Sydney Worthley Interview By: Liam Sweeny
Written by Staff on September 8, 2022
It seems like there are two ways to know music, at least in the case where there’s singing involved. One is that the music is so distinct, so recognizable, that the singing can be all over the place and you’ll still always know that band by the sound. Then it’s the opposite, with a singer’s voice able to host a wide variety of sounds and still be recognized.
Sydney Worthley has a voice that you can’t ever forget, and in her solo career, she has the ability to go anywhere and everywhere with her music, because her voice is its home, and home is where your heart will be.
RRX: You have been described both as alt-pop and pop-folk. ‘Alt’ and ‘pop’ are modifiers that can have different meanings for different people. What is alt-pop, or pop-folk and how does it differ from pop, or from just alternative or folk? What makes something alt or pop? And is that how you feel about it, or did those descriptions come back to you?
SW: I think alt-pop or folk-pop tends to open up the spectrum that is pop music. We see pop music gravitating towards those 80s synths again but in the next few years that could very well change. Alt-pop gives musicians, like myself, the option to add in some grungy guitar tones and some live drums while keeping the elements of mainstream pop all in one song. With folk-pop, we can hear the emphasis on the lyrics. I’ve always said that lyrics are my favorite part of any song. Sure, I love a good, catchy melody, but I need substance in order for a song to stand the test of time in my eyes– well, ears. Adding those elements to pop really breaks open the box that pop tends to fall into. I find that to be so interesting and freeing as someone who loves many genres of music.
RRX: You’re young, and you started singing and performing when you were around 12. And some people, usually older people, say that young people don’t have anything to sing about. But do you think young people coming of age in these insane times have a perspective that needs to be shared, maybe even necessary to save the world?
SW: I think that young people are proving that we can be the change we need in the world. Whether that’s through our art, music, protesting, even simply social media, it all makes a difference. We kind of got thrown into a world where chaos is the new normal. The past couple of years have truly highlighted that! Not to say that older generations haven’t experienced similarly important events, but this generation has become extremely aware and empowered by everything we’ve seen. Our voices are just as important and I would argue that we have quite a bit of insight on the state of our world and ideas on how to change it for the better.
RRX: You have a very distinct voice; it sounds older than you look. So there’s probably some surprise when someone sees you, and then hears you, or vice-versa. When you’re booking in clubs, do you send in the music first, or show up first? Have you tried both, and does it make a difference? Which do you prefer?
SW: Thank you! I love this question! When I book any show, I send my music with any email just in case that’s the only thing they look at. Now, that doesn’t mean they listen to it, which is actually more entertaining (for me). So, when I get set up and start playing I like to look at people’s faces and there’s always at least one person that looks like they don’t trust their estimate on my age. It happened a lot less once I was around 17. However, when I was around 14 or 15 just about every show I had conversations that began with guessing I was upwards of 18. Back then I was so flattered and thought I was mature but looking at pictures… oh god I looked like a baby!
RRX: Your music, talking not about your singing, but the music itself, is very different, song to song. I love the variety, but you have your musical purists out there. Some people might fall in love with one of your songs, and pass on others. Do you ever worry about a listener not being able to groove to all of it, or is it worth the risk?
SW: I mean that’s always a concern. No matter how much we’d like to say we put out music for ourselves, a big part of being a musician is being a people pleaser. A crowd pleaser if you will. I think since I grew up around so many varieties of music, I just couldn’t be pigeonholed into one genre. I like not knowing what my next song will sound like. I always joke that listening to my live setlist keeps people on their toes and is a bit of “musical whiplash”. You get to taste a little bit of everything. Going back to the first question, I think describing my music as alternative gives me an opportunity to play around with different sounds and stray a little farther into whatever genre I decide on. Instead of being worried about someone not liking a couple of my songs, I’m grateful that most people can find at least one song in my catalog that they truly enjoy.
RRX: People get stuck in their favorites when it comes to music. Some people broaden their horizons with different musicians, and some expand their horizons in the range of one artist’s music. Your music seems to draw from a lot, do you feel people can expand themselves in your repertoire? Was that intentional, or a happy accident?
SW: Probably a happy accident. I wish I could say that it was intentional but the songs I end up releasing are the ones I didn’t have to think too much about. I go where the lyrics or melody take me and if any part of it is forced, you can feel that. My biggest influences, especially at the moment, are the ones that have experimented with different genres, sounds, lyrics, rhythms. They put out music paired with lyrics and instruments you haven’t heard before in one song. It’s incredible! It makes me excited to see where the music industry is leading us. So, if I could be a musician that steers a listener to a genre or type of lyricism, that would be a very happy accident.
RRX: You share a lot in your songs, about you, about your struggles in life. Your songwriting is compared to Taylor Swift, who’s known for sharing her life with her fans. How important do you think that is in art? Do you think the music is a platform for a personal catharsis, or is it just ‘write what you know?
SW: For the majority of my writing, it’s personal catharsis. I think music can be an escape for the writer and the listener. So, listening to a catchy melody where you can turn off your brain and just groove along is more important than people give it credit for. However, if your experience can help someone feel seen, isn’t that the meaning of art?
Opening a window to your life through music is such a powerful thing and artists like Taylor Swift have done it so effortlessly. Being able to have a cathartic experience with your guitar and a notebook and then having the privilege of sharing that with people who might just need to hear that someone else is going through the same thing. It’s beautiful.