Sultry R&B singer-songwriter Sydney Ranee’ joins us at specialty coffee roastery The Boy & The Bear‘s Grey Store in Culver City, CA to discuss her new single “Drink With You,” the standards that female musicians have placed upon them, and the importance of showing support to your music family.
You are riding the highs of your recently released single,”Drink With You,” wanted to say Congratulations! Would you care to share a little bit about the story behind the lyrics and the instrumentation that you decided to go with?
Sydney Ranee’: “Drink With You” has been going extremely well! I’ve been receiving a lot of great feedback on the song. The song is basically about drinking with an ex that you should avoid. I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there. *laughs* As far as instrumentation goes, I have Matteo Calvani on guitar, Elliott Lawrence on bass, David Tam on synth, and Max MacVeety on drums.
Awesome! And how was this songwriting and recording process similar or different from that of your past work?
Sydney: The recording process for “Drink With You” was actually pretty spot on for how I normally record. I started with a demo that I made on Logic, then I had the musicians bring it to life. The song started off with a drum beat, then I had my boyfriend add the lead guitar riff, and the lyrics and melody just kind of flowed out of me! The song is produced by Max and David, and co-produced by me, as well as the other songs on the EP. We actually recorded and mixed the vocals in a different location, in which my friend Petro A.P. helped out in that department.
Cool! So with the way that modern music listening, and the music industry itself, tends to prefer singles and EPs over full-length releases, do you think that there’s any specific reasons why we are in the state that we are in terms of music consumption?
Sydney: I think it’s just this digital age where everybody wants things quickly. Even for me, when I drop a new single, the first thing everyone was saying was, ‘Ok, what’s next?’
Impatient much? *laughs*
Sydney: Right?! *laughs* You know, back in the day, you used to be able to shop around a single for a long time, and then the album came, and you toured with the album for awhile. But most of these artists, they drop major albums and then two weeks later another single is coming out. Ariana Grande is one. She dropped that one album Sweetener, and then about three or four weeks later, she announced another album! I think that music is just so high in demand that there’s not that much craft going into making a full album anymore.
Do you think that there’s almost like a pressure from the music industry to constantly produce new music and push them out really quickly?
Sydney: Oh absolutely! Not only with these major artists, but even with independent artists. We have to compete with the major artists, especially on digital platforms like Spotify or Pandora. Back in the day, you used to get a record deal and they helped you build up your career, but now anyone can do it. So I think we all feel like we have to constantly be producing content whether it’s actual music or even Instagram posts. I hate posting, I really do, but everyone reminds you that you have to have a social media presence because people nowadays want consistency and to be able to see you on a regular basis.
And continuing with social media, do you feel like it makes it easier or harder for artists to make a name for themselves?
Sydney: I’m torn in the middle. I can see the plus side to social media, because it has really helped the underdog that probably wouldn’t have been able to walk into a label and get signed. But now, it’s so overly saturated that it’s kind of hard to stand out amongst that. I feel some people get lucky and get that big break, and then their career takes off. For me as a singer, I studied it for years and years and years in school, even got my degree in it, so I’m very passionate about it. It kind of hurts nowadays when you see someone who does comedy singing or singing in crazy ways just to get attention, and they’re selling out or they have this huge following. It’s frustrating, and I feel like, if it wasn’t for the internet, we wouldn’t be where we are in with music. I always like to reference the Motown era, because back then, you had to have talent to land a record deal. There was just no way around it.
Maybe also with the nineties too?
Sydney: Yeah, the nineties too!
I mean, these boy band guys actually had talent apart from the looks aspect. And as much as Britney Spears lip-syncs now, she at least still knows how to sing.
Sydney: Let me tell you, I do love Britney!
I love Britney too!
Sydney: I don’t care what anyone says, I’d die for Britney. *both laugh*
Heavy auto-tune wasn’t really big when she first started, so clearly she got signed because she’s talented.
Sydney: Oh definitely!
I mean, is she as good as Christina [Aguilera]? No, but we still love her. She’s just ‘Britney, bitch!’ *both laugh*
Sydney: Right!? But it’s so hard to even compare Britney and Christina because they’re so different! That’s another thing about this industry, I hate that it’s always ‘either/or,’ like, you like to have ‘this’ person or you have to like ‘that’ person. They put people in competition all the time! Music is so broad, and there’s so many different genres that everybody brings something different to the table, so why am I stuck having to like ‘this’ person or ‘that’ person? Why can’t I like an eclectic mix of people?
Totally! And especially now when all the genres are starting to blend together.
Sydney: Oh yeah, definitely!
So as a female singer-songwriter, do you feel that women have to portray themselves in certain ways in order to find success in their careers?
Sydney: Absolutely. It’s funny that you ask that, because Jermaine Dupri recently got called out for saying that all female rappers are strippers, which is not true. I know mainstream media likes the Cardi B-s and the Nikki Minaj-s, and that’s no shame to them, that’s their brand, if that’s what you do then that’s what you do. But at the same time, women have a lot of pressures put on them to have to fit into their market, whereas for guys, it’s a little bit easier. I mean, you see people like Khalid and Daniel Cesar, and you probably wouldn’t even look twice if they were crossing the street because it’s not like they’re these drop dead gorgeous men. I feel like for women though, we have to be a sex symbol in order for people to pay any attention to us. It’s hard, and I always tie it back to social media and how everything’s about being ‘perfect’ or having these influencers looking picture-perfect and making it seem like their life is absolutely amazing when it really isn’t. Life is complicated. For me as a singer-songwriter, I just try to stay true to myself.Maybe that’s why my career is not as poppin’ as I want it to be, but at least I’m happy.
Yeah! Happiness is what matters most! I feel like in the long run, the people listening to your music want to know the real you, not something that gets churned out of the Instagram box.
So living in L.A. means that there’s an overabundance of music. Do you feel like there’s an unpublicized competition within the local music scene, as well as the singer-songwriter scene?
Sydney: I do, and it’s one of the things that I don’t like about being an artist in L.A. I’ve gone to other states and other cities to perform, and people come out and are actually excited to have live music there, like, really excited. It’s almost like having live music is a taboo for them. Here, there’s so many artists here that live music is practically on every corner. Not really over here in West L.A., but if you go towards the Downtown area there’s a little bit more live music. I feel like people here just don’t go out and support music the way they do in other places. And then there’s also this thing between what it means to be a singer-songwriter, like, even though it’s completely wrong, when I hear the term ‘singer-songwriter,’ I imagine some guy or girl with a guitar singing some folk-y, indie songs in the street.
That tends to be the general definition of a singer-songwriter here in L.A. that’s for sure.
Sydney: Exactly, even though a singer-songwriter could be a million things! I can be a rapper, write songs, and sing songs as well. I could do country, or funk music, or R&B music and still be classified as a ‘singer-songwriter.’ It’s this weird grey area where people just automatically assume that you do a certain style of music, and believe me, I’m guilty of that too, but I mean, anyone can be a singer-songwriter.
Yeah. And sometimes certain venues are like ‘Calling all singer-songwriters!’ but in reality they’re looking for a specific kind of singer-songwriter.
Sydney: Yeah, and I think they want that because they know it’s easier to pay one person than to pay a full band. And then when you get into the best of these venues, especially for someone doing original music, that don’t even want to pay anything at all. You have to sell tickets, and then they get a percentage of the tickets, and unless you bring in fifty or a hundred people, you’re basically playing for free, breaking even, or losing money. I haven’t done a show in L.A. for a while, well, at least an original music show, because of that. What I was finding was that I was inviting people, but they were already fans of mine, like, people that know me or my family. So why am I gonna lose money to play a show for them when I can do that on my own. How do I gain new fans or more exposure if it’s just my people there?
Exactly. And some of these venues are not that great at promoting their shows on social media and such.
Sydney: Yeah. It was just starting to become too much.
And what are some of the similarities and differences that you’ve seen just going around and performing in different cities as opposed to here?
Sydney: Like I said, the main thing is the crowd. I mean, it’s just next level in other places! When I was in San Francisco, my first-time performing my own original music, I was just shocked that strangers were walking in from the street and buying a ticket to watch me. They liked what they were hearing on the outside, so they wanted to come in and see what was going on. That was actually one of the gigs where I literally sold out of my merchandise because people were just so hyped. It was great! It was one of the best feelings! The same thing when I perform in Sacramento. Even when I’ve done Seattle, it was just a whole different world! They really appreciate music up there, and maybe it’s because there’s not so much competition up there.
Yeah, there’s definitely a lot to choose from here. There’s so much music here that you can literally go to a show every day of the week.
Sydney: You really could, and I can help you do that because I’m either playing in them, or I know a lot of the musicians that are playing in them. And that’s another thing, there’s always something to do in L.A., and really I think that gets in the way of the live music scene. Maybe with some of these small towns there’s not much going on, so going out to see a live band on a Friday night is a huge deal for them. As opposed to in L.A., where I can go to a red carpet premiere, or go to the beach, or check out this new rooftop bar Downtown. There’s a million other things that I can do.
Yeah, we’re pretty spoiled here. *laughs*
Sydney: Yeah, we are! *laughs*
And then when you go to other places you’re like, ‘There’s nothing to do here!’ *laughs*
Sydney: Oh, I’ve definitely felt that way. I lived in Seattle for five years, and even though I loved it there, I sometimes felt like it was a little too gray for me because I was so used to the sunshine here in L.A.
I totally feel the same way. I always say that I’m like a plant, I need the sunshine! *both laugh*
Sydney: Girl, you and me both!
So apart from showing support to all of the venues that you played, you also share some love for a lot of artists that you’re friends with and play with as well. How important do you think it is to show support to these local artists, venues, and events?
Sydney: I think that it’s one of the most important things as an artist. You know how it feels to hustle and get bodies in the door for an event, or how much work goes into putting together an EP, promotions, videos, and all of that kind of stuff. Literally thousands and thousands of dollars are leaving your bank account just so you can show a four minute video or put together a twenty minute EP. People don’t know all the backstory, they’re just like, ‘Ok cool, you put out a project’ or ‘Awesome. You put out a video.’ I definitely think it’s important to show other artists some love and support. I know I’m really busy, and I can’t always make it out to their shows, but if someone I know drops something cool, I try my best to share with my followers and see if they can get some attention that way. Another good way to support other artists is just by collaboration, like maybe just getting together to write a song or do a show together. Then you’ll be able to push it out to both your followers and their followers so we can both get a little bit of exposure from it.
Yeah! Support your local artists!
So a fun little question for you, if you could choose three artists to go on a world tour with, who would you choose and what would you name your tour?
Sydney: Oooh, now that’s very hard for me because I would want to choose three artists from every decade. Unfortunately, some of the artists I love are no longer with us.
Well, this is your dream tour. You can totally bring them back from the dead if you want!
Sydney: Oooh! Then Prince is definitely my number one! *laughs* Stevie Wonder would be another one for sure. I’m so old school,like, damn! *both laugh* Gosh…the third one though…I’m so torn! I would choose Beyoncé for the last one, only because her tours are so extravagant and next level, and I wanna be on that level too! *both laugh* Not that I don’t love her, but for that reason alone, she would absolutely make my top three.
And what would you name your tour?
Sydney: That’s a hard one. I feel like it would be this amazing force of nature, so maybe something like ‘The Elementals Tour?’ I thinking about the new Spider-Man movie, so maybe that’s why. *laughs*
How do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
Sydney: It’s very hard. Luckily my boyfriend is a musician too, and he plays a lot of times in the bands or the projects that I’m working on, so I don’t have to really worry about ignoring him or not giving him enough time because he’s always there. But as far as my friend, I feel like it’s hard to keep friendships because I’m so busy. People invite you to things, and eventually they stop inviting you because in their heads they’re like, ‘Oh, she’s always busy.’ It’s hard to balance both, and I wish there was a way that I could do better. It would be nice to do more high paying gigs so I wouldn’t have to book myself so frequently, then I could dedicate more time to doing normal stuff, like going to a workout class or meeting friends for happy hour. It’s especially worse in the summertime because I play a lot of weddings.
I can only imagine your schedule during wedding season. *laughs*
Sydney: It’s insane! *laughs* Almost every weekend I’ll be doing a wedding, and then I’m like, ‘Ok, I’m over the wedding season. I’m ready for the fall and winter so I can relax a little bit.’ *laughs* And it’s the same songs that I perform at each one! I think that’s crazy! You would think that with so many people getting married, and so many songs being made, that there would be a little variation to the playlist. *laughs*
There’s almost like an undefined ‘Wedding Playlist.” Like, I’ve definitely seen them on Pinterest. *laughs*
Sydney: I think Pinterest is a part of it, but I also think it’s these event agencies that provide a list of songs that are popular and people just choose from that. I actually get excited when they want something that’s a little bit non-traditional, like, a special request that’s not the normal “Shout” or “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” or “Love On Top” or “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours).” Let me tell you, I’ve sang some of those songs a million more times than I’ve sung my own songs, and I don’t like that feeling. *laughs*
When you finally get a break you’re just like, ‘Thank God I’m done!’ *both laugh*
Sydney: Really though!
And if you could give your younger self some advice in regards to what you’ve experienced so far with music or with life, what advice would you give her?
Sydney: I’m a Virgo, a very emotional Virgo at that, and I feel like there’s so many situations, especially when it comes to my music, that could have been avoided or handled differently. The music business is very cruel, and it’s very male dominated even though there’s a lot of female artists. So I would just tell her, ‘Don’t take things personal, be strong, stand up for what you believe in, and for what you feel is right.’
What do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Sydney: I hope that they feel inspired and that they relate to some of my stories. With artists that I’ve fallen in love with, a lot of times they were writing about some real stuff that I was also going through, which helped me connect with the song. I hope that my music can do that for people too.
And I feel like music listeners are seeking that kind of experience where it’s like, ‘Wow! This person is going through what I’m going through. They get me.’
Sydney: Yes! Music is therapy! Whenever I’m stressed out or going through something, There’s nothing that calms me down like just sitting down and listening to music. I mean, it’s always playing all around us. That’s why they play music in coffeeshops, and bars, and retail stores. There’s just something about the power of music that can add to the environment.
Oh totally! I always pay attention to the type of music that’s playing wherever I’m at.
Sydney: It’s hard not to! I mean, I feel like you would notice it more if you walk into a place and it’s just silent.
If you do, you might wanna run as fast as you can. You might be walking into a cult, and there could be a chance that you won’t make it out of there alive. *laughs*
Sydney: *laughs* I’m definitely not trying to do that.
Thank God! *both laugh* And one last question to end us off, what other big, exciting things should we be expecting from you in the near future?
Sydney: I’ve been dedicating a lot of time to my project, and am hoping that the rest of the EP dropping soon. And hopefully this time next year, I’ll make that world tour happen. Just putting that out in the universe. *laughs*
If you say it enough times it’ll happen! *laughs*
Sydney: Absolutely! I’m gonna keep on saying it until they have to shut me up! *laughs*
About The Boy & The Bear – Culver City:
I’m all for color themed things, especially when it incorporates darker neutrals. The Boy & The Bear is working its way to being one of my favorite local chains design-wise, which consists of sleek industrial elements, modern metallic furniture styles, and bright pops of color (namely copper, light wood counters, and green from plants nestled around the shop) with a tasteful chandelier for a touch of glam. Their Culver City location is their Gray Store, but its color scheme is not what your mood will match when you come in and enjoy one of their specialty coffees, teas, and everything in between (a.k.a. non-caffeinated beverages). Its environment certainly fits the ideals for coffee lovers looking to be productive, so you’ll be able to may yourself comfortable while being unbothered by loud chatter, mainstream tunes, or the general ‘busy’ vibe that most large corporate chains tend to have. If you’re looking for a place to get great brews off the beaten path, The Boy & The Bear has got you covered!