SiR ushers in a vulnerable stage of his life with his upcoming album, Heavy. For our September cover story he speaks with us about Heavy and the duality of his career.
It’s an unbearably hot summer morning in Brooklyn when SiR enters the Okayplayer gallery space that’s been transformed into a makeshift set for a shoot – but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the huge smile that’s on his face. The Inglewood native is wearing a Black tee, dark-washed denim, and white Nike Air Forces when he walks through the space, accompanied by an equally friendly Brandon Tiffith, son of TDE’s CEO who handles management for multiple acts, including SiR. As the singer continues to make his way through the massive space, he offers introductions to those on set and glances at the music memorabilia that adorns the room: historic plaques and vintage concert posters from The Roots, Erykah Badu, and Charles Hamilton.
Throughout the first half of the morning, things go smoothly. SiR is cheerful and dances often between shots, singing along to songs like Wizkid and Tems’ “Essence” and Wayne Wonder’s “No Letting Go.” He changes into each of his final looks quickly, maintaining a positive and upbeat energy throughout the entire shoot. He’s just as comfortable here in a Brooklyn gallery space than his homebase of Inglewood, the singer born Sir Darryl Farris having a notably calm nature and laughing so often that it’s easy to forget just how hot it is, even if it’s just for a moment. As I learn during our interview, it took SiR living through the pandemic, strengthening his relationship with his wife, Kelly, and becoming a father to get to this healthy stage in his personal life. He said he lives somewhat of a dual life as an entertainer and a figure in the Farris family, which are both a large part of what makes him who he is. And it’s this duality that has been central to both his most recent album — 2019’s Chasing Summer — and his forthcoming new album Heavy.
Music is in SiR’s DNA. His mother worked with lauded artists like Michael Jackson and Anita Baker, as well as served as a minister of music at a church the Farris family used to attend (SiR and his three brothers grew up singing in that church, too), while two of his brothers, rapper D Smoke and singer Davion Farris, are active musicians. This, paired with the music SiR grew up with — jazz, gospel, and a bunch of Stevie Wonder records — and the richness of the Inglewood music community, has made him into the artist he is today,
“I think there’s a line that I try not to cross, but there’s this line that I try to ride [that] sonically sounds like Dr. Dre on the drums, but musically it sounds like Stevie Wonder or John Mayer,” he said. “The picture I paint and the world I portray is based on my reality,” he added.
Chasing Summer comfortably sits in the realm of neo-soul. An emotionally-charged album, the project offered listeners a glimpse into SiR’s life while he was chasing his dreams. What Chasing Summer accomplished was creating an intimate, hard-to-forget musical experience that showcased SiR’s songwriting capabilities. From the way he delves into loneliness on the laid back and moody “John Redcorn” to exploring the heightened feelings of lust on “That’s Why I Love You,” SiR shines best when he presents his songs like narratives. Paired with his golden voice, songs like these made Chasing Summer a compelling listen, and proved that SiR deserved a place in the current R&B market next to peers like Lucky Daye and Ari Lennox.
Though the TDE singer recalled feeling good about releasing his last album, he was heartbroken when the pandemic happened less than six months later. SiR was ready to hit the road but everything had shut down. Instead of allowing feelings of anxiety and depression to overwhelm him, he used that to create Heavy, an album that explores the tribulations and dark moments that led him to a happier version of himself.
SiR explained that the album process began with him writing down concepts, titles, and phrases of what he wanted to explore with this project. Then came the music. With a large bulk of the album recorded at home in California (in addition to Windmark Studios in Santa Monica, and one track recorded at New York City’s iconic Electric Lady Studios), he shared it wasn’t long before he had recorded eight undeniably great songs, which was a part of at least 60 tracks he recorded for Heavy. By the time we spoke, he said he had chiseled the album down to 14 songs.
Because he was home a lot during the making of the album, SiR said that it was easier for him to be creative. His family played an integral part in that creative process too, with SiR describing it as a “family affair.” His mother played the piano and sang background vocals for multiple tracks, while D Smoke played piano for one of the album’s tracks. (Smoke’s wife, Angelina, also contributed background vocals.)
Thematically, SiR revealed that Heavy is similar to Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, with the singer talking about some of the hardest and most difficult moments of his life.
“I think my album is very similar to [Kendrick’s] because it talks a lot about mental health, and it talks a lot about just growth,” he said. “It’s me growing as a person, and I think that’s what [Kendrick] was trying to show people on his album, who he was at the moment. I definitely enjoyed the album.”
He also said that Heavy centers around the weight of anxiety and depression he felt was on his shoulders during the pandemic, with the title derived from how much pressure he felt he was under in his life while writing the album. Many of the overarching themes captured on Heavy are relatable. But the core of it is centered around SiR’s resilience in the face of harsh, real-life experiences, and wanting to pull himself out of the darkness of that. When I ask what he’s accomplishing on this album, he said he’s never gone into detail about his mental health in this way, striving to maintain the transparency he’s offered his fans in previous releases.
“I always come from a very transparent, vulnerable place,” he said. “I definitely was just trying to be as honest as possible. I was writing songs that I needed to write. It was my therapy almost, because I had nothing else to do. All I had was music and my home life.”
“Satisfaction,” the first single from Heavy, is a testament to this honesty and transparency, as the singer explores a situation that isn’t meant to be, encapsulated in the song’s chorus: “I wish I could stay in your arms.” There’s also “Life Is Good,” a song that touches on how he chooses to look at his lessons as blessings in disguise, and expressing gratitude for life’s trials.
But one of the main highlights of the album for SiR is “Nothing Even Matters,” a track that is most aligned with what he was hoping to accomplish with Heavy: paint a picture of the dual roles he plays every day as an entertainer and an important figure in the Farris family. He also declared the track the best song he’s ever created about his wife, with the artist singing about their journey together and how he can’t picture his life without her. “Nothing even matters / No one loves me better / I want this forever,” he sings in the poetic ballad.
When tasked with explaining how his home life with his wife and daughter often inject into his music and artistry, SiR said “I’ll show you.” Drawing a yin-and-yang symbol on a piece of paper, the singer showed how yin is SiR and yang is Darryl, with the two parts balanced by a thin line that represents the music he makes. “My family life is way more important,” he said. “I have to be [SiR] to make sure I pay my bills for my family.”
“I feel like my wife and my daughter, they influence who I want to be,” he added. “I don’t lose sight of what I have at home. It keeps me grounded.”
This is a part of Heavy that makes the album so interesting: the way SiR navigates talking about both sides of himself, showing how all these aspects — singer, father, uncle, brother, and, quite simply, someone who just likes to go out and have a good time — make him a full human being.
“They contradict each other all the time, but they also have been elevating each other,” he said.
Heavy manages to encapsulate SiR’s ongoing desire to create bold and earnest soul music. He’s following his gut by keying in on what he experiences intimately, and translating that to music in a way that has helped him create his own lane in Modern R&B.
“That’s the definition of soul music, painting your picture through your life experiences,” SiR said. “I want to give [my fans] an honest take on me. I think this album does that, but it’s only fair to my fans that I give them who I am.”
Photographer: Makeda Sandford (@ohmakeda)
Stylist: Marion B. Kelly II (@mbkii)
Creative Director / Writer: Robyn Mowatt (@robynmowatt)
Groomer: Tara Lauren (@taralauren)
Cover Art / Videographer: Andre Jones (@drevinciwrks)
Production Assistant: Kia Turner (@chasingkia)