she wants to know which is your favourite side: “I don’t want your Zodiac sign, I want to know if you’re AM or PM”.

singer Stephanie Poetri x Glass
Stephanie Poetri. Photograph: Teuku Aji

When you began writing music, you were based in Indonesia and then moved to LA for a bit
after signing with 88rising, before returning to Indonesia. What experiences did you draw from living in both places and how did that affect your music?
Growing up in Indonesia, there’s a lot of things I experienced that made me realise how lucky I am, in the sense that both my parents are musicians. I definitely tried to be as mindful of the privilege that I have and [therefore] mindful of what I write.

It feels good to write about how you feel, but sometimes the negative emotions that I have I realise aren’t even that bad. I try to make every song have a positive connotation, just to say that everything is going to be okay.

Your upcoming debut album, AM:PM has a sense of duality in the title that can translate to night and day. How did you come up with the concept for this album and how did that change during the pandemic?
One of the songs was already done, and it was the last song that I wrote in the US and was just lingering there. It was darker and moodier and a song I would listen to at night. [During] live sessions, I would call my producers when they were in LA and I had to wake up early and would write songs more to this vibe which we ended up finding out is the AM vibe.

singer Stephanie Poetri x Glass
Stephanie Poetri. Photograph: Teuku Aji

So far, we’ve heard Selfish, IRL and How We Used To from the album. Can you tell us more about these tracks and the writing process behind them?
They were all completely different. With Selfish, it came as an unfinished demo, but I loved the idea and [did] an online session with the producers and writers to finish it. How We Used To, was the first song I wrote in the US. [It describes] the feeling of letting go of what was and be content with what is now. IRL was actually written in quarantine.

Those three songs came from three different places, but I think I got really lucky that they all fit together.

The music video for IRL features your friends and family and serves as a tribute to them. Can you talk about the process of making that video?
It was super fun. I wanted IRL to be a scrapbook of 2020 for me and a positive memory that I could have. I messaged a bunch of people and explained to them how I wanted [the song] to be something I could to look back to in the future so that I have a better reminder of what 2020 was, rather than how.

Can you also talk about your music videos for Selfish and How We Used To and how you created those?
Since those were PM songs, we got to use the neon purple, Lo-Fi lighting [which was] the vibe I wanted to go with. I always visualise a room every time I write a song. With [these songs], I can see a dark room with a certain light. I was also glad to work with other Indonesian people because I feel like it’s super cool to work with my people.

singer Stephanie Poetri x Glass

Stephanie Poetri. Photograph: Teuku Aji

Are there any specific tracks on the album that you are excited for the audience to hear?
The main single of the EP is called Paranoia and I love the song. It’s an upbeat song that’s a lot darker than what I’m used to putting out. The subject matter is something that a lot of people can relate to [including me]. It’s about overthinking, and you can take it into whatever situation and it will still make sense.

You recently performed at the NME home sessions and at the Head in the Clouds festival a couple years ago. What kind of venues do you see yourself performing at in the future?
I have this weird thing where when it’s a huge venue I have a sense that people are looking at me. I really love performing at more intimate venues where it’s a little darker or people are doing their own thing and I’m just there as the background music. It’s almost an experiment when I sing for people. I can tell which parts caught their ears.

What advice do you have for aspiring singers or what piece of advice have you received that you’re grateful for?
The one I would say that’s applicable to anything is to be genuine [and be yourself]. Whenever you try to be someone else, you will never be as good as someone you are trying to follow. One that’s more specific to music, is to be into a lot of people and a lot of genres.

If you try to expand the pool of what you’re listening to, it’ll make sure that the music that influenced you is what you like rather than what one genre dictates you to be. You’re your own genre. 

What has been the highpoint of your career so far?
As an adult, I feel extremely lucky that I could help my family [financially] even though I’m the youngest. My first award was at Mnet Asian Music Awards which is crazy, [because] I used to watch MAMA all the time.

Also just hitting all those streams. It’s almost like I dissociate myself with that person because I still don’t believe that it’s happening.

singer Stephanie Poetri x Glass
Stephanie Poetri. Photograph: Teuku Aji


by Chandana Kamaraj

Photographer: Teuku Aji