Content warning: This article contains mentions of mental illness and suicide. Reader discretion is advised.
Photo by Saro/Instagram
"Will you smile for this photo? Will you please smile. You never smile.”
After countless requests from his mother to smile for a picture, Evan Windom thought it’d be best to play one of his favorite songs, "Pretty Girls Makes Graves” by The Smiths, to get him through the obligatory family event he had been attending. The lyrics: "And sorrow's native son/ He will not smile for anyone," replayed in his mind as he resonated with a word he had been dealing with for some time — sorrow.
“It hit me in a new way,” he said.
Following his best friend’s suicide in 2014, Windom was set to release an EP under the name of Evan Mellows when he scrapped the project altogether. The death of his friend had impacted him greatly and at that given moment, he felt there was no point in releasing his work.
"My first project was inspired by her...it's dedicated to her."
It was then when the singer-songwriter decided he would no longer be artistically known as Evan Mellows— so, Evan Mellows became Saro.
The California native was born in Oxnard and moved to Calabasas at the age of four. He defined his upbringing as “interesting,” explaining that during high school students would return with different faces after the summer break.
Growing up as the youngest of two and the offspring of divorced parents, Saro’s exposure to music came at an early age. His mother, a jeweler for most of his life, was in the studio recording with her band when she was pregnant with him. While unfortunately for us, her EP is not on the internet, Saro attributes his exposure to music, while in his mother's womb, to his love for recording.
“She has one EP that I think she put out...I’ve played it for my musical creative team and we’ve tried sampling it for songs before and nothing has really been that exciting yet,” he explained. “But, I’m going to use it at some point, somewhere.”
The singer-songwriter’s moody-alt-R&B-pop sound is a culmination of the different musical eras he’d listened to as a teenager. The avid music listener spent a portion of his teenage years listening to artists like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Bob Marley, among many other household names. However, Saro describes his current music inspiration as dark, saying, “I’m back to my dark ways. I went through a breakup in November and that’s been haunting me a little bit...so anything dark happening in my mind, I’ll be inspired by that.”
His latest single, “Daddy I Love Him,” plays around with an electronic-pop element and tells the singer’s coming-out story. He admits that the narrative being so straightforward was something he was insecure about as it was unlike anything he had previously released.
“Usually my lyrics can be interpreted in so many different ways, this song is very like ‘this is the story, this is what I’m saying,’” he said.
While the single’s reaction was well-received, the singer revealed that his previous relationships played a huge part in how direct the lyrics actually were.
“The very first line of the song is ‘he has a snake tattoo on his face.’ I dated a guy who after we stopped dating...got a snake tattoo on his face and I was like ‘what were you thinking?’” he said.
“Later on, I remembered a relationship where I was still living with my dad…and I was dating a guy that was always over and my dad hated him. So the song became about him— and he doesn’t know.”
Saro explained that the guidance he’s received from celebrities like Laverne Cox and Lionel Richie has been useful and something he’s integrated into his musical routines. The singer recalled one of Richie’s one-liners, saying, “They always call you crazy just before they call you a genius.”
As for his musical inspirations? Saro admitted that they have evolved, but, that his best friend will always be the reason why he makes music.
“A piece of her is in every song I’ve ever written,” he said. "As time goes on, I feel a little further from her. But, she's the reason why I make music. She was pursuing music really heavily when we met and it was something that was always in the back of my mind for my whole life. She heard me sing one night drunkenly and was like 'Oh my god, you can sing?' So she got me to go to the studio with her and from that moment on I was like 'Okay, this is what I want to do.'"
Saro’s debut album is set to cover a wide array of genres like pop, R&B, and even some visual elements. The singer said he hopes to be back on stage later this year or early next year.