In early February, Aymen Saleh—a Canterbury, England native who performs under the name Holy Pinto—paid homage to his adopted hometown with a star-studded and local-landmark-laden music video for a song called “Milwaukee.” Roughly one month after releasing the heartwarming tribute to some of the people, places, and things that make the city such a special place, Milwaukee looked dramatically different than it did in that music video.
During the early days of the COVID-19 crisis (which is still happening, by the way), Saleh and videographer Sean McDowell set out to capture the emptiness and dreariness of Milwaukee in “lockdown” with more captivating visuals set to music. The video for “Special,” Holy Pinto’s latest single, finds the singer-songwriter taking in the sights and (lack of) sounds during a dour March afternoon walk down Brady Street and around downtown Milwaukee. As darkness falls, Saleh comes to realize he’s not alone after all.
“Special” was self-recorded by Saleh, who hauled all of all of his gear, along with anything he could “beg, steal or borrow,” to a warehouse about 30 minutes outside of Milwaukee. The only exceptions to this recording process were the grand piano parts—which he recorded on a piano that a repair warehouse allowed him to use—and string accompaniment that was later added by Phil Breggs of Wire & Nail. Despite all the time and work he put into the new song and video, Saleh tells us “Special” was only meant to be a single that helped him stay busy and in the minds of listeners during this span of musical inaction.
“It feels like—and has been—months since I’ve done any public musical activity, and didn’t want to totally disappear for the rest of the year,” Saleh says. “The song really captures a lot of my mood over the first half of the year, so it felt poignant to put out there. Both the video and the song will always feel like a time capsule for me.”