Gaeya Gives the Earth a Voice on Debut EP ‘Awakening’

Photo Credit: Annie Hyrefeldt

Swedish world-beat artist Sandra Zackrisson adopted the stage name Gaeya as an homage to the Greek goddess Gaia, who acts as a voice for mother Earth. And that’s the role she aims to play with her music — speaking out about issues affecting the Earth, as well as celebrating it.

Zackrisson is partly descended from the Sami, a Scandinavian indigenous tribe, and her sonic style and lyrical content stem in part from their music and philosophy. “Nature and the relationship to nature always were present during my childhood and during my younger years when I worked with music,” she says. “But it wasn’t until I was a bit older that I realized I could combine those two, and that resulted in Gaeya in the end.” 

Gaeya’s debut EP, Awakening, spans five enchanting songs that sound almost like the soundtrack to a fantasy video game, with her Disney-princess-like voice against ambient piano, steady percussion, and dreamy synths. The lyrics interweave to narrate a deep personal journey that’s synchronous with the larger journey of the Earth and humanity.

The mystical opening track, “Contact,” sounds almost like a cry to extraterrestrial or otherworldly beings, though Zackrisson wrote it about the search for human connection. The video plays into the fairy-tale-like vibe of the music, with Gaeya wandering through a magical forest, then moving through hypnotizing choreography with a dancer.

Next is “Truth,” an upbeat, powerfully sung track about “finding your own truth and what you stand for and sharing what you believe in a loving way and respectful way so you respect others’ differences,” she explains. Between forceful drums and high-pitched yells, it sounds almost like a battlecry for truth-seeking in a world full of lies. Its video gives off an even more empyrean vibe than “Contact,” with an animated green paradise and a glowing light in the woods, representing the path toward one’s own inner light.

“Aureola” gives off a poppier, more electronic vibe, beginning with vivid verbal portraits of “brightness while moonshine/touches my skin/counting the planets/circling through my head” then describing the process of bringing a dying planet back to life — “wise will we try/to bring life to a drought” — and the atmospheric “Micro Orbits” is about finding peace and being one with the Earth.

The last song, “Tide for the Change,” is the one Zackrisson considers the anthem of the EP, declaring in almost whispered vocals, “with nature still breathing, I know we can still turn around,” then escalating into a soaring, hopeful chorus about the resilience of nature.

“‘Tide for the Change’ is the song that I would say is putting down the mark of what Gaeya is and what we try to communicate about a future that is positive, it’s beautiful, and that we’re a place where the Earth can thrive and we can thrive together with it,” she says. “We only have to start to realize and reconnect to that relationship and see ourselves as part of the Earth.”

Working with producer Anders Rane on the EP, she aimed to blend electronic effects with natural, organic-sounding instrumentals. “We mainly started off with a beat or a piano, maybe some synth pattern that we use, and from there we build the song up,” she says. They altered the vocals very little, aside from layering some harmonies. Gaeya has released acoustic versions of her singles “Truth” and “Contact,” and her next move will be to release an entire acoustic EP.

When people listen to Awakening, she wants them to feel inspired to improve the world and hopeful that they can make a difference. “If they have an idea of wanting to do something, make some changes, go for some goals, I hope they feel they have the support inside themselves and the music can give that sort of reminder,” she says.

Gaeya used to hold concerts in big tents, followed by talks with the audience about sustainability and how to help the environment. “Then I got the inspiration — it would be quite fun to have a space where I can invite guests, where we can talk about these kinds of things that are not hitting the radar on the big news channels,” she says. “We tend to focus a lot on the climate, but there are very important things when it comes to ecosystems, when it comes to the local economy, there are things connected to water systems and energy systems that need to be brought more into the light.” This led her to start her podcast tellUs, where she speaks with experts about topics ranging from biodiversity to buying locally.

She hopes that both her music and her podcast send the message that “the world is not going backwards,” she says. “We still have a choice to make a difference, even though a lot of things are happening and they can be challenging. There’s always a possibility that we can work with our mindset and do something productive and positive, and it doesn’t have to be much. It’s just about our way of thinking and what we send out to others.”

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