Episode 2

Published on:

2nd Sep 2021

Sy Smith: The Life of an Artistic Chameleon

“Publishing and performing rights are constantly in flux, and I find myself constantly having to keep up with that stuff.” — @Syberspace [0:42:48]

A true artistic chameleon, today’s guest, Sy Smith, is a renowned songwriter, session singer, and actor. She has provided backup vocals to legendary artists like Whitney Houston and Sheila E and has also released five of her own critically-acclaimed albums. You may have also seen her on Ally McBeal, where she had a recurring role on the hit show.

From an early age, Sy was immersed in culture. From visiting museums to going to the theater to reading and writing, she understood the value of creativity in her life and the world. As travel has always been an integral part of her life, Sy has always been inspired by her surroundings and has been creatively fed by whichever environment she has been in. Whether it was go-go in Washington or hip hop in New York, Sy soaked it all up! 

In today’s episode, Sy offers us a look into her journey. We hear about her childhood, when she knew she wanted to be a performer, and how she got her start as a vocalist. Sy shares what her experience at Howard was like and talks about the opportunity that changed her life by bringing her out to L.A. Our conversation also touches on the ever-evolving topic of performing rights, how Sy has adapted to the pandemic, the importance of being flexible as an artist, and why you should create opportunities that showcase your value. Tune in to hear it all!

Key Points From This Sy Smith Episode:

•   What growing up in DC was like and Sy’s experience of being raised by her village.

•   Different places Sy was exposed to music and her formal and informal musical education.

•   How traveling around the country showed Sy different regional hip hop.

•   The role that Sy’s mother and father played in exposing her to culture.

•   The incredible beginnings of Sy’s vocalist journey.

•   Some of the biggest challenges Sy faced when she started singing in choirs.

•   The special place that the Kennedy Center has in Sy’s heart.

•   When Sy started singing more contemporary music.

•   The moment that Sy knew she wanted to be a singer and performer.

•   Sy’s experience of going to Howard, an HBCU.

•   The opportunity Sy got that led her to move to Los Angeles.

•   What happened when Sy got signed by Hollywood Records, where there were not many other Black artists.

•   There are constantly developments when it comes to publishing and performing rights.

•   When Sy left Hollywood Records and what followed for her afterward.

•   How the pandemic forced Sy out of her comfort zone and the incredible results this led to.

•   The importance of being flexible as an artist.

•   Difficulties Sy has when she has to record and produce her own music.

•   The gratitude that Sy feels for having had time to slow down and do the work she wanted to do.

•   Voiceover and songwriting work Sy did for a video game, Saints Row.

•   How Sy prepares for auditions and her advice for other aspiring singers.

•   The importance of creating roles for yourself, according to Sy.

•   A look into Sy’s marriage and what it is like being married to another creative.

“Traveling was always a part of my life.” — @Syberspace [0:03:65]
“Singing is such an intimate thing.” — @Syberspace [0:24:43]


Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Sy Smith

Sy Smith on Instagram

'Go-Go Becomes The Official Music Of Washington, D.C'

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Howard University

Saints Row

“This whole pandemic has really been a test of being able to roll with the punches. As comfortable as I might have been with my usual going to the studio, I had to change and be ok with that.” — @Syberspace [0:59:18]
“You have to remember that in this particular situation, your role is a supporting vocalist, so where does your artist need support?” — @Syberspace [1:14:43]
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The Conduit
The Conduit gives you the unvarnished truth about music biz!
The Conduit is a podcast featuring candid conversations between professional musicians and music biz veterans who give you the unvarnished truth about being an artist in the music business today. Hosted by L.A. musician, producer, DJ and writer Dan Ubick aka Constantine “Connie” Price, The Conduit is real talk, no posturing. Learn from top music veterans as they talk honestly about their struggles and experiences and share with you their wisdom and knowledge. The Conduit is a co-production between Crewest Studio and DanUbe Productions, The Conduit will inspire, educate, entertain and empower up-and-comers pursuing their musical dreams. Follow today!

About your host

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Dan Ubick

Producer/Composer/Multi-Instrumentalist Dan Ubick grew up with music- his father Richard played jazz bass, his mom listened to the Beatles and classical music while designing jewelry while Dan's older brother and sisters listened to Bowie, Traffic, Yes, Genesis, T. Rex and Zeppelin.

However, it was Dan's little sister who turned him onto rap music in the late 80's through to the early 90's; Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, ATCQ, B.D.P. and Big Daddy Kane created endless possibilities. Soul, jazz, rock, country, funk and reggae all melded together perfectly.

Later on Dan's friend Miles Tackett asked him to play guitar in the Breakestra which he did for six years traveling to Europe, Canada, the States and Japan backing everyone from Jurassic 5, Black Eyed Peas and Dilated Peoples to Quannum, Wu-Tang and Freestyle Fellowship. Dan got to play on Breakestra's Live Mix Part 2.

Dan absorbed all kinds of music - from Little Feat to Lalo Schifrin, Fela Kuti to Cymande, Jorge Ben to The Band and The Mighty Diamonds to the Roots Radics. As his record collection grew so did his interest in making records of his own in an attempt to add something new and different to this incredible legacy that he grew up on.

Motivated, Dan built his own Lion's Den studio piece by piece, mic by mic and reel to reel, began to practice other instruments more and collaborated with Blood Of Abraham and Will.I.Am, then Madlib and Macy Gray. Dan started writing and putting out his own material, first as Connie Price and the Keystones (Now Again Records & Ubiquity), then with The Lions (first on Ubiquity, now on Stones Throw) while concurrently producing for television, film, gaming and advertising.

As a studio and live musician Dan has played guitar behind Lily Allen, Joey Altruda's Crucial Riddims, Mulatu Astatke, the Beat Junkies (DJ Babu, JRocc & Rhettmatic), the Beatnuts, Big Daddy Kane, John Bingham, Biz Markie, Aloe Blacc, Black Eyed Peas, Black Shakespeare, Blood Of Abraham, Blue States, Eddie Bo, Brand Nubian, Breakestra feat. James Gadson, Brother J (X Clan), Busta Rhymes, Colbie Caillat with The Transcenders, Novena Carmel, Common, Hollie Cook, Craig G, De La Soul, Dilated Peoples, Chris Dowd, Eamon, EPMD, Kelly Finnigan, DJ Format, Ghostface Killah, Macy Gray, DJ Greyboy, Leroy Sibbles & Barry Llewellyn (the Heptones), Durand Jones, Sharon Jones, Lonnie Jordan (War), Jungle Fire, Jurassic 5, Kurtis Blow, Talib Kweli, Lady Of Rage, Barrington Levy, The Lions, The Mad Geezers, Madlib's Sound Directions, Masta Ace, Method Man, M.O.P., Keyboard Money Mark, The Monophonics, Kendra Morris, Mos Def, Jeremy Sole's Musaics, Myron & E, Night Owls, DJ Numark, Ohmega Watts, Orgone, Percee P, The Pharcyde, Rakim, Rapsody, Redman, The Rhythm Roots All Stars, Sixto "Searching For Sugar Man" Rodriguez, Sa-Ra, Sandy Gold, Noelle Scaggs, Slick Rick, Snoop Lion, Ta'raach, Too $hort, Jade Vincent, Wildchild, Wu Tang Clan and many more.