SPIN Magazine called the triple threat rapper-singer-songwriter a "shoo-in for Queen of Whatever-She-Needs-To-Be, Dammit." Whatever you call her you can bet that hat will fit only momentarily as this artist is on the move and not afraid to go outside her comfort zone to produce and record music that go deeps.
Chris Daniel had a chance to sit down and get candid with Sirah, JIGZ (DJ/rapper) and Justin Tyson (drummer) over genetically morphed carrots and wings from Three Kings at the Pageant in St Louis, Missouri this last week before her show.
CD: So, I am sure you get asked the same questions all the time so would you mind if we kept this a little more candid?
S: Awesome, that is cool
CD: I’m really curious about your journey over the last five or six years; your musical landscape has evolved dramatically, can you talk about why that is?
S: [laughs]... I think what happened was I was a bit closed minded, especially when I started out doing backpack rap. I feel like I just didn’t know any better. I really always loved pop music, pop-punk especially like “Taking Back Sunday” and stuff like that; I was a huge fan. When you buy into a certain genre wholeheartedly you shut yourself off from music in its entirety so I was really closed minded and kind of denying a certain part of myself. Honestly I think the moment that changed everything was when I had gone on Warped Tour and I saw all these people having fun, making fun music, making money and having fans.
I saw myself as this elitist, closed minded, angry little rapper and the kids surrounding me that were all angry as well. I realized I just didn’t like it. The shows, they were great but it was like I was working really hard to be a part of something that was never going to accept me anyway.
CD: Do you think that angry part stemmed from the days when you were learning how to MC at Project Blowed in LA and that environment; did that harden you up?
S: I think I was already hardened up by the time I got to that point but it was definitely the worst. So now if there is anything negative that happens now with shows on tour it’s not that big a deal. Really, have you ever had any one shoot at you cause they don’t like your music? Yeah, this is nothing, whatever is going on we’re going to be fine.
CD: Have your musical influences changed over time; I read you were big into Joni Mitchell and Cat Stevens?
S: No, that’s always been consistent. I think I just thought that I had to be a certain types of thing to get in with underground hip hop which to a certain extent you do. It’s like you’re always trying to prove something. I feel like when I went on Warped Tour I stopped feeling the need to have to prove something, getting older was definitely apart of that learning experience. I sacrificed myself to make this art that was for people who didn’t except me and that was like a huge turning point. I was like wait…I’m homeless and the little fans that I do have hate me, and everyone is kinda struggling and it’s all about a struggle. I don’t find anything spiritual or impressive about struggling.
CD: How did music find you?
S: My dad always played music and always played a range of instruments and so I grew up with a lot of music. Lyrics, especially created a way to just get out of my mind. I still get that way, if I am getting too caught up in stuff I just play music in my headphones for like 8 hours and then I am fine.
CD: So creating music that generates from your heart and soul and not just for other people is where you are at today?
S: I think the most important thing you’ll ever do is to be exactly who you are but when I was younger I didn’t know that. I always hated who I was or what my life was about.
S: The old stuff is still a part of me, even on this new EP it was weird cause there is pop and then a darker side too. It’s funny cause I’ve wanted to make pop music for the last four years. I recorded “Double Yellow” lines and “Inhale” literally in my closet all by myself. Funny enough now people want more of the hard rap because of what I did with Skrillix. I think it’s ironic how now more people are like “why can’t you just underground rap?” and I’m like what is happening to the world. [laughs]
CD: What can we expect for the next record?
S: Most of it is already done, it’s pop but kind of darker pop. I just went through a really weird transitional time this past year, not necessarily dark but I feel like when incredible things happen terrible things can happen as well. It’s like accepting life and just rolling with it as it happens. So I think the record kind of reflects that and what I have learned.
I was really fortunate to have teamed up with JIGZ (DJ) who’s also an incredible rapper and Justin Tyson on drums. These guys are so truly talented.
It’s actually a funny story how JIGZ and I teamed up… I found him on Sound Cloud – I really don’t even know this guy. [laughs] Actually this is a really good story of how we met, can I tell it?
J: Yeah, sure go ahead.
S: So in 2013 I went to the Grammys and I won the "Best Dance Recording" Grammy with Skrillix, surreal right?. I stayed inside and in bed for like four days after that night.
CD: Were you in shock?
S: I just kinda wanted to hide and not go out. I was like, what is happening to the world? So, I went on SoundCloud for like 15 hours a day during that time and just like found random people. I found this guys production, Serious Beats, and as a result hit him up. That’s how I found JIGZ who rapped and co-produced songs with Serious Beats. So I just tweeted JIGZ and was like… Yo, I love what you do, I am a huge fan etc., I basically stalked him on Twitter. JIGZ tweeted me back and was like, “Yo, didn’t you just win a Grammy?”
J: I thought it was one of those fake pages, I was like why are you tweeting me? [laughs]
S: Yeah, so we connected and I used one of his beats for “First Impressions” on the EP and recorded it in my room and then, well… here we are.
J: Next thing you know I got a call from Sirah; she like “can you learn how to DJ in 3 months to go on tour with me?”
S: It’s been awesome; I am a huge fan of his!
CD: That’s a pretty incredible story. It doesn’t get more organic than that. Sometimes it really pays off to follow your instinct or gut and follow that path. Have you found that to be the case along your journey in music?
S: Yeah, and I felt so lucky too, cause it’s like at the time I didn’t know Sonny (Skrillix) was going to be who he is now but he still took a chance on me, and he took a chance to write to me, and took a chance making music with me. I think that was a part of that thing with the Grammys, where I was like - holy shit this is insane and it’s also like not really real. It doesn’t really matter; it’s just about being a fan of music and perpetuating that with other people. JIGZ had never DJ’d before but I was like Yo, you are mad talented, you will figure this out – let’s go!
Stuff like that is really important to me, I am always listening to other people’s music and delving into it, you just never know.
CD: I have seen several labels used to describe your style of music. Do any of them fit? Does it drive you crazy to be labeled or put in a certain box?
S: Yeah, that drives me crazy! JIGZ, how would you describe me?
J: I would say… (thinking). She is indescribable.
S: Oooh, look at you [laughs]. I feel like people just need to chill, I get it but music is music. What’s ironic to me is last night I had a kid come up to me and asked me, “Why did you choose rapping?” I told him I didn’t. I just couldn’t sing, rapping chose me. That’s all I know is rap. I just always did this. I went through a ton of phases, too many phases but now I feel like I am finally grounded. I’ll forever be changing and growing but that’s ok.
CD: I can see that. You have to go through those phases to find yourself. Some people go through it early, some later in life but I think what is sad are those who never venture out far enough; never realizing who they really are.
S: That is altogether too true. Some people still don’t know who they are. I really like where I’m at right now in my life, I am pretty happy.
Sirah is on tour with Twenty One Pilots through December 2013. Tour Dates
Watch Sirah's video for "Up & Down" HERE