When a songwriter feels a composition starting to materialize, they usually sequester themselves in their bedroom, or a studio, to flesh it out. If you’re SadBoi (born Ebhoni Jade Cato-O’Garro), you head for the bathroom.

“This is going to sound weird, but I feel safest in my washroom,” explains Cato-O’Garro, who was born in Toronto and is now based in Atlanta. “Sometimes I write to simple production, the simpler the better.  For me, I just go to my washroom and sit in my sink, and I blast the music, and then record it on my other phone as a voicenote. And I’ll sit with it for a few days.”

If you’re wondering what kind of music SadBoi writes, you can check her out on YouTube as it runs the gamut:  “Potential” drips with a dancehall vibe; “LIE LIE LIE!” is a despondent R&B ballad; “U Dun Kno” sports an intoxicating blend of ragga and hip-hop;  the melodic and rhythmic spine of “Gyal Clown” is infused with reggae; while “Sister Wives” is pure pop perfection. SadBoi can do it all.

“Honestly, my music tastes are all over the place. and I think that’s one thing I’m grateful for,” she admits, citing influences that run from Nashville rockers Paramore to aggressive Sacramento hip-hop experimentalists Death Grips to dancehall master Buju Banton.

Lyrically, SadBoi is a provocative and sexually blunt persona; an alter ego that expresses relationship dissatisfaction without restraint or inhibition, and that began to assert itself through her 2021 mixtape Good Dick and Weed.

“When I’m writing music, I really think about the girls who got their hearts broken,” says SadBoi. “That’s a really big thing for me: I feel like I’m speaking for them. I’m also talking about things I deal with: things I’ve seen or that I know people have experienced – and try to speak in a way that’s almost uplifting myself at the same time.

SadBoi, Potential

Select the image to play the YouTube video of the SadBoi song “Potential”

“That’s the only time that I can be real with myself. That’s what really inspires me, but also scares me, because I find myself saying things that I would never say out loud, but I’ll sing it.”

SadBoi, who’s modeled for Adidas and Savage X Fenty,  first began her artistic journey as Ebhoni, launching her career at a Canadian National Exhibition singing contest in Toronto when she was 11 or 12, performing Keyshia Cole’s “Love.”

Gravitating to the arts in high school – photography, painting, music – she’d sing cover songs and upload them to YouTube, eventually drawing the attention of a Toronto producer who suggested she record original material.

“Mom thought that was a really good idea, so she booked this studio session for me,” says SadBoi. “They wrote a song for me called ‘Pop Princess,’ and I hated it,  but I didn’t say anything. I just cried the whole ride home. The next day, I went and wrote my own songs.  I think that’s the moment I realized, ‘Okay, I can actually express myself through music.’ Then I just kept writing.”

In 2017, she released the eight-song EP Mood Ring – which has garnered approximately two million streams – and began establishing herself as a live entertainer. “I performed a lot around the city [Toronto], so any artist that came into town, whether it be Teyanna Taylor,  Rico Nasty, or Doja Cat, I would open for them.”

Ebhoni’s music initially catered to mainstream expectations, but then she matured. “I’ve always been a rebel,” she says. “When I was younger, I bleached my hair and my eyebrows and did left-of-centre things.  Thankfully, I had a mom that was really supportive and allowed me to express myself.

“As I got older, life happened. I got to a place where I didn’t want to impress anyone:  I just wanted to do what I felt was actually me. I used to sing about love or happy things I thought people would want to hear, and not what I was actually going through.

“I was going through so much in my relationships, and had to discover for myself what it is that I really want, and who I want to speak to. All the songs I wrote in my washroom are about heartbreak, and family issues, and all that stuff brings up [the] SadBoi [persona] in my songs. Because I feel like I always gravitated to sad kids that had, like, similar life stories to me: kids who got kicked out of the house, or were out all night partying, or rebellious.

“I find myself saying things that I would never say out loud, but I’ll sing it”

“I was listening back to the music and I wasn’t sure if Ebhoni fit into this world of what I was actually feeling. Some told me I should consider calling myself SadGirl, but SadBoi is so empowering and  powerful that I ran with it.”

SadBoi, who’s proficient on piano, guitar, and trumpet, and has her own group of supporters called The Crybabies, has certainly run with it. Another signature of a SadBoi song is also intriguing: of the songs she’s released thus far,  the majority are under three minutes, and some don’t even crack the two-minute mark.

“I try not to force anything,” she admits. “So, the minute I write something… sometimes it can be three minutes long, and actually be two verses or three verses. Or sometimes, it’s just a verse and a hook, and a bridge and a hook. But it’s however I feel in that moment.

“And when I find myself in a place [where] I can say, ‘Okay, I wrote this verse, I wrote this hook,” and then I’m stuck, I have nothing else to say – then it’s, ‘Okay, let me try to put a bridge in there.’ It’s really just how my brain works.”

Currently working on her first album with such Toronto-based producers as Nineteen85 and Mike Wise, SadBoi, signed to Atlanta’s LVRN label (6lack, Summer Walker), says The Six has also become her artistic happy place.

“Aside from my washroom, the best place for me to go when I’m trying to write music is Toronto,” she declares, adding that she not only hopes to follow the footsteps of Nicki Minaj and Lana Del Ray in terms of popularity, but also what they stand for.

“I really want to have people feel that they’re part of the world that I’m creating, and be in a safe space.  Nicki Minaj and Lana Del Ray did a such a really good job in showing [people] that it’s okay to be themselves. So, that’s the goal for me.”