For fans of: Daniel Ceasar, Bazzi, 6lack
Dig if you will a picture: a softly lit stage, with smooth lo-fi sounds permeating throughout the venue. The soft lights brighten, and hundreds of people raise their hands as a slow groove kicks in. A smooth voice wraps around you like a silk scarf, and you listen to words of heartache that everyone in the room can feel in their souls. This is a picture that Calgary smooth R&B artist SMIO painted for me, sharing with me his dreams of headlining The Palace Theatre and seeing the audience raise their hands enthralled by his slow music. Taking cues from Daniel Caesar, Bazzi, Mac Ayres, and 6lack, SMIO creates a smooth and vibrant sound that intertwines smooth R&B with 21st century pop sensibility.
SMIO has begun to splash Calgary with the smooth colours of his pop meets R&B palette only in recent years, but his love affair with music dates back much further. “Honestly, I have always loved singing,” he tells me. “From watching covers when I was younger, to writing music now, nothing has changed.” SMIO began uploading his own covers online when he was in junior high, and moved to writing his own tunes when he entered his first year of university. He adopted the name SMIO after shortening his birth name, and has been releasing a bouquet of singles each year since. “I’ve been holding back on an EP, because personally I believe people cherish singles more one by one” SMIO expounds. “If I put out an EP now, my fan base wouldn’t be big enough to appreciate every song on the project. I want it to mean something to me, and a lot of other people when I put it out.”
SMIO’s latest single is the sleek and serene Shea Michael collab “Wide Awake,” which was released February of this year. The song’s lyrics denote identifiable experiences, including lyrics “are we finally giving up on our old ways,” and “‘cause you got your own problems too, it’s not my job to comfort you.” For such heart-rending verses, it’s surprising that a calamitous heartbreak did not inspire this track. “One day Shea and I were chilling, and we decided to write this crazy song together. It was co-written, and something so many people can relate to. It’s hard to let go of something, but it may be the best.”
Relatability and authenticity are two things that SMIO holds paramount to everything he does. “I relate to a lot of my songs, and I story-tell as well” he explains. “I just want people to feel my music. Whether you’re sad or happy, I just want people to connect with the lyrics.” He cites this creative rhetoric as being inspired by his aforementioned influences, adulating that “the method of storytelling they use in their lyrics is crazy to me, and their melody formations are amazing.”
SMIO shares that the song of his that means the most to him is his 2019 single “I Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye.” He explains how the song was possibly his fastest growing one, and that the way people connected to it was a rewarding feeling. SMIO disclosed that the song came out of a place of pain, but the way he was able to turn that hurt into something beautiful and meaningful to so many further inspires him to continue writing.
SMIO uses slow beats and dreamy synth pads to re-acquaint you with the forlorn feelings you have tried to push down in the past, and allows you the opportunity to embrace them in an environment where they can be validated and understood. He frequently blesses your feed with songs that can easily score a romantic moment, or score a moment of destituteness. Despite the current conditions of the world in the stranglehold of COVID-19, SMIO has no plans to stop creating. “Because of this coronavirus I’m just working, trying to make the best music I can. When I’m ready, I’ll put out an album.”