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Daro Santiago: A Champion For Change

Written by on December 14, 2022

Vocalo sat down with multidisciplinary artist Daro Santiago to talk about finding his voice, overcoming adversity and a new music project that’s on the horizon.

Daro Santiago is a champion of change — both in his personal life and in his music. Taking inspiration from Lizzo’s body positivity, Santiago continuously strives to show the world that the stories of bigger-bodied people are important, too. He learned to use his voice and instrumentals to tackle so much more than banging beats and witty lyrics, instead using his music as a vehicle to start conversations and break barriers. 

“I’m also a larger-bodied person, and my music stems from my personal experience,” Santiago explained. “I love music that can make you dance but still have a message to it.”

Daro accomplishes both with his music: creating a fun soundscape anyone can groove to while shining light on important topics. One song, “No Fats, No Fems,” especially dives deep to tackle problems in the queer community, allowing listeners to come into his world. The song is a war cry for body positivity in the queer community. 

“Fatphobia is real when it comes to dating,” Santiago said. “I had to incorporate that in my music.”

Daro doesn’t stop with creating music, but he continues to share his story through creating his book and his podcast “Daro’s Daring Thoughts,” where he shares details and stories from his personal life with listeners.

Daro Santiago stopped by the Vocalo studios to sit down with production intern Joshua X. Miller and discuss being an independent author, creating a podcast and his new EP coming in 2023. 

Joshua X. Miller and Daro Santiago outside the Vocalo studios.
Photo by Morgan Ciocca, Vocalo Radio / Chicago Public Media.

Joshua X. Miller: Hello Vocalo listeners, this is Vocalo 91.1 FM. My name is Joshua X. Miller, and I am here today with a special, special, special guest. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Daro Santiago: Hello, everyone that’s listening! My name is Cordaro, but my artist name is Daro Santiago.

JXM: Daro Santiago!

DS: Yes. [Laughs]

JXM: So tell us a little bit about yourself, Daro. What are your pronouns and what got you started into making music?

DS: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. My pronouns are he/him, they/them. I never saw myself as an actual music artist. I used to be very insecure about my voice, so I never, never saw myself as a solo artist. I like singing with people, I like blending and singing with people, but never didn’t really care for my voice by itself — and kind of still don’t sometimes. 

I was on this journey of… writing projects, like film projects, and I said, “Well, music is needed for the projects. I don’t feel like asking people for their music or spending the money, so why not just do your own music?” And so it started there, and I was like, “Wow, okay. So I kind of got something here!” I actually found my sound, and when I found my sound and found my lane and my voice, I said, “Okay, now I know I can make music.” Now I’m on the journey of making my new EP.

JXM: Come on, new EP! We’re going to get into the new EP, definitely, and talk a little bit about that — but first, I want you to describe what your music is like. What is your music about? What does it stem from? Where does your inspiration come from?

DS: Absolutely. I am Black, I’m queer and I’m also a larger-bodied person. So my music stems from my personal experience. And if I can put a sound on my music, I don’t know, because I love all genres and I wanted my music to reflect all genres of music. But I think what sound has worked for me is definitely pop house, dance. That is my sound, and that’s the type of music I love to make. And so it works for me and I really like it. I love music that can make you dance but still have a message to it.

JXM: So something you said really strikes me. You said you are a bigger-bodied person. And something that you were very vocal about, especially on your social media, is the fact that you make music for the “big boy” community.

DS: Yes.

Photo courtesy of Daro Santiago.

JXM: Tell me about that journey, of making music for the “big boy” community.

DS: I think Lizzo inspired me. Lizzo inspires me so much with her music. I was like, ‘Okay, there’s not really a… guy Lizzo in pop and stuff like that.’ I am someone who likes to make music about my experiences in love and dating. And I can’t do that without talking about the fact that I am a larger body, and fatphobia is real when it comes to dating. I had to incorporate that in my music. It’s pretty much prevalent in all my music, but it’s more prevalent in “No Fats No Fems,” because it speaks of the “no fats, no fems” culture that is in the queer community, especially the Black queer community.

JXM: We’re talking a little bit about your music, but music isn’t the only thing that you do, right?

DS: No it isn’t

JXM: I want to talk specifically about your book.

DS: I will never be #1 in His Life: The Story of Dating Downlow Men, that came out in 2017. 2017 was a really good year for me. That book took five years to write because… I knew what I wanted to talk about, but, again, never saw myself as an author. I was writing poems, and my poems started becoming so long that someone was like, “Why don’t you just write a book?” [Laughs] They was like, “Why is your poem three pages?” I said, “Well, I guess you’re right. Let me do a book!” So I decided to write a book, but I was scared because it was a very vulnerable book. It’s very personal… I completely opened up my life with this book.

JXM: So what was that journey like for you, definitely getting the courage to write about that? Because, just like you said, it took five years.

DS: I kept wanting to put everything in one book, and so I said, “Okay, you have to separate this and break it down.” That’s why there’s a Volume I, and a Volume II will be coming out soon. It was very therapeutic writing… I did get anxiety when it was time to put it out, but I had gone through the emotions writing it. And so the writing it, and then I had to read it so many times, and then I let someone edit it, I let somebody else edit it… it was just so much. So I felt relieved, I was actually able to exhale after I wrote that first part, because I let my mother read it first. And then if my mother would have said no, I wasn’t going to do it. I wouldn’t have done it.

JXM: Let me tell you, you are truly an inspiration. Because after just watching your journey, creating a book and then creating music and then creating a theater company, and then — okay, because it just continues — creating a podcast, [“Daro’s Daring Thoughts,”] where you are still kind of dissecting some of these stories and some of these traumatic experiences that you have gone through.

DS: It’s so funny, I realized that I love to have open conversations about everything that’s going on. I think, when I started the podcast, it was literally just like pop culture and things that are current in the news. And then, my podcast evolved to me being more open with my personal life. And honestly, when I started doing that, that’s when my listenership grew. When I started being less scripted and more real, more people started engaging with things that I had to say.

JXM: I want to get into this EP!

DS: Oh, gosh!

JXM: Let’s talk about it! What is it called? How long have you been working on it? When is it coming out?

DS: Absolutely. So, as of right now, there are going to be five songs on the EP, but the EP is called Therapy Session/ Diary of a Fat Gay … I can’t say that word! But, Black person. Even though this is only an EP, I wanted to tell a story. So it’s surrounded by my therapy session.

JXM: I love that concept because I think, just like you said, it gives you the opportunity to share your story, which is something that, throughout this whole conversation, you have been doing consistently. When are you thinking about dropping it?

DS: So it’s dropping during pride month of next year. It’s dropping June 12, 2023, and that date, specifically, because that is the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Because that date has always meant something to me and those victims, I just said… I wanted to drop my EP on this date so it’s something that I can use to just honor them as well.

JXM: And what’s something that you hope your listeners will gain from listening to this EP?

DS: I really want this to show people that queer big men are out here, and people want us and we go through the same things y’all go through. We break up, we make up and do all of those things.

JXM: This has been an honor. This has been a pleasure. And I just want to thank you for coming in, sharing your story, sharing your truth. Go ahead and tell people where they can find you, find your music, where they can follow you.

DS: Yes, I have two Instagram pages, so I’m going to give you both. @Cordaro_Santiago is where you can find me on Instagram. My other Instagram page is @Daro_Santiago, and that’s where you can find me, hit me up, whatever. Podcast is Daro’s Daring Thoughts, which is on all platforms where you can listen to podcasts… and my music is everywhere, it’s streaming everywhere and it’s Daro Santiago.

Keep up to date with Daro Santiago on his Instagram, and stream his music on Spotify below.

Interview, audio production/ editing and written introduction by Joshua X. Miller

Transcription by Joshua X. Miller, edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

Photography by Morgan Ciocca

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