Bixby Knolls singer-songwriter Sabrina Carmen releases dream-pop single ‘Dreaming Wide Awake’

Inspiration is a fickle creature. Nebulous, random, sometimes inconsiderate; it can strike at any moment.

For singer and songwriter Sabrina Carmen, the inspiration for her newest single, “Dreaming Wide Awake” struck while she was sprawled on her sofa, watching “Cobra Kai,” on Netflix.

“It’s really funny and silly because there is nothing remotely ’80s about the song at all,” Carmen said by phone. “There was just this really pretty instrumental playing in the background in one of the scenes and out of nowhere this ethereal idea pops into my head.”

Ethereal, dreamy, serene; all are apt descriptions of Carmen’s newest single, “Dreaming Wide Awake” which dropped Aug. 13 and to date clocks over 21,000 plays on Spotify.

The near four-minute single is a lush dream-pop track draped with ambient, atmospheric soundscapes. Lyrically, it’s contemplative, curious, but energized by Carmen’s honey-toned vocals which exude clear signs of power and control as most evidently captured in the chorus’ final run.

“I’m really happy with how it turned out and just the drama behind it,” the 30-year-old singer said. “But it definitely went through a metamorphosis.”

Like many musicians who had to pivot their lives during the pandemic, Carmen realized the possibilities of creating music remotely. During lockdown she discovered an online music course and befriended fellow artists Rebecca McBride, Rebekah Wilbur, Jamie Miller and music producer Matt Richert from the course.

McBride, Wilbur and Miller helped workshop lyrics, themes and melody building from Carmen’s original scratch—a sweet, intimate track with soft vocals and piano melodies. Richert, who mixed and mastered the piece, envisioned the cinematic soundscape.

Navigating time zones was an interesting challenge, Carmen said, with Wilbur based in Virginia and Richert and Miller in Chicago. Carmen streamed via Zoom from her Bixby Knolls home.

“I had just never done anything like that before. Normally you just vibe so well with people in the [studio] room. So this was different, but working with them has been as comfortable as working with people I’ve known for years,” she said.

“Dreaming Wide Awake” marks a new chapter in the artist’s music career, both in sound and identity. Growing up in Torrance with a mother and father in the arts—her mom was an actress who performed in off-Broadway shows and her father, a playwright—her childhood soundtracks were anthems by Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Because of her parents, she fell in love with musical theater and jazz performance. Her talents landed her a mentorship under Seth Riggs, the accomplished vocal coach who developed the Speech Level Singing technique employed by Streisand and late greats Prince, Michael Jackson among many other prominent singers.

She considered a formal education at Berklee School of Music after high school, but ultimately deferred, a decision she doesn’t regret, “I was constantly in a world of education,” she said.

It was a courageous decision, but one that led her into the Los Angeles music industry, landing back-up vocal credits on the 2013 30 Seconds to Mars album “Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams” and television appearances also singing backup vocals on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show with 30 Seconds to Mars and Youngblood Hawke. Showcasing her singing and dancing talents, she also appeared in a GAP commercial with Janelle Monáe.

She continued to develop her songwriting under the tutelage of seasoned industry pop songwriters Billy Steinberg and Ken Hirsch, with whom she also claims co-writing credits.

Having a taste for collaboration, in 2016 Carmen ventured out on her own, forming her solo career under the moniker “MadLyn,” in honor of her mother who died of breast cancer in 2013. But in 2020, she did a bit of soul searching.

“It was such a crazy year for us all, so it allowed me the space and time to sit with my thoughts and think more about who I was and what I wanted my next chapter to be,” she said.

This next chapter, as Sabrina Carmen, promises the truest version of the artist yet—one eager to experiment, adventure, grow.

Listen now on Spotify:

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Cheantay Jensen is reporter and award-winning videographer who covers entertainment, art, food and culture for the Hi-lo section of the Long Beach Post. And sometimes breaking news, you know, just to keep things interesting.