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.

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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 the 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.

Listen the Apple Music Playlist for The Sy Smith Episode

Here is an Apple Music playlist Dan curated to celebrate this podcast episode with Sy Smith, which you can listen to here:

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