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MorleyView: Sierra Swan

The debut Interscope release by Sierra Swan, "Ladyland", is an awesome selection of songs that are powered by Sierra's smoky, seductive voice and the high grade quality of the songs themselves. If you're a Linda Perry fan, you have to pick this up because not only does Sierra sound like her but the lady herself handled production duties. Songs like "Copper Red" and "The Ladder" bubble over with personality. I spoke to the stunning-looking Sierra recently to find out how the record came together.

antiMUSIC: Hi Sierra. How are you doing?

Sierra Swan: Doing good. How are you?

antiMUSIC: Good thanks. I just got your CD and was blown away. I'm a massive Linda Perry fan and you sound so much like her.

Sierra Swan: Thank you. I take that as a huge compliment.

antiMUSIC: You have one of those full expressive voices that just shouts life experience. I'm sure much of it owes to genetics but what things in your life have helped shape your distinctive vocal presence?

Sierra Swan: Thank you. I think it's funny because when I was 18, I was in a band and I don't sound anything like I do now. I think it's just life in general. I'm 27 now and I haven't seen everything but I've seen a lot so I guess it's just the inner working of my soul vocally. Just life happens and maturity and hopefully wisdom comes with it.

antiMUSIC: Where did Sierra Swan come from? What is the musical path that led you to this point?

Sierra Swan: I starting playing violin first, when I was younger, which my mom made me take…which I wasn't into at all. I was naturally drawn to the piano. Then as a teenager I really started liking the guitar so I started listening to music that I really loved and admired and just started writing on the guitar. Now I'm writing mostly on the piano, but back in high school it was mostly on the guitar.

antiMUSIC: Tell us about the record. How long has this been in the works?

Sierra Swan: The real answer is like about seven years. I was on Atlantic before Interscope and that was a real difficult time just because they weren't necessarily understanding where I was coming from musically. They were having me work with a bunch of different people that you know, didn't really understand what I was doing either. So I was recording a lot by myself and then when I met Linda, she heard all these recordings that I did by myself and she was like, "This is a record. You know what I mean? Your record is not with all these other producers." And you know the ball dropped with Atlantic. Thank God Linda was there to pick me up and got me to Interscope. And that was about four years ago. I took, like…you know, a four year trip to get to this point. And Linda said this is your record. "Let's record this. And I was so amazed when I heard that.

antiMUSIC: Tell us about working with Linda. 

Sierra Swan: At the time the A&R girl that signed me was really good friends with Linda's manager and she decided it would be a really good idea if we met. I was a little apprehensive because like I said, I was working with a lot of producers, and I thought, oh another producer, you know what I mean? But she was completely different. We had dinner and we were sort of checking each out and making sure we wanted to work each other. And we did. So when we went into the studio and it was immediate. We finished a song in like three hours. And it was done. And we just like working with each other. Just definite like musical chemistry happening.

antiMUSIC: Were you familiar with her prior to working with her?

Sierra Swan: I was. Of course, I had heard 4 Non Blondes, and that she produced Christina and Pink. And all that stuff. At first that's why I didn't want to do it because I didn't really enjoy that kind of music. But I realise now that was just her getting her foot in the door production wise, now she's capable of so much more. She's just amazing to watch work. She's just becoming such an amazing producer.

antiMUSIC: Reportedly Copper Red was the first song you wrote with Linda. What were you thinking as the song emerged. Was it a bit overwhelming that such a powerful piece came out of this initial collaboration?

Sierra Swan: I came into that song because I had written it on guitar a while ago and I just played the initial idea for her and she just said "Yeah we've got to work on that, that's great." And we just like connected the dots on it and finished it up and like I said within hours we were done. And we were so happy and excited.

antiMUSIC: When "Copper Red" was finished, what were you thinking as the song emerged?

Sierra Swan: When I first wrote it, I was in a dark place. My mom had passed away. And Atlantic wasn't really doing all it could with me. I was really depressed. Linda came around at the right time and to be honest the lyrics were definitely honest and I was feeling that way. So it happened pretty naturally…all those words.

antiMUSIC: "The Ladder" is an amazing track. It's the only track you didn't co-write, is that correct? Why was its inclusion on the record, important for you?

Sierra Swan: Isn't that amazing? I said this to people before when you hear a song like that, I wouldn't consider myself a musician if I didn't do it. You have to recognise great material and if you don't recognise that…well it's part of being a good musician. And when I heard I said if I don't do this I'm stupid. It's such a beautiful song. That's how I feel about it.

antiMUSIC: How did the collaboration with Aimee Mann come about?

Sierra Swan: That was amazing. That was such a great experience. I was working in the studio and I had always been such a fan of hers. I never really thought someone like that would ever work with me. Linda said "I think you and Aimee should write a song together." And I said, 'Yeah that would be great. But I don't know if that's going to happen." And she was like "I want to see if I can get a hold of her." And I said, "Okay, go ahead and do that." And I walked into the studio and Linda says, "Well Aimee wants to come over on Saturday and meet you." And I'm like "What?" I was so excited. So she came over and I was kinda nervous because I look up to her. She's definitely not a peer, I look up to her as a songwriter. And she was so wonderful and so cool. And it worked out perfectly because I had written a song and Linda loved the verse that I wrote on the piano. But for the love of us we could not get the chorus together. I kept on writing and the chorus was just never coming around ---ever. And it was just so natural, we were sitting around and Linda said "Why don't you show Aimee that verse?" and I did. So Linda said "Aimee why don't you go off into your world and come back with something". And she did and two days later she came up with that get down to it kind of chorus and it just blew us away. We were like this was exactly what the song needed. We were so excited. It was like fate almost. It was perfect And then we had her band come in and do the track with us. It just a great day…such an awesome day.

antiMUSIC: Did you write any other tracks for the record that were not used, that we might see in the future?

Sierra Swan: Yeah, there was one song I actually wrote called "Play by Play". That was really cool song. I think that'll be a B side. Another called "So Much Fun". That's actually to be honest a fun song that Linda really loved and so recorded it. She does a couple of more songs that will definitely I think be released at some point.

antiMUSIC: You're touring with somebody that's pretty hot right now, James Blunt. What is this experience like?

Sierra Swan: He's such a kind person. He's taking this all really well. It's pretty overwhelming what he's going through. He's really taking it like a real pro. And his band is really amazing. Everyone on the tour is awesome, this is a fun crew.

antiMUSIC: What's his crowd like?

Sierra Swan: It's funny because, they're a little different than…well it's a lot of younger girls. He's a heartthrob I think right now too, so you get parents and straighter people, I guess you could say. So I come on and it kind of terrifies them but it's kind of fun, if you know what I mean?

antiMUSIC: Do you enjoy writing or performing more?

Sierra Swan: Good question. The writing process is definitely fun. But the performing of it is fun just because you're finally introducing all the stuff to people. Right now I'm enjoying the performing a lot.

antiMUSIC: What's the significance of the record cover?

Sierra Swan: I found it a cool…a very provoking kind of image, something that people will pay attention to, and I mention it in 'Copper Red" although I say sitting in glass not standing on broken glass. Like I said it's thought provoking. It's a good image of strength and power.

antiMUSIC: Actually you're so gorgeous that I didn't even notice the glass for the longest time (laughs).

Sierra Swan: (laughs) That was sweet. Thank you.

antiMUSIC: Anything else about the record you would like to tell us?

Sierra Swan: Listen to it with an open mind and enjoy. 

antiMUSIC and Morley Seaver thank Sierra Swan for doing this interview.


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