Singer Sy Smith talks 'Fast and Curious'
California-based singer Sy Smith has been making beautiful music for more than a decade.
Over the course of four solo albums and countless collaborations with other artists, Smith has recorded a vast catalog of divergent tunes — from soul to dance music to jazz and more.
On top of that, she’s crafted commercial jingles for companies like The Gap; appeared on television shows like “Ally McBeal”; and served as a touring background singer for artists such as Whitney Houston and The Foreign Exchange. (Smith’s work with that particular band actually brought her to Charlotte last year.)
Still, with all those accomplishments, she’s thought of as an underground artist. In fact, over the years, she’s even earned the moniker, “The Underground Queen of R&B and Soul.”
Well, this week, music consumers got another chance to become familiar with Smith’s music — and that’s because she released her latest CD, titled “Fast and Curious,” on Tuesday, March 6. Qcitymetro caught up with her via telephone and got the lowdown on her current project.
Qcitymetro: You’ve been recording music for years now, but there are still many people who’ve never heard of you. How would you describe yourself to someone who is just discovering you?
Sy Smith: Wow man — I don’t even know how to answer that! I think maybe I’m that shade of blue that you like and you just don’t know the name of it; I think maybe that could be me. On stage, I’m so off the cuff, I think you would have a good time at my shows. On recordings, I can be sort of pleasing (laughs). I’m one of those things that you have to take in phases — because you won’t hear it all the first go round. The first time around you might be really into the lyrics that I’m saying, because I am a lyricist. And then the second time around, you might really be into what I’m doing vocally. And then the third time around, you might really be into the arrangements of the songs. So, I would definitely ask that folks take me in phases and check it all out.
OK, tell me about the new album.
Well, I worked with Mark de Clive-Lowe who produced the entire project. This is the first time I’ve done an album where I only used one producer. And that’s because Mark and I had [in the past] done a song together called “Truth,” and I just really loved working with him. I felt like he could bring the party that was in my head to me musically, and that’s what he did. He’s a joy to work with because he’s a jazz pianist first and foremost — a virtuoso, he’s really dope — it made for tracks that are interesting. Even though a lot of the stuff [on the album] is very electronic and dance-oriented, the chords are still interesting, which I think is missing from a lot of music that we hear on the radio. I think Mark’s point of view is completely interesting because he is a pianist and then a DJ. So he knows how to get booties off of chairs but he also knows how to perk up musicians’ ears and people who are really into music.
Throughout your career, you have not been infected by commercial sounding music. Have you ever been tempted to make something really mainstream and radio-friendly?
You know, I just do what feels really good to me. And if that happens to be on the cutting edge, then that’s what it is. I think probably what sounds mainstream doesn’t sound good to me. I don’t do things to be over anybody’s head, I just do what feels good and I think “cutting edge” probably happens because of that.
So, what do you hope people think when they listen to “Fast and Curious”?
There may be people who are just being turned on to me on [this] my fourth album … [I hope they] will dig back to albums one, two and three and see the journey that led to this. That’s what I’m hoping more than anything.
For more on Smith and “Fast and Curious,” visit www.sysmith.com.
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