Expressing your feelings is hard. Just ask Evan, aka Saro, a rising singer who excels in songs that touch your heart deeply with their undeniably exact truths. Akin to embracing his racial androgyny, he eschews genres and instead pursues the perfect form of a sound he can call his own. The result is a dark and trance-like flavor of pop that cuts to the heart but leaves your ears happy at the same time. His perspective is just as valuable as his natural vocal talent, to which he applies a songwriting skill that leaves little room for mis-interpretations. His own words on his latest release, "Sky Doesn't Blue", out on the 8th of June;
"I wrote 'Sky Doesn't Blue' in the shower. It’s dedicated to the inevitable death of novelty. How as you get older, things get harder, naiveté fades, and colors begin to dull. There's no love like the first love, and the sky will never be as blue as it once was."
Reading it so plainly you might think listening to his music might bring on the blues. This is not the case, however. The truth in the emotional vocals evoke solidarity, as if standing as a reminder that we, too, can rise above the heavy themes that he touches on.
Forthcoming this year is the release of his sophomore EP, alongside the accompanying music videos he produces for each of his songs. Ahead of that, we sat down with him to learn a little bit about his background, his process, and his recording techniques.
Magnetic Mag: When did you first start singing?
Saro: Pretty much from the beginning. When I was young my parents would try to record me singing, which I didn’t like it because I was sorta “anti-me”. But they believed in me and knew I could sing, so they’d hide recording devices and send the results off to people. When I found out, I’d brush it off and be like “No! Let me play Starcraft!” My mom was a singer when I was growing up, and she kinda stopped that whole front just to raise me and my sister. I am half black, half white, and although I got my vocals from her, my dad, who is black, gave me the natural rhythm.
MM: When did you embrace your voice?
Saro: After college when I was living in LA I saw a lot of my friends having success, which opened my eyes to the possibility, but there was definitely one night that started it all. I was kinda drunk at a party when my friend Simone picked up a guitar to jam. I had never done it in front of people, but I started to sing along, and she was like “Oh my god! You can sing!” From there, her and I started writing songs together and she convinced me to do a music video for one of my songs. People really seemed to like it so it just sorta snowballed from there.
MM: What sounds did you pursue?
Saro: I always thought that I didn't wanna do pop. I'm not a person that really likes to be a center of attention. Whether or not it looks that way when I’m on stage, I'm definitely the shy and reserved type. Then I met David Burris, the producer who I do everything with now, who showed me this one track that inspired me so much that I pulled out my OG blackberry and recorded a freestyle. That song became “Jupiter”, which I released under the name Evan Mellows. It was the birth of my artistic self, and although it's gotten weirder, my current sound is digestible in a different way. I’m very much about openness and I like to incorporate androgyny into the vocals, like when you hear it and you’re like “is that a girl??”
MM: What’s your process for songwriting?
Saro: I freestyle a lot melody wise, which is where it starts. The lyrics I saw are always pretty random but some of them stick. Or the melodies will sound like words and then the lyrics will just pop into my brain. A lot of the time it's very dark; I'm really inspired by The Smiths who excel at the plainly stated dark statements. Writing is the release of my dark pent-up thoughts, and so if I use a word like “rainbows” while freestyling I’ll try and swap it out with a darker word.
MM: What are your biggest musical influences?
Saro: Lyrically, definitely Radiohead and The Smiths. Vocally, I learned to sing from Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross, so R&B has a huge influence on my sound. Production wise, we do whatever the hell we want. I’ll sit there with David and be like, "What if we find a helicopter sound on YouTube and run it through every plug-in in the book?”
Sometimes our productions take a long time because of that freedom, though. We made the song “Looking” when we were trying to push ourselves to see if we could make a song featuring only vocal elements. When I went in to sing a verse, he took the spit-pops between my words and expanded them into kicks. We liked how it sounded, so he went ahead and made the entire song out of the vocals. Every sample, including the synths, were my vocals stretched out and played with. It's one of the more pop-y songs that we have, but just thinking about how much work and how much innovation went into it is mind-boggling. He created every sound, you know?
The visual album accompanying his freshman release.
MM: You produce the music videos for all your songs, how did you get into that?
Saro: I was living with this girl a couple of years ago who was a photographer and she started shooting footage for me. I went on lynda.com to learn how to edit and started putting my videos together. Recently, I met this girl Stormy Henley, who is absolutely incredible. She shot all my music videos for my previous EP, In Loving Memory, and all my music videos for my forthcoming EP. We kind of rock the one two punch, it's literally been her and I, pretty much zero budget for everything. It's kind of like you have to do what you can do with what you have, and I've done it all on favors.
MM: What new themes are you excited to touch on with your forthcoming EP?
Saro: All of the writing comes from the same place, so it’s not necessarily new. A lot of it focuses on dealing with loss, and dealing with mourning. When I record, I record in pitch black. It’s always like "Dave, turn off the lights" so I can go in and let all the feels come out. Sometimes it’s a bit too dark, and I’ll be like “Whoa, don’t go there”.