S-O-S Is On The Road To Self-Discovery
Written by Vocalo Radio on May 30, 2022
Featured image courtesy of @Kieferroflix
S-O-S strives to be someone young artists can look up to.
Chicago based R&B artist S-O-S, which stands for Soul of Serenity, crafts soulful R&B singles while trying to connect with the city’s diverse music community. She began making music during her childhood, singing in the church choir and recording covers in her bedroom until the release of her first Soundcloud single, “Overdosin,” in 2016. In the years since, S-O-S has been hard at work discovering her individual, authentic sound.
Noticing a lack of diversity — especially when it came to representation of Black women — in her courses while studying audio production and design at Columbia College Chicago, S-O-S became motivated to make a change in the field. Taking pride in recording, mixing and mastering all her music, S-O-S hopes to be an artist young women like her could see themselves reflected by.
S-O-S’ latest single, titled “Onna Guys,” was added to Vocalo’s May on-air rotation. She says the song was a pivotal moment for her, as the creative liberties she took on the track allowed for self-expression in new ways from past releases. We heard from S-O-S about Chicago’s music scene, her love of sunflowers and her work with local art collective Freesole.
Give us a rundown on your musical background! What or who initially inspired you to begin making music? Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
I come from a family of music lovers, so since birth I have been surrounded by so many eras and genres of music. My foundation definitely started with gospel music. When I was a child, I was part of the children’s choir at my church. My grandmother sang in every church choir that I can think of. My parents were also in a choir called Joshua’s Troop, which I am currently in now with my mom. I didn’t start taking music seriously until after I sang in my seventh grade talent show. After seeing how committed I was to singing, my mom gifted me with a MacBook, and I began to record cover songs in my bedroom with just the built-in microphone on my computer. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 that I wrote my first song called “Overdosin.” It was my very first Soundcloud release, and it is still one of my favorite songs that I’ve written.
How have you seen yourself grow as an artist since you first started out? What’s one piece of advice you’d give to artists just entering the music world?
My artistry has grown so much since I first started. It took me a while to figure out what my sound and brand was. I was initially just going by my first name, Sakyrah, as my artist name. Once I changed it to S-O-S, which means Soul of Serenity, it felt like an entire new world opened up. I had always been super shy, so changing my name gave me a space to be more vulnerable. Starting out, I felt so much pressure to try and write typical R&B-sounding love songs, because that was the sound of my first single. I quickly realized that I needed to rediscover who I really was as an artist and allow myself to not be hesitant to try sounds that I actually heard in my head versus what I thought people would want to hear from me.
A piece of advice that I would give artists entering the music world is to not overthink anything. It is so easy to second guess what we organically create out of the fear that people may not like it. There is a lane for everyone, so it’s important to remain confident because if we don’t believe in ourselves, then our audience surely won’t.
What’s something you most cherish about the Chicago music scene? What’s something you think could or should be improved?
I love the Chicago music scene because everyone here is super talented. Although I have been within the scene for a while, I am always encountering plenty of new and talented artists with sounds of their own. I wish that the artists here collaborated more often. I’ve always felt a sense of competition between Chicago artists instead of a sense of community. More people need to realize that there is room for everyone’s craft, and there is no need to feel as if we are up against another artist. No one artist is the same, therefore there is a space for us all.
Tell us about your work with Freesole! Give us a little background on the collective and when you first got involved with them. What most drew you to Freesole?
Freesole is a collective of young artists and producers from Chicago. I joined the collective in 2016 when I was a senior in high school. A few of my friends from my music class were already in the collective, and the music that they were creating was absolutely amazing. At the time, I was trying to begin my career as an artist, but I honestly did not know where to start. Everyone in Freesole was doing exactly what I wanted to venture into, and I knew that they were the perfect group of people to be around that would push me to be the artist that I knew I could be. If it weren’t for them, I definitely would not be the artist that I am today.
Tell us a little about the meaning behind your new song “Onna Guys.” What motivated you to write it?
“Onna Guys” was the most beautiful mistake. I was at a writing session with my friend Ajani Jones and Core REX. These two have sharpened my writing tremendously, so any time that I am in a session with them, a great song is bound to happen. Core REX produced the beat in no time at all, because he’s a musical genius, and for a while, no words came to me at all. As I was sitting there, I just felt like writing a song that perfectly represented me as a person and the type of sound that represented me best.
Before now, I had only released three singles, and [none] of them really captured who S-O-S is. I wanted this song to represent the balance of masculine and feminine energy that I have. It has a carefree energy that I feel represents how I move through life, doing what I want without worrying about outside opinions. Also, I feel as though Core REX does a great job at incorporating great musicality over more hip-hop-sounding drum patterns, which allowed me to still have that hip-hop feel while showcasing my voice.
What do you feel is the most rewarding aspect of getting to perform in front of a live audience?
The most rewarding aspect of performing in front of a live audience is being able to feel everyone’s energy. Every audience is different, so it’s always nice to see how each crowd will be. Performing original music in front of a crowd requires so much vulnerability, so seeing how people receive and respond to what I create will forever keep me inspired.
We noticed sunflowers are all over your Instagram feed! Do sunflowers have any special meaning to you? If so, could you elaborate on that a little bit?
Sunflowers represent so many things such as happiness, optimism, honesty, longevity and peace. They also stand taller than most flowers. Sunflowers also naturally turn so that they are facing towards the sun. This has always inspired me because, as I move through life, I always want to go where the light is and I always strive to be a light for others. Everything that a sunflower represents is what I wanted my brand to represent.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve taken away from your time attending school at Columbia College?
I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in audio design and production. It is no secret that the audio world is dominated by white males, so being a Black woman in that space was extremely challenging. In all of my years at the school, I only had a class with one other Black woman.
It was extremely challenging to feel heard over everyone else. Over and over again, I felt like an outlier. Having to operate in these rooms for so many years allowed me to take that discomfort and use it as motivation to make a change. I want to be a role model for any young Black women who dream of being engineers. Representation matters, and having that experience at Columbia has pushed me to continue utilizing that skill and helped me to get rid of any self doubt that I had. Every song that I have released has been recorded, mixed and mastered in my bedroom by me. Of course I can pay people to do it for me, but I want to be an example for the young women coming after me that we can be successful in this industry.
What’s next for S-O-S?
Right now, I am focusing on collaborating with as many people as I can in any way possible. I am so inspired by everyone in the city, and I hope that these collaborations will slowly but surely start to allow more artists to cross paths. I feel like I am just getting started all over again as I am rediscovering myself, so be on the lookout for fresh content!
Listen to S-O-S on Spotify below and follow her on Instagram.
Interview by Morgan Ciocca and George Chiligiris, edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca
Introduction written by George Chiligiris
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