While growing up in Los Angeles, French-American singer/songwriter Sydney Wayser spent her summers in Paris—and the influence of French culture on her youthful, fun music is readily apparent. Wayser bears comparison to some pretty impressive Americans, too: her sweet and raspy vocals have garnered comparisons to Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple.
Previous albums have been marked by chimes and childlike accents, but with her newest, Bell Choir Coast, Wayser has entered new territory and wears her heart on her sleeve. It’s been a long time coming for Wayser, who spent a significant period of time reworking the album she was originally going to put out.
We chatted with Sydney Wayser about growing up on different continents, overcoming her fears and creating her own reality.
ILANA KAPLAN: What was the inspiration behind Bell Choir Coast?
SYDNEY WAYSER: Well, I was in the process of making a record and I had been in and out of the studio in Soho. I thought it was going to be everything I wanted, but it felt really, really lost and disconnected from what I wanted. After trying and trying to make a record for the year in a studio, I decided that I needed to take some time to myself, haul up in my apartment, figure out what I was intending to say and what I was trying to convey on the record.
KAPLAN: What was the recording process like?
WAYSER: I was in my apartment for a couple of months writing and writing. I made my own fictional land, which is “Bell Choir Coast.” It was a response to feeling really, really lost and it was what I was looking for. I was in the studio and I thought it was what I wanted, but in reality I had no clue what I wanted. I needed to figure that out. I hauled up in my apartment for a couple of months. Bell Choir Coast was what was really my escape from a year and a half of feeling really lost. I was feeling lost and unsure of myself. I wanted to sort of escape to a warm, fantasy land. It was winter. I wanted to be anywhere but in New York. So, I created Bell Choir Coast. When I wrote the songs as an escape to a different world. I was able to go into a different world. I ended up recording with my friend in his apartment. He produced the record. It wasn’t anything big and fancy. It ended up just being me and my close friend just making music. That’s what I was really looking for. It was very therapeutic for me at least.
KAPLAN: I saw your video for “Wolf Eyes.” Was it directed by your father, or a family member?
WAYSER: It was directed by my older brother in LA. The song “Wolf Eyes,” I wrote because I felt like I was such a kitten. I want to be more of a wolf. I want to be stronger and more independent. I sort of wrote the song for that. My brother, more than anyone, can relate. He understands me and knows me. I’m scared of flying. He decided that since the video is about not wanting to be such a baby all the time, he made me go in a helicopter with the doors open and I was harnessed in. That was the concept. It was sort of, okay, if you want to be in “Wolf Eyes,” then let’s deal with one of your fears. It’s really beautiful because there’s a scene in there where there’s 15 older women and we’re waving at the camera. They all went to school together in the ’70s. They all were in the helicopter already. I got there right before and they talked me through it. They were also strong and independent women.
KAPLAN: What are some of the most meaningful songs on this album?
WAYSER: Definitely “Turn It Up” is sort of the ode to the record. It really explains it. “Dirty Work” I wrote for some of my close friends. So, that holds a very special place in my heart.
KAPLAN: Whom would you love to perform with in the future?
WAYSER: I would love to play with Rufus Wainwright. He’s one of my favorite songwriters. Feist would be really cool. She’s been a big inspiration for me. I think Arcade Fire, because who doesn’t want to be on stage with fifteen people singing and dancing? I wish I could have performed with Jeff Buckley, but I missed my chance.
KAPLAN: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
WAYSER: 2012! Well, the digital release date for the record is March 27. Then we’re going to release vinyl. I’m currently doing a pledge music campaign to raise funds to release the record on vinyl. We’re going to SXSW. We have two shows right now. We’re going to Toronto right afterwards. I’m going to Europe in spring/early summer. It looks like it’s going to be a busy beginning to 2012. It’s already been really amazing, and I’m excited to get the music out. I’ve been releasing records for years, but I’ve been working on this one for a few years. I’m excited to finally introduce the last chapter of my life to listeners. That’s really what it’s all about. The touring is the fun stuff.
KAPLAN: Where is your favorite place to perform out of anywhere you’ve ever been?
WAYSER: My father is French. So, Paris is my favorite. My family is there. It’s nice I get to go and hang out with them, visit the city and family. Parisians appreciate music in a special way. I’ve never had an audience be more silent during a performance and then erupt in the loudest applause at the end of a performance. Whenever we play a show in Paris, or France in general, the promoters put together a giant meal beforehand. So, it’s you and everyone else involved in the performance. You sit at one big table with 20 people drinking wine. That’s one of my favorite experiences in France: the meal before the show. You get to know everyone. It’s like 25 people talking about music.
SYDNEY WAYSER’S ALBUM BELL CHOIR COAST COMES OUT TOMORROW.