Southampton born-and-raised Saint Harison is writing music with soul-bearing honesty. Here, he talks overcoming alienation, his compelling debut EP, 'lost a friend', and more.
Last month, just weeks after uploading his now renowned COLORS SHOW to YouTube, Southampton-born Saint Harison experienced another life-affirming moment. “Still not over this, thank you for all the love” reads a TikTok, in which he sings the single “Ego Talkin” in acapella alongside his biggest fans. The viral performance holds an infectious intimacy – one that the artist is visibly taken aback by.
That day, Saint was meant to play his sold-out show at The Lexington in London. Moments before, in the most unfortunate circumstances, a power cut struck the venue. Hundreds apprehensively waited for updates but, behind closed doors, the gig was in jeopardy. Saint’s burning desire to perform that evening outweighed any anxieties developed in those tumultuous minutes; he’s a natural showman, and as the old age saying goes, ‘The show must go on’. Standing on a table and serenading his fans with an acoustic performance, the dimly lit pub below became the perfect backdrop for Saint’s strikingly relatable songwriting, living long in the memory of those in attendance.
Since Saint uploaded unembellished covers of Jazmine Sullivan, Billie Eilish and Frank Ocean songs online, his trajectory blossomed. Growing up in a household of music lovers, who introduced him to “big voices” like Whitney Houston, the emerging singer-songwriter found inspiration in the compelling honesty of pop icons like Amy Winehouse. Originally, dreams of being on the West End overruled any musical pursuits, but after an epiphany at university, singing became his ticket to showbiz fame.
The flames have yet to dim. Shining brighter than his neon hair, Saint writes music with an unrelenting passion, and subsequently, his pull is growing greater by the day. The emotionally enriching debut EP, ‘lost a friend’, has garnered global acclaim, thanks to its fervent sincerity and subject matter. Navigating heartbreak and self-discovery by analysing the juxtaposition between escapism and reality, the project sees the wordsmith wearing his heart firmly on his sleeve. On “Homies”, featuring Grammy-nominated Tiana Major9, the powerful vocalist dissects the complexities of friendship with striking conviction. The artists harmonise mesmerically, transcending what we know as R&B today while establishing a bond that will only benefit their future stardom.
Despite the highs he’s achieved this year, Saint is hungry for more. New music is already in the works, as is a vault load of material yet to be released. Even with an army of TikTok followers and millions of Spotify streamers checking in on his sonically disparate discography, you can feel that he’s just getting started.
What are some of your first music memories? You’ve cited Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse as key influences but were you listening to anything else growing up?
A lot of Motown and gospel. My grandad used to be in a band and he introduced me to music. He’s always loved big voices, Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston. I remember us doing karaoke together and he was always singing at family functions. I just remember learning all these old songs with him.
Did you have a karaoke machine?
I did, I got one for Christmas. It was one of those really old silver box ones. You had to buy the karaoke DVDs and it had a little blue screen and microphone attached. I loved it.
So you’d say your grandad was a key figure for you growing up, in terms of music?
Absolutely. My family are massive music lovers.
Did they see that you had the potential to make it from a young age?
My mum knew I would be a performer; I loved drama and singing. I wanted to be in the West End. I would have done anything to perform. They knew I’d be an entertainer because I was very outgoing as a kid.
Was there a pivotal moment when you realised that you wanted to pursue music?
Probably at university when I was doing drama. I ended up hating it because no one was really my vibe; I wanted to get loads of tattoos and eat Snickers but no one else wanted to do that. I realised that it wasn’t a world I fitted into. I wanted to sing, but for a few years, I was a teacher and just didn’t sing at all. And then I realised I really wanted to do this.
It’s been a few months since your debut EP, ‘lost a friend’, came out. How has the reaction been? Has it all been quite unexpected for you?
Very unexpected, I had no idea. For the amount of love and attention it got, I thought I would have had to be three or four projects in. I guess you just never really know what to expect. The ego challenge is crazy, I never thought that would become a thing. There have been so many moments, so many that you don’t think are possible when you’re just coming out of the gate.
There have been some great voices on the ego challenge as well…
They’re so good! There are so many people with incredible voices. That’s the great thing about social media, you find so many talented people.
Can you tell us a bit about the EP’s creative process? How did you want listeners to feel when making it?
I had no idea because I love so many genres of music. I had no idea what it’d sound like. There was a trial and error process, seeing how I felt, and living with it. I did some time in LA, then had a break and did some writing in the UK. I did Zoom sessions as well, during lockdown. It was a really long process to see what I wanted the songs to sound like, I still don’t think I’ve figured it out.
Did you find LA somewhere that you could be quite creative?
It was a dream to go to America, and to go to LA for music. I never thought in my wildest dreams, as a kid, that I’d do that. It felt quite freeing, it felt like when you go on holiday and you get really drunk because you don’t know anyone.
Where do you find it easiest to write? Are you someone that needs be out of their comfort zone to seek inspiration, or are you most productive in the studio?
In my room alone, by myself. I like working in the studio but my room is where the ideas are created, whether that’s titles, lyrics or melodies. However long you do this job, it’s weird going into a room full of people and sharing how you feel. I never shared feelings like that growing up.
You chose to perform “ego talkin’” for your COLORS STUDIOS performance. Why did you want to give that song such a platform? Why is it special to you?
Well, I wrote that song on a Zoom session with Boy Matthews. I wanted to give each song a moment because they all live in their own world. I love COLORS and all the people on there.
Does a particular performance come to mind?
I think Brandy’s is great, November Ultra just did one which is beautiful and Tiana Major9’s “Try Piece”. There are so many.
Being interviewed by Elton John must have been such a surreal moment. What was it like to hear praise from a legend like him?
The interview itself was hilarious. I was on FaceTime in my dining room and my whole family were behind my phone, just so excited for me. Elton John was one of the artists I was shown as a kid. He’s been a legend for years, it was really weird hearing his voice saying my name.
If you could go back in time to a moment of musical history, where would you go and why?
I never got to see Amy Winehouse but she is one of my favourte artists ever. I love intimate shows, so if I could see her in an intimate setting. I have so many friends who saw Adele in a pub when she started and I’m so jealous, I would have died. Jessie J is one of the most incredible performers of all time and she does all these intimate sessions still. She’s like a comedian and a singer all in one; her voice is insane.
Earlier this month, you played a sold-out tour. How was the experience and do you feel more confident performing now?
It was amazing. For the show in London, there was a power cut. The venue was above a pub; it was completely sold out but I still felt like I needed to do it. They wouldn’t let us perform in the venue because it was deemed a safety hazard. But downstairs, the pub had emergency lights, so I did the show standing on a table and it was so fun.
Afterwards, everyone came up to the table and I was able to talk and have a drink with them. At the time, obviously, I was bricking it but it was such a moment.
What would you like to be remembered for most as an artist?
Honesty. My favourite artists are honest songwriters and lyricists. I want to stay real to telling authentic stories and being able to relate to people.
What’s next for Saint Harison? Do you have any new music, or tours, in the pipeline?
We have US dates, which is great but I’ll be very nervous. I’m always writing songs, there’s a vault.