In just a few short years, SoCal trio Bahari has gone from a group of total strangers to opening for Selena Gomez on their first full-fledged tour—all before releasing a debut album. Ruby Carr (vocals/keyboards), Natalia Panzarella (vocals/bass), and Sidney Sartini (vocals/guitar) got their start as individuals when producers Rock Mafia (Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Zedd) introduced them in 2013. They became friends quickly, and they wrote their first song even quicker, knocking out “Wild Ones” in about 20 minutes. Below, Carr, 19, tells EW about the group’s rapid rise, their upcoming album, and what it’s like opening for Gomez.
Some artists start out in groups and then want to go solo. But you were all in the studio doing individual sessions before deciding you wanted to make music with each other. What drew you together?
We weren’t necessarily doing solo careers. We were trying to just figure out the music industry. We were all 16 years old, so we had no idea what we were doing. We went to the studio—we knew all the producers separately—and met each other there. We found out that our voices fit really well together and that we could write together.
You all come from such different backgrounds: You were raised in Kenya, Natalia was born in Nashville, Sidney is from Manhattan Beach. What do you all have in common musically?
We have pretty different tastes in music, but it’s all based around the same genre. We really like classic rock, especially a lot a bands from the ‘60s. We love the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac. That’s something we bonded over, because there aren’t a lot of 16-year-old girls that we meet who enjoy that kind of music also. That’s definitely something that’s inspired our music.
How has it been bridging the gap between those influences and the pop world?
We are inspired by classic rock, but at the same time we’re not trying to be in a rock and roll band. There’s a lot of music that’s current right now that we really love, like Lana Del Rey. We’ve managed to take the inspirations from the bands from the ‘60s that we love and pair it with our own experiences and the music we hear on the radio to bring it into our own sound.
Is this tour with Selena your first tour?
Pretty much! Before we started on tour with Selena we were with Birdy for about a week and a half on the East Coast. That was playing theaters and club venues, and then we started with Selena the day after one of our dates with Birdy. We jumped from playing venues of 2-3,000 people to playing venues of 20,000 people. For us, there’s not much you can do to actually prepare for something like that. You just have to make sure you’re well-versed in your music and you’re confident. You have to just go up there and do it and give it your best shot.
How’s it been translating the intimate, singer-songwriter vibe of your music to these massive venues?
The biggest difference is the fact that you have to be so much more animated because there are people so far away from you and you want to grab their attention. The biggest thing for us is making it 10 times bigger and really emphasizing the music with our performances. That took a while to get used to. And honestly, the most important thing is to have a good time on stage. If you look like you’re having fun and are connected to the music, then everyone else is going to feel that.
Has there been anything you’ve learned from watching her on tour?
We watch her every night! All of the team is like, “Oh, you’re still here?” It’s been unbelievably inspiring to watch everything that goes into it. On the first day, it was overwhelming: the production was so big and so involved. But to be able to watch someone like Selena, who on this album made such an incredible transition into a strong independent woman, get on stage and rock it is so inspiring. All these people screaming her name and being so happy to see her up there, that’s something we want to eventually be able to do. We’re kind of sad that it’s ending soon.
The three of you are still in your teens, and the music industry can be hard on artists who get their start so young. Has Selena given you advice on how to navigate that?
The best advice she’s ever given us is to be ourselves. And that’s really underrated advice: know who you are and don’t try and be anybody else but that person. She’s always been someone that we looked up to. She’s an icon and she’s so famous, but she took the time out of her day to support us, and we didn’t even have one song out. She also encourages people on her tour to be nice. She’s said to us, “Is everyone nice to you?” We’re like, “Yeah!” And she goes, “Good. Because I don’t have time and space for people who don’t treat other people well.” She makes sure that everyone is really kind on her crew. It’s always really cool to be apart of something like that.
What’s next for you guys?
After the tour we’re going to Canada, where we have a few festival dates. Then we are finishing our album. It’s almost finished, we just have to get back in the studio to finish up a couple of things. We had this idea of a day and night [theme]. You know how you get a record, flip one side over, and it’s a different cover art on each side? That inspired us to put out most of the uplifting, happy summer songs on the EP and go into the more mature side on the rest of the album. We have so many songs—choosing another six songs is going to be tricky.