Daniel Sahad, lead singer of the Austin band Nané, died Sunday night. He was 29.
The news was announced on the band’s social media accounts on Monday.
A supersonic five-piece that performed minor miracles of funk and soul, Sahad and his band were rising stars on the Austin music scene, topping Austin360’s list of Austin artists to see in 2022.
From the archives ::Massive sound, euphoric heart: Nané could be Austin’s next breakout
Nané’s most recent appearances include a New Year’s Eve blowout with Blk Odyssy on Empire, a performance at Q2 Stadium during last year’s Austin FC season and a spectacular Austin City Limits Music Festival opening in 2021.
Nané also starred in Netflix’s Austin-based reality TV show “Twentysomethings”.
Last week, Sahad and his band were playing at City Hall when Austin City Council called April 7 “Nane Day” in Austin. It was the first appearance in the halls since before the pandemic.
The band had recently completed their first national tour, opening for the funk band Galactic. They “stepped up and really just mightily killed it” and delivered show-stopping performances at top markets around the country, said drummer John Speice, who produced the band’s self-titled first album, Sunday night.
Sahad, who is a child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic with family roots in Lebanon, grew up in the small panhandle town of Amarillo. Throughout his childhood, he struggled with a sense of displacement, he told the statesman in 2020. Although Spanish was his first language, his accent separated him from the rest of the family on trips to the DR. At home, he faced the “obvious and hidden racism that you regularly experience when you grow up in North Texas, as one of the city’s only brown children,” he said.
Early on, he realized he could leverage the weight of words to “actually change people’s minds” and make them “see life through my lens,” he said in 2020.
“I’ve been writing speeches and songs and all that since I was a little boy because words were so powerful that when used in the right way, they can change everything,” he said.
Sahad met Nané’s co-founder and guitarist Ian Green at the University of Texas, and the musical and personal connection the two men formed was so strong that it convinced Sahad to give up his sensible pre-med major to pursue music.
When the band was ready to record their first album, Green introduced Sahad to his future father-in-law, Speice. The seasoned drummer, who plays with Grupo Fantasma and Brownout, thought he was doing his daughter’s girlfriend a favor by signing on to the project. But the first time he heard Sahad sing, Speice was blown away by his “troublesome four-octave range,” he said.
“I was like, this is super special. Like, this is not something regular (expletive), this is something special (expletive),” Speice said.
“He could have the most powerful voice, but he could also make this sweet falsetto,” JaRon Marshall, former keyboardist for Nané, said Monday from Nashville, where he plays the Country Music Television Awards with the Black Pumas. The voice perfectly reflected “a man who could also be a teddy bear,” he said.
Marshall, who started playing with Sahad in 2018, found the band’s euphoric mix of funk and soul “liberating,” he said. At the time, it was the best band he had ever been in.
“It just inspired me,” he said. He was also impressed with Sahad’s professionalism and determination. He said Sahad was the first Austin musician he met who took an “LA” approach to the industrial aspect of music.
Sahad thought strategically about marketing and promotion. He used videos and short films to increase interest in the band’s work and gained national attention with an NPR Tiny Desk Contest submission video, which the band filmed in a laundry just after the coronavirus pandemic closed the music industry in 2020.
Singer-songwriter Brittany Howard called the video for the band’s song “Blue Velvet” one of her favorite submissions that year.
“I already love this person. The singer is just not blocked. He just loves himself, feels himself,” Howard said in an NPR video about her favorite songs in the competition. “I’m inspired by the guy and I want to share it kind of energy with everyone, and I think that’s the kind of energy that should be spread out in the world. “
“His personality was so exuberant,” Speice said, noting that Sahad had a “special magnetism” that drew people to him. He had a rare gift of being able to create intimate connections with an audience of thousands. He made total strangers feel like his good friends.
After the album was completed, Speice introduced Nané to Rick McNulty, music director of Austin’s public radio station KUTX 98.9 FM.
“We believed in them from the very beginning. And we fully expected them to blow up all over the country and the world. They just seemed to have those special ingredients, the mojo,” McNulty said Monday. He recognized Sahad as a charismatic frontman with an incredible singing voice and also great songwriting chops. The group had all the elements for potential success.
In October, Sahad told Statesman that his band was “deep in the process of writing our second record, which we feel is grabbing a lot more into our sound and is really, really strong.” He said the band planned to record this month.
Artists and industrialists from across the Austin music scene responded to the news of Sahad’s death with shock and grief on Monday.
“Absolutely amazed that this radiant light went out of this world far too soon. I remember the first time I heard Daniel Sahad’s voice. I was blown away by the force he blew and the sex he dripped,” wrote soul singer Tameca Jones on Sahad’s Facebook page.
I’ve never felt this feeling of looking at a folder of (music) I’ve produced for you, and knowing that people are not going to feel it. It’s devastating, “wrote Juwan Elcock, who acts as Sam Houston from the band Blk Odyssy, on Facebook.
“He was a great frontman, wrote powerfully and momentum was there for a great year / important career,” ACL Radio DJ Andy Langer wrote on Twitter.
“There was so much in front of them,” McNulty said. “It’s the hardest thing to swallow. It’s that besides being such a handsome, loving type of guy, you just knew what potential he had. And you just feel sorry that we don’t get to see it.”
No cause of death has been identified.
This is a development story. Come back for more details.