The Central New York music scene has a fresh face on the scene in the form of singer-songwriter Sydney Irving. When your influences range from Taylor Swift to Tom Petty to the Doors to AC/DC, you’re going to be tough to pigeonhole. And that’s just the way Irving likes it. The 17-year-old musician based out of the Syracuse area takes these influences and creates a fresh indie-rock sound that belies her age.
Her latest release, Relax With Fiends has just been released on CD and through Amazon Music and iTunes and select songs can be streamed through Apple Music and Spotify. But what she really wants you to do is hear the whole EP. You can find copies of her new release through her website here or at any of her many live performances she has lined up this summer.
You can catch Irving solo at Copper City Brewing in Rome Wednesday, May 5 from 7-9 p.m. She’ll also be performing with her band, Sydney Irving and the Mojo in Dolgeville on May 14 and at Homer Hops near Cortland on May 15.
315 Music recently sat down with Irving to discuss her budding career and how she’s dealt with the global pandemic.
315 Music: Let’s talk about what the pandemic has done. Some people kinda gave up on performing while others used the time away from the stage to put their creative minds to work.
Did you write a lot during the pandemic?
Sydney Irving: I did write a lot. And we were able to do a lot of live streams.
315: When did you get started playing music? Were you a toddler picking up a guitar saying, “I’m gonna do this?”
SI: I wish I was, that would be cool if I could play at two. I kind of dabbled with a lot of things before playing music. I played soccer for a little while. I was the goalie. I did roller derby. I played basketball. My basketball career…I scored one point and that was for the other team.
315: Hey, I did that too!
SI: I got my first guitar for my 9th birthday. It kind of sat in the corner for a little while and then I discovered Taylor Swift, Tom Petty and the Doors…then I started writing songs and playing. I started taking lessons from my instructor Loren Kryzkowski.
315: Did you ask for this guitar?
SI: I knew I wanted a guitar, because Taylor Swift played the guitar. It was a white electric guitar. It was cool but Taylor Swift didn’t really play electric guitar. I wasn’t too into it. I got an acoustic guitar later. I play a Breedlove Guitar now. I’m actually a Breedlove artist now.
315: So, TS is basically your biggest early influence?
SI: I would say, yeah, early influence. I think over time influences have definitely changed and morphed. I would say her Red album is fantastic. I still listen to it. I would say, Tom Petty, The Doors, Barns Courtney, Ronnie James Dio…
SI: We got to play at the Dio Day event in 2019. Huge thank you to Ron Wray and the Dio committee. We got to play at the Night Owl where tons of really cool people have played. Dio used to play there. It was awesome.
315: Funny you mentioned that. I just started a research project on Dio and his time in CNY.
SI: Yeah, he was a fantastic songwriter. Definitely a huge inspiration.
315: What was the first song you ever learned to play?
SI: Um, I think it was probably Taylor Swift’s “We’re Never Getting Back Together”…oh, ya know what? I had the electric so it was probably “Back in Black.” The first full song I first learned to play though was probably a Taylor Swift song.
315: So your influences — you obviously come from a family with a love for music and it kinda seeped into your bloodstream as you were growing up.
SI: Yeah, there’s always music playing so it’s only natural for me to kinda grasp it and find a love in it.
315: I mean Taylor Swift and Dio, you probably couldn’t have two more disparate influences in your life. That will give you a good grounding in all kinds of music.
SI: It’s not really about the genre for me. It’s about the lyrics and the melody and just trying to find meaning in it.
315: I was gonna ask, I know my kids listen to all kinds of different stuff. I don’t think they really recognize genres at all. I was gonna ask if you tend to classify yourself in a specific genre but you just answered it.
SI: Personally I like a physical copy of music better. I have an extensive CD collection over here and some records.
315: You’re into vinyl too?
SI: Yeah, I like to look at it and hold it.
315: You get that physical engagement with what you’re listening to.
SI: I like to read the lyrics and the cover art.
Whever I play out, I bring CDs and people still buy them. As long as they have a CD player because cars don’t have CD players anymore, which I think is kinda lame but…
315: How have you been able to cope over this past year? Did you have a lot of gigs lined up that ended up getting canceled?
SI: Yeah, there were definitely gigs that got canceled. But we were still able to keep playing quite a bit, following the guidelines, of course. I was named Young Adult Artist of the Year by the International Singer-Songwriter Association and was named the Female Artist of the Year for Music Mafia Radio which was a huge honor. For what it was I think it was a good year. Keep going, keep rocking.
315: That’s great! Congratulations!
Was the album already put together before all the shutdowns happened or was this a pandemic album?
SI: We started like a year and a half, maybe two years ago. So the writing started around the beginning of 2019. We had the first four tracks. It’s a five-song EP. So we did the first four tracks and we got to the final track and we had studio time booked and then everything shut down.
So we called Steve Sopchak, who produced the EP and also engineered it. He was like, “Well, how do you want to do it? I don’t have a drum set at my house we can’t really do anything too epic like rock n roll stuff.” So we went with a more mellow song called “All I Need is You.” We got the idea to run a microphone out of his window. So I recorded the vocals on his porch. There are some birds chirping in the background and stuff. That’s all legit. And he did all the tracking at his house and that’s the final song on the EP.
315: I heard the birds chirping and had to look out the window to see if it was coming from outside or on the CD. That’s a cool touch.
Do you have your own band or are you typically out solo?
SI: I’m in a band. We call ourselves Sydney Irving and the Mojo. That consists of Luke Hart on lead guitar. He’s 16 and he’s a phenomenal guitar player. Back on the drums, we have Evan Tennant, who’s an amazing drummer. He’s only 17 and then Randy Tennant is Evan’s dad. He plays bass. He actually has his own guitar repair shop and he makes custom electric instruments. It’s called RT Customs. And we have a bunch of shows this summer, which I’m super psyched about. From time to time I’ll bring my buddy Tom Finn or one of the guys from the Mojo and just play some tunes.
315: What kind of gigs do you have lined up with the band over the summer?
SI: There’s so many. We get to play at Homer Hops, Willie’s Chop Shop. There’s a bunch of really fun ones. We get to go down to Sunnyhill Campground, which is gonna be huge. They have an awesome stage that we get to play on. Opening up for some really cool touring acts.
315: That’ll be a great opportunity for you.
Has COVID changed your career approach at all? Did you have a certain timeline of where you want to be at a certain period in time?
SI: I don’t think it’s changed me too much. I think I’m still the same person. I had more time to write and time to develop the artist I want to be and who I want to be and perfect my craft, I guess. But I would say it’s just steady growth. You can’t be too presumptuous.
315: Do you have goals set forth. What’s your plan for your future. You’re still young obviously.
SI: I want to be able to play my own songs and have people connect to my songs. And keep writing and performing those songs. I’d like to go on tour. I’d like to get a tour bus and travel and play for people all over the place.
Do you tend to focus more on your originals when you’re playing live? Or do you read the crowd?
SI: We do a mixture. We do some originals and we’ll do some covers. Because people like to hear stuff they know. Because if they don’t know a Sydney Irving song they might know this song. But it’s all stuff that we like to play.
315: What I’ve noticed with artists who want to do original material on a regular basis, they’ll toss a cover in once in a while to get the attention of the crowd. People start getting their phones out taking video of the band, your video is on Facebook and your name starts getting out a little more, which will eventually allow people to find your original music. That’s what I’ve found, anyway. I hope it translates to what you do.
SI: I would say that. Definitely, yeah.
315: What inspires you to write. I notice a lot of the lyrics on this album are relationship-oriented. Is that what drives you, your everyday relationships?
SI: Yeah, I think every day relationships and trying to find yourself. The first track is called “Rain.” It’s kind of about hope and trying to just keep going no matter how many times you get pushed down. Relationships are definitely a big thing. I tend to write a lot of my songs on my bedroom floor, so I think inspiration must come from my rug, I don’t know (laughs).
315: Do you carry a notebook around with you or take notes on your phone for when you’re wandering around throughout the day and something hits you.
SI: I am. I’m currently walking around with like four different notebooks. So I have one that’s filled and one that’s half-filled. And then I decided that I needed a new notebook. So I got another one. So I have like three notebooks and I don’t really know which songs are in which so if I want to go and work on one of them I have to flip through the different notebooks and try to find it and all my scribbles and stuff.
315: Save them! Don’t ever get rid of them.
SI: I have a shelf of them all. There might be something good in there I can look at later.
315: Even down the road when you’re old and gray like me, you’ll look back on them and say, “Wow, I was pretty cool.”
SI: Or you can be like, “Wow, that song really sucked.” (laughs)
315: Or that too. They can’t all be gems, right?
SI: Yeah, there’s definitely some crappers in there.
315: So what’s next for you. Do you have more studio plans in the works or you just going to be doing some gigs, getting your face in front of people? This album just came out, right?
SI: Yeah, it just came out a couple of weeks ago. We only put three songs on Spotify and Apple. If people dig those the other ones are available on CD and iTunes and Amazon Music. Right now we’re just trying to promote the new record and get it into as many hands as we can and people’s ears on it. I’m always writing and actually, we are currently working on a fresh summer song that will be out, hopefully soon.
315: I’ve noticed a lot of artists going the singles route, where they’re just releasing a single at a time. Is that something you’ll do for future releases?
SI: I’m not sure. Right now I think we’re just focusing on the summer song. I like albums, personally. I like to sit down and listen to a full album. But singles are cool too.
315: So now that the world is starting to open back up, is your calendar starting to fill up?
SI: I think I heard today that we have about 100 shows lined up this year. We’ll be at Copper City, which we’re super psyched about. We get to open for Thompson Square, which is a fantastic touring group.
315: 100 shows, that’s awesome. After what happened last year, anything over five shows is amazing.
For more on Sydney Irving, her band Sydney Irving and the Mojo and where she and the band will be playing, check out the links below.