Grammy Award-winning Sirah describes herself on her Twitter as a “part time rapper, but a full time friend”, and after meeting with her during SXSW, I couldn’t agree more. Sirah is one of those rare breeds- you know, the kind that will schedule an interview with you and then invite you to eat cheeseburgers at the VH1 lounge first (which were incredible, by the way). Upon the first five minutes of meeting Sirah, I realized that this petite fireball has a heart of gold and a genuine concern for people that you just don’t see much of these days. Because of this, and without putting all of my SXSouthwest eggs in one basket, I can easily say that meeting, eating, and speaking with Sirah was one of THE top experiences of my entire trip. Thank you, Sirah, for being so gracious (and for having impeccable style and perfect hair). Without further ado, enjoy this post-cheeseburger/fat and happy interview we conducted with the lady of the hour, Sirah:
VM: Did you ever think you would gain this much attention from the music industry when you first got started?
SIRAH: I think I did on some level, but that was just me being young and all ‘I’m going to do this!’ But to be honest with you, it’s like an inner knowing; I knew that I was supposed to do this, and I knew this was supposed to happen. However, it actually being real is totally different.
VM: What was it like working with Skrillex?
SIRAH: It was awesome. He’s just fun, and it’s so easy and so natural working with him. He actually makes art and wants to create something, as opposed to people who do this to make money or whatever it is. It’s coming from such a genuine place, so I can just do whatever I want….that’s freedom. Every time we work together it’s really fast, easy, and it just flows. A lot of it is just free-styling.
VM: Tell me about your most recent album, C.U.L.T (Too Young To Die)– what were your major inspirations?
SIRAH: I actually ended up throwing it together in about two weeks, but a lot of it was just all of these ideas and feelings that I just needed to get out, because I was frustrated with how people were viewing me and things that were going on. Last year was such a weird and awesome year for me- I got signed. Before that I got a publishing deal….but there was so much going on in my life, I just needed to expel all of these feelings. The reason I named it [C.U.L.T.] Too Young To Die was for really personals reasons; a lot of my friends had died the year before – about six of them – and so that’s sort of where that came from.
VM: Your song with Skrillex won a Grammy this year- were you in total awe?
SIRAH: Oh my gosh. I was SO excited, and I didn’t really feel worthy of it, because Skrillex definitely had made all of this happen. But I was so excited to be nominated and be a part of it. When we won and I went up there, everyone was like, ‘you didn’t look nervous’, and that’s because I wasn’t. I was still confused. It’s such a surreal thing to be like, ‘yeah, I’m at the Grammy’s….and I won a Grammy’. It didn’t ever connect, and I don’t think it has still. I’m just going to wear it on my necklace when I get it.
VM: Oh, you haven’t gotten it yet?
SIRAH: No, they send it to you in the mail. She had to pull it back from me. She literally had to uncurl my fingers.
VM: How was the entire experience of just being AT the Grammy’s?
SIRAH: It was amazing. I’m just so proud of Skrillex, so just to see what he’s done was amazing. I remember when we were younger being like, ‘yo, we’re going to make art, and we’re not going to let anyone tell us what to do’, and I was all for it, because I was so underground and fighting the revolution [in my mind]. But to see that he’s actually made something so brilliant is mind-boggling. I was just watching him at the Grammy’s, and I was just really proud.
VM: You have an edgy and unique look- do you think that your music inspired this?
SIRAH: No, poverty inspired that. When I was growing up, we were super poor. Even when we did have money, my parents never bought anything new. So all of my clothes were all hand-me-downs and eight sizes too big. Then when I lived with my mom after my dad died, we were really just scraping to get by, so I ended up learning how to sew when I was five years old. I started making my own clothes just because I didn’t have any options. And that’s sort of what happens now. I’ve never spent $500 on a pair of jeans, and I don’t think I ever will [on principle].
VM: That’s incredible- I can’t believe you were sewing at five years old!
ROB (MANAGER): She’s also a really good artist and never tells anybody!
VM: Really? Did you just discover this recently?
SIRAH: I haven’t painted in like seven years, but I just did this painting the other day, and it actually turned out pretty good. What’s funny is that when I lived in L.A., I used to do graffiti…I was a part of a weird subculture. But when I got an apartment and a job, well not a job….when I had rent and stopped selling drugs, I was like, ‘what do people do to be grown ups?’, so I started airbrushing clothes and shoes and started selling paintings, and that’s how I made money.
VM: That’s amazing- you’re so resourceful!
SIRAH: Yeah, I got that hustle in my blood, but now I just use it towards positive things.
VM: You’ve recently played with acts like Macklemore and Icona Pop- do the musicians you tour with inspire you?
SIRAH: Absolutely. Throughout the years, there have been people I’ve toured with where I didn’t necessarily like their music before I got there, but when I got there I appreciated it. Being there changes everything. But yeah, Macklemore and Icona Pop are awesome; I was huge fan before I even got there. Icona Pop was so dope live, and they look so cool. Macklemore is dope, because he broke out of underground hip-hop, so that sh*t is awesome to me. He’s like living the hip-hop dream right now. He’s been grinding for mad long and literally broke out of a scene that, like, three people have broken out of.
VM: Speaking of touring, what’s your favorite part about being on the road?
SIRAH: I think it’s awesome, because you build these unbreakable relationships. Like even last night – I got home from doing some shows, and my band and my tour manager had surprised me with an Easter basket. It was really awesome. And on top of that, you just get so much better from watching other people and learning from it. Anytime I’ve toured, even if its been horrible, I’ve come out such a better person from it.
VM: What’s your favorite song to perform live?
SIRAH: “Where Do We Go”- it’s never been released, I just leaked it last week, but it’s my favorite song live.
VM: When do you plan on releasing it?
SIRAH: Well, I leaked it on my Tumblr, so holler at me. My bad, Atlantic [Records], sorry about that!
VM: Why do you write? Is it to make people dance or more of a personal thing?
SIRAH: I know C.U.L.T. was classified as dance music, but I’ve never been like, ‘I want you to dance to this sh*t!’ I do it so that I don’t lose my marbles; I have to write.
VM: What has it been like being at SXSW? Are there any particular artists you’re excited about?
SIRAH: I was really excited before I got here, but it’s all just crazy now.
VM: Have you had a favorite so far?
SIRAH: Well, one my favorite bands was playing last night [WHY?], but they were also playing next to Ghostface and Iggy Pop, so there was no way of getting in to it.
VM: What is next for you?
SIRAH: I don’t even know; I won a Grammy, I’m at SXSW….2013 has been pretty good to me already. I literally don’t know what will happen next, because if had to guess any of this I would have never believed it, but right now I’m working on my full-length album debut. I’m just making mad music. I’ve been getting beats from kids off of SoundCloud and rapping in my bedroom. So I don’t know what will happen, but whatever it is, it’s cake at this point.
Samantha Gilder is a native of Saint Simons Island. She attended Georgia Southern University for a brief stint where she studied Journalism, and although she became your statistical “college dropout”, she strives to pursue her goals with the best of them. Growing up, music and writing were the top two most influential things in her life; fast forward to the present and their roles in her life are just as prominent, with the only (major) differences being that now she is not only a writer but a mother. She has eternal love in her heart for her daughter. She bartends at a local coffee shop/café/pub where (lucky for her) the appreciation for music is equally shared between her employers and co-workers.