Show: With Transviolet on Saturday at U Street Music Hall. Show starts at 7 p.m. 202-588-1889. www.ustreetmusichall.com. $15.
Mikky Ekko got his first real chance at musical stardom two years ago when he joined Rihanna onstage at the 2013 Grammy Awards. Viewers wondered who this beanie-clad singer was, appearing alongside the Barbados native as she performed her hit “Stay.” His vocals added an extra bit of tenderness to a song already steeped in vulnerability and emotion.
Ekko wrote that touching ballad with Justin Parker. He gained more recognition a few months later when his song “Who Are You, Really” was featured on the HBO series “True Blood.”
The son of a southern minister, Ekko (whose real name is John Stephen Sudduth) grew up singing in choirs. Born in Louisiana and based in Nashville, the 30-year-old singer-songwriter released his debut studio album, “Time,” in January, featuring such emotional ballads as “Mourning Doves” and Comatose.”
On “Watch Me Rise,” the album’s upbeat opening track, he sings, “Say my name, cause once I get my head above the clouds, I’m never coming down . . . Watch me rise.”
In a segment of the music industry powered by the love ballad, pop and R&B singers like Mikky Ekko fit right in, yet still manage to stand out.