Sierra Swan interview – Mookychick
Mookychick chats with Sierra Swan (punky, funky, edgy piano chanteuse who did ‘Ladyland’, one of the most powerful debut albums ever) about cynical fury, past and future dreams, expressing your sexuality and working with Aimee Mann…
You come from a musical family (your dad Billy Swan is a major guitarist, and your sister Planet is a singer). But your original dream was to be a… dancer or basket ball player? What pulled you back into music?
I think when you are surrounded by a certain kind of thing when you are young you tend to work against it. Music was always in my blood but my dad being a musician made me want to love something else so my efforts went towards sports and dance. I always new in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a performer and not until my life got a little more complicated did music present itself as my only option.
Your songs have punchy dark melodies and fine lyrics. They’re also heartrendingly honest and truthful. Has this been a release or a nightmare?
I think my vibe seems to go to a darker tone because my sense of humor can be a little cynical, this is something I struggle with everyday. Not that I am negative I just sometimes loose the point of all this, this being life. So it is a release when I write because if I did not put those thoughts in my music, I probably would not be of any use in this particular dimension of reality.
How have you ended up with the piano as your main instrument, rather than a guitar? Is it because you can get into rude positions while playing it?
I tend to go to the piano more because it is a very sexual instrument that reveals more sides of myself, but sometimes guitar for a certain song is the only instrument I could imagine using. Piano is very comforting to me, I’m never annoyed by it.
You used to be in a band called Dollhead. Do you work better solo?
I do work better solo, I used to fight that side a lot because I wanted to be more open minded but the bottom line is that sometimes a song does not need any other assistance and if it has too many cooks it will fall apart. So a band situation for me can be quite complicated.
How do your songs get written? On a napkin in the back of a tourbus, or do you set special time aside to get your thoughts in order?
I am very aware when it is time to write. This particular moment happens either once a month, once a week, or once every 6 months. You will never find me forcing a song out. It would probably be very hard for me to be like a songwriter in Nashville. They have songwriting sessions everyday. I would be of no use there:) but when the mood strikes me its on. I don’t necessarily write lyrics first or the music. It mostly comes all at once and I don’t know what really happened until I step back for a couple days and then playback what I came up with. There have been moments where I wrote something and then applied it to some music I am playing around with and sometimes they go together but only sometimes. In general it comes all at once and usually right after something pretty significant has occurred.
Did it work for you, working with Linda Perry (songwriter and producer for people like Xtina and Pink)? Did she get you?
At the time absolutely. I was feeling really little at that time. I had been dropped for the second time, my mom had just died, I just did not know where I was going. Linda picked me up and gave me a lot of spiritual nourishment at that time and I am forever grateful for that. Linda is a real fighter and I just love her. So at that time yes I needed someone like Linda to remind me who I was and she got me 100 percent. These days we are simply just friends, instead of musical partners and that’s all I need from her these days but at the time she got it.
You’ve collaborated with Aimee Mann. The collaboration paid off; the song’s great. Who else would you like to collaborate with?
We collaborated on “Get Down to It” and that was an awesome day in my life. I look up to Aimee and for her to agree to write with me gave me a lot of confidence. I would love to collaborate with Grant Lee Phillips, Prince and Mark Bolan, if he was still alive 🙂
Why is your debut album called ‘Ladyland’?
I called it “Ladyland” because that is one of the songs I feel embodies who I am in a nutshell also that is what my life feels like from morning to evening. I am not saying fairies are circling around me wherever I go but I experience everything in a very cinematic way. If I did not I would be very bored all the time.
For the video of ‘Copper Red’ you pose as a topless art model. You’re not shy of your body – are you more protective of yourself on the inside?
Good question, and the answer is yes. My friends give me a lot of sh*t about that but I am not going to be vulnerable in that way for somebody elses entertainment. If I turn inside out it is in front of people I trust or I am deeply in love with some guy and I loose all self respect… it happens.
It seems like you’ve got a turbulent inner life, from your songs. Sexy, self-defeating, cynical, fury incarnate… are they all you?
Yes, all those adjectives are true. Like most people there are many different kinds of games being played within me. The most popular one is boxing at the moment. It is me against the better version of me… I’m winning 🙂
Some music magazines have, weirdly, described you as LGBT rock – weirdly, because your lyrics are clearly all about the boys. To set the record straight, what do you look for in a man? Do you analyse a man when you meet him, or just go for it?
I look for pieces of myself I am avoiding or missing. I have dated different kinds of men and I have made my verdict now. I just want someone who accepts me for who I am. I will change when I am ready and as soon as I meet the guy that says hey it’s cool I get it I will change the very next morning because it is a very hard thing to meet someone that loves you unconditionally. The last person that loved me like that was my mother so a huge piece of myself is missing and I welcome any man who can fill it the right way not their way. I don’t usually analyze a man, I either like you or I don’t… it’s that simple, so when I fall, I fall hard.
If you’d got an easier ride in life do you think you’d still have been a musician?
Maybe, but not a good one. When things come easy you don’t fight for yourself as much and you skip a lot of steps.
What are you working on now? Touring? Recording? How’s it going?
I am looking for distribution for my next release. The album is called “Queen of the Valley” I did this record before “Ladyland” so it’s a prequel album I guess you could say. It is a very different record…it’s something you will want to dance to instead of wallow in, I need to release something like this now because it is another side of me and after people hear it whatever corner they were trying to put me in will be opened up. I am already working on the 3rd record which will be called “Girl Who Cried Wolf” it will be a perfect mixture between the two other albums.
Is there anything we should have asked you but were too damn selfish to realise?
Not at all, those were great questions. I feel like I just went to a therapy session, THANX!