17-year-old White Center resident Sarey Savy hopes to take the music world by storm, and plans to do so without hiding his sexuality.
Out from the start, gay teen musician building a career
In the entertainment world, there is a long history of talented musicians and actors who happen to be gay keeping that part of their lives private, at least until they’ve “made it,” including Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris. Most recently, as a first for professional sports in the U.S., active NBA player Jason Collins came out as homosexual, saying “I think, I know, in my personal life, I’m ready and I think the country is ready for supporting an openly gay basketball player.”
It’s 2013 now, with voters in state after state approving gay marriage as a sign of acceptance that some people are born homosexual, have a right to marry the person they love and share the benefits of such a union with heterosexual couples. Gay characters in film and television are no longer an anomaly, nor presented in caricature as a rule. Normalization is the trend for an increasing slice of the national population.
With the cultural sea change seemingly underway, Sarey Savy, a 17-year-old lifelong White Center resident born to entertain, believes the world is ready for an openly gay musician right from the start.
Savy makes genre-bending music that leans towards pop, and is just about to embark on an 11-show summer tour with hopes of making a career out of his vocal and composer talents. He’s released a mixtape, posted songs to YouTube, signed with a California record label, has a manager and is getting ready to perform for audiences the size of which he’s only imagined.
He writes lyrics from a personal perspective, and said staying true to a memory means not altering the facts. If he writes about a boyfriend, he won’t be swapping out his name for a female’s to make it more marketable.
“I don’t think music should have agenda, I don’t like it when people say, ‘He’s a gay artist, all of the songs are about gay people,’ … to me music is music,” Savy said. “It’s not about the person who wrote it and it’s not about how they identify themselves or how the song is crafted. It’s all about feeling what the person is saying, it’s about the lyrics. If you can relate to it, then it’s a good song. I don’t see why people should assign agenda or sexuality to a song.”
At the same time, Savy said people he might work with in the industry need to know how he is.
“That was a no-brainer for me, because if I am going to be working with people in this business they need to know who I am and accept my sexuality,” he said of being openly gay. “I am not going to get hired by someone and have to hide who I am … otherwise it’s just not going to work.”
Savy’s parents immigrated to Seattle from Cambodia shortly before he was born, and he has been surrounded by vocalists his entire life. His mom sings, his sisters sing and dance.
At age 7, Savy thought dance was his calling, but his older sister and mentor in the art of movement had a child and had to shift her focus to parenting instead of teaching her brother how to dance. Soon thereafter, he signed up for choir class at Mt. View Elementary and his teacher said one of the most important things: “You can sing.”
Savy turned his attention to becoming a musician, teaching himself how to belt out tunes with the fine tutelage of the women in his life and, over the years, learning how to compose and mix his own music.
He said he knew he was gay from an early age – around 10 – and slowly broke the news to his family, starting with his sisters. Speaking to that decision, Savy said, “It’s been fantastic, it’s actually better than I thought. Now, at 17, (my family) fully accepts me.”
While the most important people in Savy’s life support who he is, he said it has been more difficult finding acceptance in Cambodian circles of Seattle.
“Personally, as a gay Cambodian artist, a lot of people have talked down on me in my culture,” he said, finding most of the negative reactions posted online, behind the veil of internet anonymity.
Sarey Savy is booked to play 11 festivals this summer, including the Capitol Hill Pride and Seattle Pride Festivals. It’s the first time he’s branched out to a larger stage and while admitting he’s nervous, he knows it’s worth the sweat to attain his dream.
“I want (music) to be an income source for the rest of my life because I can’t see myself working retail. I can’t see myself being a janitor. Music is my life, but I also want time to find someone who means a lot to me,” he said. “When I found out that (gay marriage was) finally legalized (in Washington State), I found a new door was opened for me.”
You can find Sarey Savy online at http://about.me/sarey, including links to his mixtape and tour dates.