As a kid, her strict parents wouldn’t allow her to hang out at the local youth center, and she didn’t have many friends. “So music became my best friend, and I wanted to remember that emotion. That it should never be about anything else — just heart,” says the singer born Sampda Sharma.
The look caught on. Hardcore fans arrive at her gigs sporting their own face-heart makeup.
“I always tell them, ‘Remember to paint your heart your way, for whatever’s important to you, because it might not be music for you,’” says the artist, who plays The City this week, premiering her self-titled EP and forthcoming full-length “Bombay Calling.”
She treasures the dressing-room application, which can take 15 minutes to an hour. “The heart is never the same, but I always do it myself,” she says.
It’s a necessary rite, thanks to the many left turns Samsaya’s career has taken.
After starting to write and record hip-hop-influenced music in her bedroom — her first song was “Why Do You Want to Rule Me?” as an angry rebuttal to her mother, who secretly scanned her lyrics for improprieties — she tracked an awkward debut in 2004, “Shedding Skin.”
While promoting it on Norwegian music television, her enthusiasm for rock videos so impressed the station execs, they offered her a weekly VJ program, “Topp 10.”
Running down the country’s most popular clips taught Samsaya a great deal about the art of production.
“I learned that it doesn’t have to do with technology as much as a great idea,” says the auteur, who just shot a video for her new “Good With the Bad” single in, of all places, Kansas. “I also saw that recycling is the biggest thing, and it’s always going to happen.”
The telegenic musician also acted in Nordic films such as “Hawaii, Oslo” and the splatterfest “Villmark,” with the tagline “They should have stayed away from that lake.”
“Yes, the lake was very bad, but I was like, ‘Yeah! I want to be in a horror movie and die in the worst possible way!,” she says.
It’s connected to her spiritual pre-show face painting, which she says, “directs me to the center of what I’m doing. And to be honest, it could be your final performance, the last time you get to do what you love the most. So I want to put everything into it.”
IF YOU GO
Samsaya, opening for Ella Eyre
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $13 to $15 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.rickshawstop.com