After a shoutout from DJ Khaled and a viral post on TikTok, a Gainesville singer is moving forward with a new project.
Sam Zelaya, known by his artist name “Zzz,” is set to release his new single and accompanying music video, “Another Day,” Dec. 24. The 18-year-old UF business administration first-year previously received attention on TikTok for his song “OCEAN.”
Zelaya started making music during his freshman year of high school, but he said he started to take it “seriously” his sophomore year when he began releasing songs on SoundCloud. He’s since put his music on Spotify, where he has accumulated over 500,000 streams this year alone. He also headlined local venue High Dive in October.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Zelaya took full advantage of his time. While quarantining, he made over 100 songs. He said he changed the style of his music over this period of time.
“I really showed the growth I made just through the songs I was hearing myself making,” Zelaya said. “I started focusing more on how to make the quality better with my music.”
In May 2020, Zelaya dropped a song called “Petty,” which he said boosted his audience.
To promote this song, Zelaya went on a live stream on Instagram that caught the attention of DJ Khaled. According to Zelaya, Khaled told his viewers, “Go listen to this kid, he has potential.” Zelaya was able to get a co-sign from Khaled, which he said “helped push [his] music a lot.”
A pivotal aspect of Zelaya’s rise to popularity was the amount of people he was able to reach through social media. A few months ago, right when Zelaya enrolled in UF, he invited neighbors over to listen to his song “OCEAN.”
He recorded a TikTok of the moment capturing their reactions, and the video got 1.7 million views. Some of the audience that saw the video were managers of the “Full Send” brand. They noticed Zelaya had their merchandise in the background of his video, so they flew him out to Los Angeles to shoot a music video for his next release “Another Day.”
Zelaya describes the single as having a “rock and indie vibe,” and he said he hasn’t put out anything similar to it.
Zelaya’s music has changed significantly since he first started releasing songs. His brother, Benjamin Zelaya, a 20-year-old UF finance third-year, said he has seen his brother’s music progress from being about surface level material to having more substance.
“He literally uses his music as therapy for himself,” he said. “It's just very real and emotional.”
Not only has Zelaya changed musically — he’s also changed personally. Justin Saruski, a 20-year-old UF media production, management, and technology third-year, has been a lifelong friend to Zelaya. He said he noticed a change in him firsthand.
“He's become a lot more confident in himself not only as a musician, but just as a person and as a human being,” Saruski said.
But Saruski, who produces music under the name “Justin Scott” and has worked with Zelaya on a few of his previous songs, said Zelaya’s quick rise to prominence hasn’t gone to his head.
“Even with all this popularity, he's such a humble guy,” Saruski said.“He genuinely cares about his fans, he genuinely cares about doing music, for music, not for money or fame or anything like that.”
“Another Day” will be available on all streaming platforms Dec. 24.
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Alexis_Carson99.
Alexis Carson is a third-year journalism major and staff writer with the Avenue. In her free time, she loves watching horror movies and going to concerts.