On his two ethereal EPs — 2016’s “In Loving Memory” and the recent “Boy Afraid” — the Los Angeles artist who christened himself Saro sings in an eerie operatic style that often soars into an androgynous falsetto that suggests he was classically trained.
But he didn’t hone his skills in choir practice or demanding voice lessons; he learned how to croon in the acoustically resonant confines of the family shower as a youth. It’s where he still continues to pen much of his dark, minimalist material.
“I was always singing as a kid, and I remember being 4 and coming up with melodies on the swing set and singing to my dog,” says the 28-year-old, who plays The City this week. “I was just coming up with stuff out of thin air, literally complete songs, but I never really recorded them or wrote any of them down, and I was too shy to sing in front of anyone.”
He fell into a routine of belting out his ideas in the bathroom, in a perfect echo-chamber environment. By 17, when he finally had the courage to tape himself, he had developed his own unique sound.
To Saro — who borrowed his name from a “sorrow” reference in the Smiths’ song “Pretty Girls Make Graves” — the unorthodox method makes perfect sense.
“I’m just a shower bum – I spend a lot of time in there,” he says. “Even if the water isn’t running, I’ll be in the shower just laying around.”
Acoustics are a big part of the attraction, but he’s also affected by the solitude, by being alone in a small tiled room with his thoughts.
“Growing up, the shower was the only time when I was completely by myself. It was my safe place,” he says.
Saro’s folks, who thought he had a remarkable gift, secretly recorded him.
At 15, his father played him a covert cassette of him at 11, warbling a Sheryl Crow number.
“I was even better then, actually. I had a really high-pitched, young-Michael-Jackson kind of voice,” he says.
Nevertheless, he waived music for studying business economics at UC Santa Barbara, where, as Evan Mellows, using his real first name, he began working with producer David Burris, now his permanent collaborator.
As exemplified by the mortality-themed “Sky Doesn’t Blue,” the secretive artist has experienced his fair share of sorrow.
“Music is the way that I get all that out,” he says.
He does get rattled, though, at the thought of a hotel room on tour that’s equipped with a bathtub, not a shower.
“For me, that’s the end of the world,” he says with a mock gasp. “That hasn’t happened yet, and I hope it never does!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Jan. 5
Tickets: $10 to $12
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.ticketfly.com