Well a lot of people actually. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Naia Kete. I’m the lead singer in SayReal and when I first moved to Los Angeles there were a number of A&R’s who told me I wasn’t a mainstream artist…Like Aaron Bay-Schuck. I met with him right after he signed Bruno Mars. Pretty sweet timing right? He set me up to meet with President of Atlantic Records, Craig Kallman. Twice. First on my own. I got flown to New York City, and as luck would have it, I was sick and literally had no voice. I sounded like a frog. So when I went to play for Craig, I was just a mess. The 2nd time I played for Craig I was with my brother Imani and boyfriend Lee, both now core members of SayReal. Craig didn’t think we were mainstream material either. So Aaron…I guess he gave up? Then there have been the numerous booking agents, publishers, producers and other “industry” people who have come across our music at one point or another. Non of whom believed we had the look, the sound, the message to call ourselves a pop band.
But this article really isn’t about them. It’s really meant to give you a window into the world of SayReal and how we came to be. I can’t tell you how many people different have come up to any one of us after a show just completely astonished that we’re not playing bigger venues. “Why aren’t you signed?” People will ask…well it’s not for lack of trying. Then there’s the old, “You should really audition for The Voice” and guess what? I did that too. Season 2, Team Blake. I’ve been through a lot in the music business. Moved from my hometown of Western MA where me and Imani grew up performing together with our family band, Black Rebels. Now known as Rebelle. I’ve written hundreds if not thousands of songs. Many of which were composed in my bedroom, but in recent years I started collaborating with various producers in studios all over Los Angeles and in Nashville.
My time in LA has been filled with a combination of struggle, hope and opportunity. With every show, recording session, song or meeting, I would think to myself, maybe this could be it. Maybe this would be the moment that changes my life, and the lives of those around me. Chief among them being Lee and Imani who have been there for every single opportunity and let down. They became the constants in my life and the backbone of the music. Thoughts started to occur to me. Who makes the decisions about what’s in and what’s not? Why is pop, pop? How did something mainstream become mainstream? A lot of time it’s these people in positions of power…most of whom are men I might add who have a giant hand in dictating what music is heard by the masses and what’s not. It didn’t seem right. Especially since the majority of what IS heard on the radio is not uplifting or inspiring. There’s very little truth and authenticity in what you hear.
So one day we play a show at Hotel Cafe, a popular venue in Hollywood for both signed and independent artists. I had been working with one of Randy Jackson’s producers at the time and so he was in the audience. After we finished playing, Randy comes up to me and basically said, as great as I might be, he could see from the performance that we were creating was a movement, and the movement was bigger than me or any one of us. It was then that it clicked. No longer could I be trying to force myself to be the mold, I had to break it, and I couldn’t do it alone. SayReal was born out of an evolution of each of us understanding better who it is we are as people and as artists. We CAN redefine what mainstream music looks and sounds like. Make it a place where talent and realness is valued. But we can’t do it alone either.
So this brings me to what this is really about. It’s not about me, or SayReal…it’s not even really about you, it’s about us and the kind of impact we can make as a community when we stand up for and support what it is that we believe in. You’ll get to know more about what this is for SayReal in the coming days, but the most important, to me, is to share your truth. So my hope is that by us sharing our truth through music, we may inspire you to do the same and as our community grows, I have faith that mainstream media we’ll start to reflect all of us and not just a select few. If that sounds like something you believe in, we hope you’ll check out our album Unarmed and Ready and continue to stay in with touch with us. Maybe we’ll get to meet at a show, but until then, feel free to leave a comment which one of us will be sure to respond to.
Here’s to redefining the mainstream.
With Love & Music,
Naia and SayReal