PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Singer Zyah Belle moved to Portland from Los Angeles in November 2020 for a change of pace, but her music career is still showing no signs of slowing down.

The Bay Area native knew that she wanted to enter a creative industry at a very young age, but it wasn’t until her teenage years that she grew the courage to start performing.

“I joined my high school’s theater program when I was a sophomore in high school and ended up getting the role as Dorothy in ‘The Wiz’ and really was surprised and affirmed by the reactions that I got,” Belle said. “That was one of my first times singing solo in front of people. I had always been a part of the choir — my mother’s a choir director — but it was different having your voice stand out outside of a choir.”

By the age of 16, she had started performing at different events throughout Sacramento with the Black Student Union’s vocal ensemble and as a solo artist. That’s also when she released her debut track.

“I released my first song on MySpace — that’s how long I’ve been doing this,” she said.

If 16-year-old Belle could fast forward to 2023, she would see that the high school theater productions and MySpace release prepared her for the music career that was to come.

One of Belle’s most notable accomplishments was being a part of Kanye West’s Sunday Service Choir, a moment that introduced an even bigger audience to her soulful voice.

Just last year, she released her debut album ‘Yam Grier,’ earned nearly one million Spotify streams, received co-signs from Kid Cudi and Missy Elliot, and opened for Alex Isley and India Shawn on tour.

“I would really attribute these opportunities to relationship building and being genuine when you meet people and actually forming genuine connections because it really was one of those situations where preparation meets opportunity,” she said. “I had the opportunity to go on these two tours because not only did these you know ladies trust me and have a connection with me, but I was also ready for the opportunity once it was presented.”

One city that is often considered the land of opportunity for musicians is Los Angeles, which is why Belle lived there for about five years. But she says her move to Portland allowed her to nurture her mind, body and soul instead of feeling the pressure that’s associated with being a creative in the City of Angels.

Portland isn’t necessarily the first place people think about when jump-starting their music careers, but Belle still believes she’s right where she belongs.

“I’ve been enjoying the renaissance that’s sort of happening with so many Black transplants here in Portland that typically are moving here for work, but are from everywhere around the world that are expressing themselves creatively and also melting within the culture that has already been here,” she said. “And that’s been really beautiful to be a part of and see.”

She cites some of her musical influences as Jill Scott and Erykah Badu — both of whom are R&B and soul artists. There has been lots of discourse in and outside of the music industry about whether the genre is dying, but Belle thinks modern artists are keeping it alive.

“R&B is something that is also even taking the newer generations by storm,” she said. “As much as we talk about Gen Z… they are also keeping R&B alive and even when we bring up TikTok, [they’re] making folks that released hits in the ‘80s popular again because they’re making TikToks. In my opinion, R&B is definitely not dead. It’s evolutionary.”

Belle is one artist who is shaping the current evolution of R&B and soul, and the singer is excited to bring more heat to listeners in 2023.