Interview: Sidibe

Sisterhood declarations are a dime a dozen. When you find one that hollers your creed or speaks up for you in ways you couldn't express, there is always this urgent need to pocket it and then pull it out whenever it's just one of dem days. Somehow I wasn't looking for another sisterhood anthem --- I thought I had it covered for now --- but it was one of those stars aligning type deals that brought Sidibe's "See You Girl" into my orbit. I was immediately struck by how delicate and intimate it was, this considering all the women empowerment songs I usually hear are brazen and bold statements that are raisin' all kinds of hell. This one was different, special, as it made sure to spotlight all the kinds of ways women love and are inspired by one another. Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, even lovers --- "See You Girl" is for women who flat-out just love to love and want to seek and spread that love around.

"See You Girl" is housed on Sidibe's second collection, Soul Siren, where other love letters are written and primed to be useful for those days (and nights) of soulful searching whether with a partner or on the solo tip.

Sidibe was gracious enough to answer some questions for me (okay, okay, a lot of questions --- you know me, inquisitive to the hilt), and from this chat, you'll learn about how this fresh n' soulful dame from Los Angeles is making a name for herself, and is a true 'soul siren' in her own right.

So without further adieu, kick back, give Soul Siren a spin, and allow Sidibe shoot from the hip for a bit...

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Hello, Miss Sidibe and welcome to the 'Audio Diva Interview'! For starters, tell the readers a little bit about yourself.

I'm an independent singer/songwriter living in Los Angeles. Earlier this year I released my debut EP Metaphysical and I recently released my latest EP Soul Siren.

Going back to your childhood, what was your first experience with music? 

What song or artist do you remember liking the most way back when? I was lucky to grow up in a house where a wide variety of music was played. As a child, I spent more time listening to the classic Disney soundtracks than I did watching the movies. My mom played everything from Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin to New Age music like Deep Forest. I would say The Bodyguard soundtrack is the album I most strongly associate with my childhood. I can remember singing "Run to You" while actually running into my mother's arms. Whitney Houston was and still is my favorite voice of all time. I love that woman. She was so talented and vivacious.

How did you get started in music? Was anybody in your family involved in music?

According to legend, I came out of the womb singing. It is my gift and I've never considered any other profession. My mom noticed my talent from a young age and encouraged me to sing and express myself in every way. I performed at local talent shows in the small towns we lived in. She was never a stage mom, but she really supported my passion. Neither of my parents are involved in the arts but they both share a deep appreciation for music.

What has been your biggest “break” or the greatest opportunity that has happened in your music career so far? 

My first big break in music came when I was 18 years old and I signed a record deal with Universal. And as cliche as it might sound, it all started with a chance meeting at the mall. I was signed with Universal for three years and it was a wonderful experience. I grew a lot as an artist, learned a lot about myself, discovered what I was capable of, who I wanted to be and what I didn't want to be. I met so many incredible people during that time and I continue to work and keep in touch with many of them. That's what really changed my life.

Describe your sound/music style in five words. 

Atmospheric, sensual, fantastical, eclectic and honest.

Describe to us how an artist on the indie circuit hustles daily. What type of obstacles do you face? How do you promote yourself and your music? Take us through that process. 

Being an independent artist is not always easy, but it has been the best choice for me. It has forced me to take control of all aspects of my artistry from the visuals, to the graphics and how I present myself. As a result, I have grown as an artist and my music has evolved. I think the hardest part is promotion and finding ways to get my music to as many people as possible. I rely on social media and word of mouth to promote my music. I am so thankful for my listeners and people like you who have gone the extra mile to share my music with others.

Working on a limited budget is also a challenge. My vision is huge, but my budget is small so I have to be very creative in finding ways to get things done. This might mean doing things like providing background vocals for somebody else's track or even dog-sitting in exchange for something I need. Right now, I am working with a group of incredibly talented people who are donating their time to help me create videos for some of the songs from Soul Siren. The beautiful part about this process is that it has opened the door to new relationships with people who are passionate and want to help me express my vision. I am seeing things fall into place and it's exciting. I feel very lucky.

What are your opinions on how the Internet/social media has helped indie artists? How has it harmed it? 

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the internet and social media. It wasn't until I decided to put my music out that I actually joined the world of social media. While I appreciate its value as a tool for letting people know more about me as an artist and a person, I think overexposure is generally not a good thing for an artist. It's important to leave some things to the imagination. Hopefully, people get to know you through your music. I think that's the best way. One of the things I love about music is the fantasy. It's alluring. I like the idea of who Sade is to me. I don't need to know what she had for breakfast.

If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be? 

I would want the labels to really focus on the quality of the music and the talent of the artist. Not just their fashion, social scene or number of followers. Good music is what endures and gives you a long and respected career. It would be wonderful to see labels invest as much energy into developing lifelong artist careers as in creating the next hit. More time and care needs to be put into developing the artist.

What can people expect from you during a live show?

Getting my live show together is the next big step for me. I really hope to transport people into my world. A good band is essential, but in the end it is all about my voice and the energy I bring to the performance. I want to seduce the audience with my voice, not gimmicks. I'm sure my show will evolve just like my music has.

Where do you gain inspiration for your songs? Take us through your creative process.

When I am in the studio with Nico [ ], we usually start by talking about a vibe, a feeling or a song that has inspired us. From there, Nico will start playing with sounds and melodies to create a rough track. Next, I ad lib vocal melodies for each section until we piece together the form of the song. By the time I go home and start writing, I usually have a sense of what I want to write about just based on the feel of the vocal and the words I'm singing in my ad libs. I'm inspired by the things that are happening in my life, relationships and the emotions the music elicits for me. I try to be as honest as possible with my lyrics and vocal delivery, so if you listen closely you can learn something about me.

Who are your biggest music influences, and in what ways do you utilize them in your music? 

There are so many musicians that I love, but a few of the artists that inspire my music include Michael and Janet Jackson, Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Sade, Maxwell, Erykah Badu, Prince and Whitney Houston. The artists I really admire could do it all. They explored many different genres, but their voice and style were so signature that it never felt like they were out of their element. With my music, I try to incorporate elements of all the styles that inspire me and still make it part of my own story and expression. The artists I love and esteem to be like are world artists. They connected with people around the world and their identity was never lost. They had long careers and timeless songs and appeal. That's what I'm interested in.

Who do you dream to collaborate with someday?

There are so many people I would love to collaborate with, but off the top of my head I would list Timbaland, Missy Elliott and Pharrell. Their music and the songs they've produced have been very influential for me. I also like what Blood Orange and Disclosure are doing.

Since Soul Siren is your second EP, how did you grow from this new EP from the first one, Metaphysical? How did you approach Soul Siren differently from the last and what type of vibe did you want it to have? 

Although I have been writing and singing for years, Metaphysical was the first time I had ever released my own music into the universe. I learned a lot about myself during the creation of Metaphysical and after its release. Hearing people's comments and thoughts was very insightful for me. It's interesting to hear what people see in you and how your music resonates with them. The feedback was positive, so I felt very empowered and inspired to follow my instincts and allow my voice to come through even more. I felt very connected with my voice and that is one of the reasons I titled the EP Soul Siren. I was ready to embrace my inner Siren and lure the listener in with my melody.

For Soul Siren, I didn't really think about the musical direction. That is something that just happened naturally as Nico and I worked together. I think that kind of organic approach is why it is still cohesive with Metaphysical. Soul Siren definitely represents a progression from Metaphysical and I can already see that evolution continuing with the new material we are working on. That is always the goal, to keep growing and expanding on your story.

Where would you like to see yourself in the next five years as an artist?

In the next five years I see myself touring the world, creating new music and investing my resources into humanitarian causes. That sounds ambitious, but the creative stream is never ending and I want to continue growing and learning. There are just so many ideas and visions I want to express.

What type of advice would you give to other singers/songwriters who are trying to break into the music business? 

I would advise them to listen to as much music as possible and in every genre. I would encourage them to create as much as possible. Don't censor yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. That's when you'll discover things about yourself that you didn't even know you were capable of. Be honest with yourself. Discover what your strengths are and what makes you happy. Don't rush, but don't be too precious. Put your music out there when it's ready. And lastly, do it with joy. That shines through and people connect with it.

Now for some random questions...

What are your 3 desert island albums and why? 

1. Love Deluxe by Sade. Her music is sensual, uplifting and soothing. Good for an island. Especially if I have a special companion. 2. The Hissing Of Summer Lawns by Joni Mitchell. Her honesty and mind blowing talent will keep me inspired. Her songs are very sentimental for me as well because they remind me of my mom and my childhood. 3. Off the Wall by Michael Jackson. It's such a diverse album. I can get vibey with it and also dance to it. I'd probably spend a lot of time dancing on a desert island.

What are you binge watching on Netflix right now? 

I don't really watch much TV. But I do make time for American Horror Story. I'm obsessed with it. I love the strong female characters, the magical elements, the darkness and the romance. It has a great cast and the stories keep me on my toes. I love suspense.

Thank you Sidibe for taking the time to answer these questions, and keep up with the awesome work! :)

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For further information about Sidibe and her music you can follow her via: 

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