He's never performed on television or played a major music festival, but Thunder Bay, Ont. Muslim singer-songwriter Usama Syed has now been streamed more than a million times on YouTube.
The Lakehead University mechanical engineering student, who performs under the moniker Siedd, posted the first of his five faith-based music videos in July of 2016.
"It's You" has now been viewed more than 80,000 times — but that's nothing compared to his reworkings of Shawn Mendes' "Mercy," which clocks in at more than 225,000 views, and of Gnash's "I Hate U, I Love U," which is approaching 450,000.
Siedd's popularity has taken the humble, enthusiastic artist by surprise, he told CBC, but he thinks people are responding to his work because of it's positive, faith-based, message.
"It's just that some of the mainstream music ... it's very vulgar," he said. "Some of the themes of the music - it's just like sex, drugs and rock n' roll. It's kind of part of the culture in a sense. ... and there's some people who want other than that."
The singer also believes people are responding to the North American influences in his music, which set him apart from the majority of Muslim artists, who are based overseas and whose music is inspired by trends in their homelands.
Siedd's music features a cappella arrangements created using layered vocalizations and hand claps, often digitally-manipulated.
His renditions of other artist's songs frequently involve rewritten lyrics with wholesome or spiritual themes.
His version of Gnash's "I Hate U, I Love U," for example, is retitled "I Need You," and the relationship-themed lyrics are replaced with words about turning to god for help with family struggles.
The Lahore-born artist, who spent his childhood in Mississauga, listened to a lot of hip hop as a youth, he said, but he grew wary of the messages in the lyrics.
"I wasn't able to find music that I'd be able to fully connect with, in a sense that it's also reflective of my faith as well, being a Muslim, so I decided that, maybe if I can't find anything, maybe I should start creating it," he said.
Siedd might never have made music at all had he not moved to Thunder Bay with his family at 14, he added.
It was only because he needed an elective at Hammarskjold High School that he decided to enrol in a guitar class.
He later joined the school choir as well.
He quickly grew captivated with music and with music-making computer software, and focussing on that helped compensate for the isolation he felt as the new kid in town, he said.
'If I hadn't moved to Thunder Bay I wouldn't have been able to do this'
"Sometimes you need that isolation to grow and to learn about your own self," he said of leaving Mississauga's large South Asian community for the not-so-diverse environs of Thunder Bay.
"It let me focus on myself."
He also credit's Thunder Bay's "friendly people" with encouraging him to pursue his passion.
"I was a very shy kid so I would not sing in front of the class, but then those teachers kind of pushed me," he said.
"I think definitely if I hadn't moved to Thunder Bay I wouldn't have been able to do this."