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Why 'Heavy' is singer-songwriter SiR's most personal album to date

SIR: As around the sun the Earth knows it's revolving and the rosebuds know to bloom in early May - just as hate knows love's a cure, you can rest your mind assured, I'll be loving you always.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

That is the sublime voice of Sir Darryl Ferris, who releases music just as Sir. He recently joined me at NPR Studios in Culver City, Calif., just a few miles from his home in Inglewood. We discussed Sir's new album, "Heavy," but it wasn't just about music alone. This is the R&B artist's most personal album to date, and he told me about how the pandemic forced him to confront his demons and grow as a person.

SIR: I was depressed if we're really going to be just frank and beans, I was trying to navigate success in a way that I best knew how and putting myself in real dangerous situations and just having trouble dealing with who I wanted to be. I didn't know who I really wanted to be at the time. I was married. You know, I've been married, and I was just going through it at home. And the Sir lifestyle was kind of taking over and that was making things at home even worse. And my thing was, instead of talking about it with anyone, I would just self-medicate, numb and just forget about it. And it was hard. It was hard to break. I'm glad to say I'm a year and about five months sober now, you know?

MARTÍNEZ: Oh, good for you.

SIR: I thank God for the people that are still here and still around because I did lose a lot of relationships. Lost a lot of friends behind closed doors, you know, made some horrible impressions in places I didn't need to.

MARTÍNEZ: Was that the Sir lifestyle you're talking about?

SIR: Yeah. It's like the revolving door of every city is different, but it's the same. And you know where to go, what to do, how to have fun. And it kind of escalates to places that you know you shouldn't go. And that continues on because there's no one there to tell you to stop.

MARTÍNEZ: Let's hear some of the title track, "Heavy."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEAVY")

SIR: (Singing) Just got off a three-day bender, still enjoying the ride. From what I remember, last night was a hell of a night. Probably need to go easy. I'm in love with the pain. Don't be surprised if you see me dancing in the rain.

MARTÍNEZ: For me, hearing you sing this, there's a lot of regret.

SIR: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I wrote this song before rehab, before I had admitted to my family that there was an issue. And I was scared. I was in a bad place, you know? And it's such a beautiful song. That is what is so weird about what I do, man. It's crazy to me. These songs are so personal, but they're going to be something that people can connect with because they're so personal, I feel like.

MARTÍNEZ: So let me ask you this because I think artists come at the world, and the world comes at artists differently. Athletes, artists, anyone that has, like, a higher level of ability than most people, they tend to kind of rationalize stuff.

SIR: That's exactly my point of all of this is my moral compass was off. Everything is a lot easier to manage. I'm on the phone with my wife probably, like, seven hours a day.

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

SIR: That kind of communication is, man, something I wish I would have asked for a lot earlier in my marriage, you know?

MARTÍNEZ: How long have you been married?

SIR: Fifteen years.

MARTÍNEZ: Fifteen years. Yeah. I'm approaching 30. Nice. We speak maybe seven minutes a day because it's, like, super-direct.

SIR: (Laughter) Oh, second nature.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

SIR: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It's locked in. And, you know, when trust is broken, it has to be earned and it has to be redeveloped.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

SIR: And that's what we're doing here. I broke my wife's trust, and she deserves me to say that publicly because she's everything to me, man. And - but when you - (singing) when you really love someone, giving up is so hard to do.

Oh, man.

MARTÍNEZ: The song that I've been playing over and over and over again since I heard the album is this one. It's called "Six Whole Days."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIX WHOLE DAYS")

SIR: (Singing) Staring at the sun for six whole days. Tolerance I never gauge. Don't know if I'll ever act my age. Certain this is not a phase, certain I been happy in my cage.

MARTÍNEZ: So why were you staring at the sun for six whole days? Hasn't anybody ever told you that you're not supposed to do that?

SIR: (Laughter) It's funny. Like, as an addict, six whole days is - that's how it would feel coming down, like, trying to go to sleep when I couldn't. Oh, man. One time I was - I used to live downtown. And you know how downtown gets at night, you know?

MARTÍNEZ: Downtown LA?

SIR: Yeah, Downtown LA.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.

SIR: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I'm just walking the streets. And I just, like - I'm looking around and it goes from, like, night to the sun rising in a matter of what felt like 10, 20 minutes. And these kind of days are, like, etched in my head.

MARTÍNEZ: Let's listen to this song. It's called "Ricky's Song."

SIR: Ooh.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RICKY'S SONG")

SIR: (Singing) Call me when you make it home. Remember I told you, you're young, but you're still a man. Remember I told you, I don't trust your little friends. Remember I told you, be careful when you wear that hoodie. Remember I told you, police might...

MARTÍNEZ: So a song like this reminds me - Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a book, "Between The World And Me," that he wrote for his son about, you know, the anxieties, you know, and the pressures that he feels raising a Black boy in the United States. In this instance, though, who is Ricky? Who is this song for?

SIR: That's my nephew.

MARTÍNEZ: That's your nephew.

SIR: He's 20 right now. When I wrote the song, he was about to be a senior in high school. It was a tough time in his life and the neighborhood we lived in wasn't a place where you just, like, wandered anywhere. To look at him now, I'm so proud of Ricky. He's doing great. He's in college, he's paying his own rent, and he actually just got an acting job, you know? Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RICKY'S SONG")

SIR: (Singing) You learn through me, don't wanna see you make the same mistakes. Take time with love. No, I don't care how many hearts you break. Make sure you pray and thank the Lord for everything He's done. Remember, there is still so much you have to overcome.

The song, it translates into Black love in a different way, man. That's real Black love. It's about how I feel about my family.

MARTÍNEZ: That is Sir. His new album is called "Heavy" and it's out March 22. Thanks a lot for coming.

SIR: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIR SONG, "RICKY'S SONG") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Devan Schwartz
Devan Schwartz is an editor for NPR's Morning Edition. He is an experienced audio professional who, in addition to his work with NPR, has worked with such organizations as BBC, Slate, the New York Times, and various public radio stations.
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