Sashathems lyrical self celebration is liberating for not only them, but the listeners who need a friend and companion. Their journey of musical creativity was intertwined with their process of coming out. In sharing their story we get to know where this pit of passion and the meditative monologues comes from.
Photo: Ben Li
Where/when did your individual creative journey begin?
I was so fortunate to grow up in a household with parents that were both writers and educators, and I was exposed to a lot of great music as a kid. I started experimenting with songwriting as a highschooler, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to really develop my own voice as the front-person of a seven-piece Hip-Hop/horn band called Gryzzle. Since then, in-line with my coming out process, I’ve been working on my own artistry under the name Sashathem.
Tell us the story of how you became a musician/artist?
There is a non-profit recording studio and teaching space for kids in Roanoke, Virginia, called the Music Lab, where I learned to make beats and experiment with other musicians. I was super privileged to have the opportunities and support system that I had as a kid, which allowed me to dive into music head on. I’ve been rapping and making beats for seven or eight years now, and I think I’m finally at a point where I can sit down to create or write and end up with something that: 1) I’m proud of, 2) is an honest expression of who I am and how I’m feeling, and 3) is meaningful to me - which are all things that I’ve always admired in the musicians and teachers I grew up around. I currently live in East Boston and am teaching music lessons, and I hope that I can continue to help other folks learn to express themselves through their understanding of and relationship to music.
Tell us about your artistry? What would you say is your mission with your art? And who are your influences (message/music style)?
Through songwriting, I’m always working to tell my own story. For me, as a non-binary queer person, Hip-Hop is a vessel to work out my inner conflicts, process trauma, and find an abundance of understanding and love for myself and those around me. Sometimes I call the stuff I make “bummer rap”, but that’s only because sometimes the things that I have to say are coming from a place of self-loathing and depression. My mission with my projects is to speak on my own mental health and to raise funds for trans folks, and if somewhere in there somebody else finds meaning within it, that’s wonderful! Half of the proceeds from Glass House have been and will continue to be donated to NoMoreDysphoria, a really cool non-profit that helps raise funds for major aspects of trans folks’ transitions. Some of my all-time favorite musicians that I draw inspiration from include D’Angelo, Mac Miller, Black Thought, Backxwash, Ms. Lauryn Hill, and George Benson.
Tell us about your debut project GLASS HOUSE. What was your artistic process for creating this piece?
Glass House started with a few beats and verses I wrote around two years ago, centered around a poem I really loved from Tyler Knott Gregson that says,
“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you’ve always loved to swim.”
After I got to work on what’s now the title track of the project, I realized that I wanted to contextualize it with more verses and songs. I don’t think that any part of Glass House started to become finalized until the start of the pandemic last March; that’s when I took a moment to gather my thoughts and make a plan to finish it in a way that I’d be proud of. It features production from some dear friends, Adam Sulkin, Wilkjayy, Coach CTRL, agren, and Evan Amoroso, and a vocal feature from one of my absolute faves, Lobby Boy! I think Glass House is a mix of snapshots of my coming out journey and mental health issues, as well as a thing made with love by me and some of my closest friends.
Is there anything about the industry you’d want to change as you progress in your career? Tell us about some experiences you overcame.
Though I am non-binary, I have so much privilege as a white, cis-passing person in music. The industry is dominated by (mostly white) men, and I feel that my experiences with shitty power tripping individuals are trivial next to the things that my trans peers have gone through. I am so unbelievably thankful for the online queer community and creators for making safe spaces for people that need them. Shoutout especially to Kisos, who has introduced me to so many amazing artists through Queerantine!
Are there any insufficiencies or injustices in the music industry that you’d like to see rectified?
We need more platforms for trans artists and other queer people! Holy shit!
What are some upcoming projects you are working on? When can we expect them? Where can we stream them?
I’ve got a project with a dear friend named Michael, who I made THEM HORSES with last year, that we’re hoping to include a bunch of friends on! I’m not sure exactly when it will come out but I’m hoping to release it with Totally Real Records, who did an amazing job with the rollout of Glass House in March. The project is gonna be weird and fun and queer, and I can’t wait for folks to hear it! Everything I put out can be found on my Bandcamp page.
What advice would you give to aspiring creatives looking to break into the music industry?
The internet is super isolating and can make any aspiring artist feel kinda crazy, but on the other side of that is a massive amount of loving communities, artists, and kind people. I’ve found so much love in the Queer Music community through mostly entirely virtual interaction, and it’s wonderful to feel like you’re a part of an artistic family. Putting yourself out there can be SO scary, but it’s the only way to find other folks like you!
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