Daniel Sahad, rising Austin music star and lead singer of band Nané, has died at 29
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 Monday.
Sahad and his band, a supersonic five-piece that performed minor miracles of funk and soul, were rising stars on the Austin music scene who topped Austin360's list of Austin artists to watch in 2022.
From the archives::Massive sound, euphoric heart: Nané could be Austin’s next breakout
Nané's recent performances include a New Year's Eve blowout with Blk Odyssy at Empire, an appearance at Q2 Stadium during last year's Austin FC season and a spectacular Austin City Limits Music Festival opening set in 2021.
Last week, Sahad and his band played at City Hall, as the City Council named April 7 "Nane Day" in Austin. It was the first performance in the chambers since before the pandemic.
The band had recently wrapped its first national tour, opening for the funk band Galactic. Nané "stepped up and really just mightily slayed it," delivering show-stopping performances in top markets around the country, drummer John Speice, who produced the band's self-titled first album, said Sunday night.
Who was Daniel Sahad, frontman of Austin band Nané?
The child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic with familial roots in Lebanon, Sahad grew up in the small Panhandle city of Amarillo. Throughout his childhood, he struggled with a sense of displacement, he told the Statesman in 2020. Though Spanish was his first language, on trips to the Dominican Republic, his accent set him apart from the rest of the family. Back at home, he faced the “overt and covert racism that you experience regularly growing up in North Texas, as one of the only, like, brown kids of the city,” he said.
Early on, he realized that he could harness the weight of words to “actually change people's minds” and get them to “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 the right way, they can change everything,” he said.
Sahad met Nané co-founder and guitarist Ian Green at the University of Texas, and the musical and personal connection the two men formed was so strong, it persuaded Sahad to abandon his sensible premed major to pursue music.
When the band was ready to record its 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 boyfriend a favor by signing on to the project. But the first time he heard Sahad sing, Speice was blown away by his "effortless four-octave range," he said.
"I was just like, this is super special. Like, this isn't some regular (expletive), this is some special (expletive)," Speice said.
"He could have the most powerful voice, but he could also do this sweet falsetto," JaRon Marshall, former keyboardist for Nané, said Monday from Nashville, Tenn., where he was playing the Country Music Television awards with Black Pumas. The voice perfectly reflected "a man that could also be a teddy bear," he said.
Marshall, who started playing with Sahad in 2018, found the band's euphoric blend of funk and soul "freeing," 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 "L.A." approach to the industry aspect of the music.
Austin band Nané attracted attention, accolades thanks to Daniel Sahad's ingenuity
Sahad thought strategically about marketing and promotion. He used videos and short films to boost interest in the band's work, gaining national attention with an NPR Tiny Desk Contest submission video that the band filmed in a laundromat right after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the music industry in 2020.
Singer-songwriter Brittany Howard named 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 no holds barred. He is just loving himself, feeling himself,” Howard said in an NPR video about her favorite songs in the contest. “I’m inspired by the dude, and I want to share that kind of energy with everybody, and I think that’s the kind of energy that should be spread out in the world.”
"His personality was so ebullient," Speice said, noting that Sahad had a "special magnetism" that drew people to him. He had a rare gift of being able to make intimate connections with an audience of thousands. He made total strangers feel like his good friends.
After the album was done, Speice introduced Nané to Rick McNulty, music director for Austin 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 the special ingredients, the mojo," McNulty said Monday. He recognized Sahad as a charismatic front man with an incredible singing voice and great songwriting chops. The group had all the elements for success.
In October, Sahad told the Statesman his band was "deep into writing our second record, which we feel taps a lot more into our sound and is really, really strong." He said the band planned to record this month.
Musicians, fans express shock, sadness at news of Daniel Sahad's death
Artists and industry folks from across the Austin music scene reacted to the news of Sahad’s death with shock and sadness Monday.
“Absolutely gutted that this brilliant light went out of this world way too soon. I remember the first time I heard Daniel Sahad’s voice. I was blown away by the power he blasted and the sex he dripped,” soul singer Tameca Jones wrote on Sahad’s Facebook page.
“I’ve never felt this feeling of looking at a folder of (music) I produced for you and knowing people won’t get to feel it. It’s crushing,” Juwan Elcock, who performs as Sam Houston from the band Blk Odyssy, wrote on Facebook.
“He was a terrific frontman, wrote powerfully and the momentum was there for a big year/important career,” ACL Radio DJ Andy Langer wrote on Twitter.
"There was so much ahead of them," McNulty said. "That's the hardest thing to swallow. It's that besides being such a beautiful, loving kind of guy, you just knew what potential he had. And you just feel gutted that we won't get to see it."
No cause of death has been announced.
Sahad is survived by his parents, Rosa Julia Delacruz-Sahad and Najib Sahad, and his sister, Mariel Sahad.
This is a developing story. Check back for more details.