Photo: Christian San Jose
SiR Is 'Chasing Summer' And, With A Little Help From Kendrick Lamar & Others, Making His Dreams Reality
You may have already jammed out to SiR's big 2019 summer mood single, "Hair Down," featuring the one and only Kendrick Lamar. If so, you already have a good starting place for understanding who the smooth R&B singer/producer, born Sir Darryl Farris, from Inglewood is. The vibey track is driven by SiR's warm, rich vocals over a slow-bubbling trap beat, elevated even further into the golden summer sunset by Lamar's verse. It's confident but laid-back—two words which also describe the artist himself well—a true slow-burn of a fire track.
"Hair Down" is the first track and the lead single to SiR's third album, Chasing Summer, which he dropped during Labor Day Weekend, on Aug. 30. It is his second LP released since he was signed to heavy-hitting Los Angeles label Top Dawg Entertainment. As he explains, it sets the tone for the rest of the album and also marks a major point of growth in his musical career and self-confidence.
"This time I was more direct about what I wanted, and I think that's huge. Your intentions when you go into things have to be put in the forefront if it's important. So this time around when I went into sessions, I was very vocal about exactly what I wanted, and the sessions went a lot better when I did that," he recently told the Recording Academy over the phone.
You recently dropped Chasing Summer, which is just such a perfect mood as summer comes to an end. What has the experience of this release felt like for you?
Man, it's one of a kind. Being the type musician I am, I'm very involved with each release, and this one feels different than the last two. Everybody around me was locked in, not just me. All the musicians and all of my team, my management had the common goals set almost a year ago, and just were building on this idea. So, it feels different, it feels evolved and it feels like a great direction. And I'm really proud of the work to say the least.
That's amazing, and I'm sure that's a really just great feeling to sort of be marinating in right now.
Yeah. It's awesome. It's definitely new territory for me. I'm just trying to keep up with myself now, which is fun.
"It's a very honest album, and I think that's a big reason why people gravitate towards it because I didn't really hold back this time around. I kind of made sure I was as honest as I could be and I think that's shining through for sure."
I love that. Can you speak to what your main vision for this album was?
The vision for the album is, it was all based off of my life on the road and all my experiences that I had accumulated over the last three or four years. With seeing my peers and just dealing with personal relationships, business relationships and trying to balance home and the road, and just my evolution as a human. I kind of put a lot of it into wax. It's a very honest album, and I think that's a big reason why people gravitate towards it because I didn't really hold back this time around. I kind of made sure I was as honest as I could be and I think that's shining through for sure.
I feel like it really does. I wanted to talk about the producers on the album. You worked with a handful of different people including Kal Banx and Sounwave from TDE as well as Boi-1da and a few others. How do you feel that working with these different creative minds helped challenge you and shape the trajectory of the album?
I'm going to answer this question, but I have a very specific thing about me that I really like. I work with people that want to work with me, so I don't chase beats; there's no rhyme or scheme. I didn't select certain people. I just put my head down and kept writing songs until we felt like we had a body of work. And then, what I do with most of my production is I'll get players to come in and add actual instrumentation to a good beat so that it has more life to it. I'm hands-on with all my mixes and masters. With all of the production, I was blessed to have really talented musicians around to help just elevate the sound, and I think that helps so much, man.
Working with cats like Boi-1da was an honor, of course, but I wouldn't hold him in higher regard than I would a Kal Banx, who damn near had six records on the album that he helped me produce and work on. So, I feel like everybody added their own sauce to it and it ended up being way bigger than I expected. But as far as like who produced what, I think that's not as important as the overall body of work, and we all knew that. With Kal, he wasn't worried when I told him I got a new base plate on the recipe. He didn't ask any questions, he just knew it was going to be saucy. You know what I mean?
I think, like I said, we all had a common goal. Once I laid out the plan and the vision for everybody, they were on board. So, we went into the every session with a specific goal in mind and we executed properly and I think it's going to pay off for all of us in the long run. I'm so excited for Kal. I'm excited to share this moment with him and see the response to his hard work, and it's all a blessing, really and truly.
It really seems like it was everything you would hope for in the studio, that everything is moving forward and flowing together, even with all the different people.
Yeah. I learned a lot from November and just how I kind of let a lot of people in the process in certain points where I didn't really necessarily mean to. This time I was more direct about what I wanted, and I think that's huge. Your intentions when you go into things have to be put in the forefront if it's important.
So this time around when I went into sessions, I was very vocal about exactly what I wanted, and the sessions went a lot better when I did that, and I think that helped give people an idea of what they should be doing when they come around. If you're a producer, I might not need you to make a whole beat, but I might need you to make these drums, or I might need you to play keys. Just be prepared to translate what I need, I'm not coming to you to get what you need. I produce myself, so I think this time around I was able to really fine-tune things the way I like, and it shows, man. This is my baby for sure. I feel like this is a very special project.
The album opens with "Hair Down," featuring Kendrick Lamar, which you also released as the lead single. Can you give a little bit of the backstory on that song and video and what it was like working with him?
That was probably the first song I wrote for the album that we were probably going use as a single. We usually don't try to shoot for singles, you know what I mean? When we're building a project, we'll make sure that the songs can all stand on their own two legs. As soon as I did that one, it just felt like what I wanted the album to look like, and to me it was the perfect starting point. It was the perfect launch point for what we were trying to accomplish, and I didn't get the [Lamar] verse until two months ago or something like that. I wrote that song probably a year ago while we were on the road at [TDE's 2018] Championship Tour.
That's not something you ask for. It was something that we talked about, but that's not something that you ask for. It's like the Jill Scott thing, I didn't really ask for that. You got to let them make that decision. I think with working with artists like Kendrick, Jill Scott and Lil Wayne, it's a blessing and I think I do everything I can to just make myself someone that people want to work with. I think I do a good job of standing on my own two feet, and that's something that I had to embrace over the last two years.
Just working with your idols is always awkward. It's weird. I met [Childish] Gambino at the BET awards. I wish I could take that back because it was so awkward, you know what I mean? And I still go through the everyday life stuff of I'm human and if I see somebody that I'm not used to seeing, it's going to be weird. This year, I had to really step outside of that and become SiR, and really accept that. I think it shined through when I sat and talked to people about the project, they were more open to it because I was more confident in myself, and that really helped a lot, just giving me that confidence. [Lamar's] conversations are more important to me than that verse ever will be. I'm appreciative of the verse for sure, but I can really say that's my mentor. This dude really takes care of his team and really cares about us, man. So, it's definitely a blessing to have him on deck.
And what would you say the biggest thing you learned from the collaborators on this project?
Spread love. Because I feel like most of them, they didn't have to do what they did. Miss Jill, she's getting so much love on her acting career, as she should be. She really doesn't need to feature on anything. All of these artists, they got their own things. People are looking for them and checking for them.
When I get on, if I'm ever in a position to bless somebody, and I feel like they are working hard and they've got their thing together, I definitely would want to be what they are to me. I'd want to be a blessing and give back to the community. They see that I'm a part of the same community, I have the same common goal with music. It's not me trying to get on or be a flashy type. It's not that. I really care about the music. So, I think they saw that and they wanted to reciprocate the same kind of love I'm trying to get off it.
That's all it's really about, is spreading love and giving back to what you want to see thrive and flourish. And I think they really see something in what we got going, and I was just lucky. I really feel like it's the right place at the right time, but I don't want to make it that simple. But I feel like they really are just spreading love, man, and they blessed me. I'm still in shock. I can't really process it. It's all new territory for me. It's lovely though. I don't take it for granted.
How would you describe the L.A. music community now? From that explanation, it sounds very supportive and nurturing, but I'm interested in your perspective, whether it's just like that with TDE or just in your experience with who you've worked with.
L.A. is a weird place. It's very divided, with the people that are actually from L.A. to the people that come out here and claim L.A. The music industry's a weird place in general. I'm from L.A., so I definitely abide by the L.A. rules before I abide by the music industry rules. But when it comes to the music scene, there's a small community. What I'm learning is the further along I go in my career, the community gets smaller and smaller, and that's a great thing. You find people that are like-minded, and you got to let some friends go sometimes.
But for the most part, the goal is to find common ground that you can really build on. And I feel like I've found my community of people, from Mind Design to Kiefer to D.K. the Punisher to Kal Banx to all of my musician friends, The Catalyst, my band. My brothers, and just all of the musicians that I've been working with for the last 10 years, I still work with the same cats. L.A. is small, it's big, but at the time it's small, and I really want to keep it that way. I'd appreciate it if it stayed that way.
What does that summer mood look and sound like to you?
Well, summer mood has that sunset tint to it. It's like, to me, this album is best listened to riding down Malibu about six o'clock sunset. That's the vibe. I'm a Cali kid through and through, and I hope it translates through with the music. I think we hit it on the ball. If you want a glimpse at what summer's supposed to be, just take a listen to the album, close your eyes, and it should do the trick.
Stepping back, who are your biggest influences?
Oh man, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway. These are people that my mother listened to when I was growing up. I grew up in the church, so I love Fred Hammond and Noel Jones. I don't know if you know who Noel Jones is, he's a preacher from L.A., his voice is so crazy. My mom sang background for Chaka Khan back in the day, and Michael Jackson. So, I grew up with an ear to R&B for sure, from the '60s, '70s, '80s. Of course I have hip-hop influences, but my spectrum is wide. We could have a 30 minute conversation about all the music I listen to, I promise you.
Lately, I've been listening to a lot of The Beatles. "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" has been on repeat for a couple of weeks, then Innervisions [Wonder's 1973 album]. I go back and forth between [Wonder's] Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. Then, my real guilty pleasure is John Mayer, I'm a huge fan.
I love it.
I think with music, and this is my advice to young people, it's like careers almost, you won't know what you want until you taste a few things. I think Gary Gee says that. You got to taste things to know what you want to be. I feel like music is like that too. You can't just listen to country music because you're from the South. You've got to listen to something else just to try it. You don't know, you might like classical music. If you never listen, you will never know.
I did a lot of that when I was younger and I found my vibes for sure. But I listened to some stuff that people probably wouldn't expect. But I think that helps to shape me as a musician in general. I definitely don't shy away from exploring and trying to find different vibes that I really like. One of the most fun parts about music to me, is exploring and finding new things that you never would expect you to enjoy, you know? So, yeah, my spectrum is wide, it's a rainbow for sure.
Growing up in a musical family, how do you feel like that impacted your journey to becoming an artist?
I can't really explain it because it's weird for me to be the artist in my family. I still wake up and kind of laugh because I never expected this. When I was younger, I didn't want to do music. When I was 14, my mom would make us sing in church every Sunday, and I got sick of it. That's when I kind of decided I didn't want to do music. I went on about my life, at about 19, 20 started working dumba** jobs and that turned into me wanting to find something that I was passionate about, and turns out it music was it all along. I had to step away to kind of find it for myself.
But I started really getting serious about music when I was 22, and then I ended up going to school, graduated in 2011 from film school, and just never looked back from there. I think that was what I needed was to really find it for myself, because my brothers' all sing or write songs, and my mother is still active in the industry, and they always said it was what we needed to be doing. I just had to see it for myself and I think that made me a better musician. My life experiences helped shape how I write songs. I appreciate my time away from music, but also I'm glad I found my way back because I don't know what I'd be if I wasn't a musician. I'd probably be—let's not even talk about that.
I'm blessed. My family is amazing. My brother is an amazing singer/songwriter. My older brother Daniel, he's an amazing rapper and he's the writer, and we're all supportive of each other. I know that I probably wouldn't be where I am today without the support of my family and them pushing me to be a better writer and a better musician.
You come back to where you're supposed to be at some point. You touched on it a little when you talked about your influences, but what advice do you have for younger people that have a passion for music but aren't really sure where to start to pursue music professionally?
Don't be afraid to be wack. Don't be afraid to fall on your a**. You got to start somewhere. But it's just like anything else in life, and I could preach this to the ends of the earth. It doesn't matter what you decide to do or when you decide to do it, but it's about staying dedicated to it and really working at what you want. If you want something then put it in the universe. Write it on a piece of paper, say it every day when you wake up and just don't worry about when it's going to happen. Just keep working.
I think that's the best thing I ever did for myself. I put my head down, I shut the f*** up and I worked for five years on music, and didn't try to release anything, didn't try to do anything. I got to the point where I was so ready to go that I had three projects worth of music ready to go, and we started with Seven Sundays and from there worked our way into being with TDE and all that.
I really developed my craft first and made sure I was confident in what I wanted to hear. So, I think for anybody that wants it, just don't be afraid to fail, and keep working at it. It's not easy, none of this is. But I feel like if you want something, you can just really work at it and it'll come. You just got to be willing to f***ing eat dirt and mud for a little bit. Eventually, hard work pays off, no matter what you do. If you want to sell ice cream, sell ice cream every day. Get up, get your cones right, make sure your freezer's at the right temperature, make sure your music's playing and hit the block and get on that ice cream.