Written By Kelly Holm
In her home country of Georgia, SALIO isn’t merely a rising star in the music scene— she’s a cultural icon. At age 11, she wrote her first official song, “Varskalebi” (“Stars”), which became a de facto national anthem.
“It is still performed and loved today by a very large chunk of the [Georgian] population… young and old alike know the words to it, children learn to sing listening to it,” SALIO, who now lives in London, says. “It is about the moon, the stars, the sun and rainbows singing together and dreaming. It makes me so happy when people sing this song, especially when I see mothers comforting their infant children, using it as a kind of nursery rhyme… this is the most wonderful compliment that anyone could wish for.”
Unlike many child prodigies, her fame wasn’t quick to flame out. By the time she reached 15, she’d already formed a band called Paparazzi at school and written an album. After talent scouts took note of Paparazzi, SALIO got the opportunity to sing every day on a popular TV morning show.
“Normally singers prefer to perform in the evenings or at night; it’s not really a morning profession,” SALIO said. “During this time, I got a phone call from a friend who was a very popular musician, asking me to perform with him at the most popular festival in Georgia at the time, ART-Geni. I snuck out of the house to get there, as my father was always quite rightly worried about his daughter going out after dark.”
Rest assured, though, Pops, SALIO’s greatest rebellions these days are stylistic. Influenced by creatives and visionaries from Ella Fitzgerald to Osho to Hunter S. Thompson, she dabbles in numerous genres including Motown, blues and electronica.
“When you deliberately try to write something catchy or super easy for the listener because you think that is what will make a song popular, you lose all depth and identity, and the songs become stagnant, sterile rehashes of what once was interesting,” she says. “The music industry is a creative lifestyle choice, it is not for monetary gain.”
In the UK, SALIO’s main collaborator is producer Jonathon Holder. Her English teacher has assisted with the writing of several of her songs, including 2017’s “Lonesome Tales,” “Where the River Flows” and the soon to be released “Leave Me Be.”
Her favorite track to perform, “New Blues,” is made up of “old-school blues chords” and is an emotional and harmonic tour de force.
One of her nearest and dearest musical partners is her longtime friend Beka Japaridze Shukvani, the producer of her upcoming EP COLORS .
“[Beka] has a little studio hidden far away from the city, where it is quiet and there is a true sense of space,” SALIO said. “We have been writing there for a couple of years and some of the material from those sessions has found its way onto the EP… Everything was well recorded well before the superflu lockdown came to our doorstep.”
The EP’s five tracks explore a range of human experiences, including the euphoria of love in the title track. “[‘Colors’] is my favorite track on [the EP]… when you are in love, you see things differently. Life becomes more joyful, more colorful,” SALIO says. “[Previous release] ‘Wayside’ is about watching things disappear, so [ COLORS ] has a much more positive message.”
Once the release of COLORS is wrapped up, SALIO hopes to next turn her sights to the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans, and eventually build a musical college for young Georgians who otherwise would not have financial access to the ranks of stardom.
“I know how lucky I have been, through certain benefactors helping me along my path so far, and I now feel it is my duty and honor to do the same,” she says. “I have performed to tens of thousands, and with each passing moment that blurs into the history of memory I always feel ‘wow, that was something special.’”
A more short-term goal? Just survive, she says.
“I think that’s the same for everyone at this present time of international tension and invisible death flu.”