Phoenix musician Saiah decided to take his career seriously after an ... unusual occurrence.
“One day, me and my boys did 'shrooms and we were in a hot tub and I just walked home alone and had this spiritual experience,” he says. “I asked myself, ‘What do you have to do for yourself right now? What do you like doing?’ And basically the answer that I got was to make music, and do something I can put all these emotions into.”
Before the fateful hot tub incident, Saiah had been dabbling in music while attending college on a track scholarship.
“We were making, like, Lil Pump shit,” he says. “Just fucking around, not really caring about what music really is. Eventually, I flipped the switch and I told myself, ‘I like doing this and I don’t really like going to school.’”
From then on, music was his business. And though it sounds like a cliche, it's nearly impossible to categorize his work. His EP 3 trends toward R&B, but has synth and trance elements. The Loverboyraceway Lostboy EP sounds like indie rock with hip-hop moments. Other songs incorporate sounds of pop and country. The uniting factors are the creativity and the talent.
Saiah says that as he dived headfirst into music, he started to realize that music, in the way he wanted to pursue it, was about being in the moment.
Case in point: the song and video for "BLACK(PLANET)," a track off his new EP, honest red, which was released in October. The song speaks to the ongoing tension between Black individuals and law enforcement.
"I love myself so much / My skin makes cops go nuts," Saiah croons.
The video was filmed in two places — one, a desert road, where Saiah and a band of Gen Zers annoy a sheriff type; and at MacAlpine's Diner & Soda Fountain in the Coronado District of Phoenix, where Saiah bops around with green hair and painted green fingernails amid the midcentury kitsch.
Local producer Jordan Tomaeno, known as Squrl, noticed Saiah early on in the performer's career.
“I saw him on someone’s Instagram story and I was like, ‘Who the fuck is this kid?’” Tomaeno says. “His stage presence just grabbed my soul.”
The two met up over coffee and started discussing working together. The 2019 Loverboyraceway Lostboy EP was the duo’s first project.
Tomaeno said he appreciates Saiah’s willingness to constantly make something new, to “throw random shit at the wall.”
“We just go in there and do whatever we want,” he said.
Saiah’s most-streamed song on Spotify, “Polaroid,” has a distinctive guitar twang, for example. Tomaeno says he draws inspiration from all different kinds of music, and was on a country kick when “Polaroid” was being workshopped.
“I was trying a weird country riff over top of the track and it just worked,” he says. “There’s no limit to the creativity. It’s not boxed up.”
Nor does Saiah lack for self-confidence.
"I am bigger than just the music itself,” he says. “I believe in myself as an artist, not just a musician.”
Making honest red, Saiah says he was inspired by his need to see more personal growth in himself than he was currently experiencing.
“Honest red is me being 100 percent honest,” he says. “And red is the color of anger, but also the color of love ... there’s a thin line between love and hate.”
Saiah says the project took a large toll on him. But when the time comes for him to make another EP, it's a fair bet it won't sound too much like the last one.
“Our relationship is based around nothing ever being stagnant,” Tomaeno says. “That’s one of the best and worst things about Saiah: He simply won’t do the same thing twice.”