Multi-Platinum band performs Feb. 17 in Toronto
By Joshua Maloni
On Echosmith’s smash hit “Cool Kids,” lead singer Sydney Sierota sings, “I wish that I could be like the cool kids/Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in.”
Well, I would bet that, if more people met Sydney, they’d rather be like her – cool status notwithstanding.
Sydney is a talented singer, fashionista, and someone with beauty both inside and out; newly married; touring the world; topping the charts; and crushing YouTube with original videos she created in tandem with her brothers and collaborators, Noah and Graham Sierota.
But that won't stop her from sharing with Echosmith fans her feelings and moments of grief, heartache, loss and vulnerability.
“Every song comes from a very personal place for us; and we wanted to do that tens of millions with this album, because it's really important that we share with our fans, and anybody who even just casually hears our music, that we all go through hard stuff – and you're not alone in that, no matter who you are, what you do, or how old you are,” Sydney shared in a recent phone interview. “We're all going through something, and usually we kind of have no idea what someone else is going through. So, we wanted to just be really honest about that as we were writing this album, and choosing the songs to be honest.
“And, I mean, of course, yes, I'm married, and I'm so grateful and I'm really happy to be in this stage of my life. It’s so much fun to be in love, and all of those amazing things that come with it. But at the same time, I'm feeling like I'm just beginning this journey, discovering who I am, and what I want, and why I want that, and making sure that I’m happy in my everyday life, along with my professional life when we’re on tour, but also happy at home, and discovering what that means to be me when I’m at home not performing shows.”
On their sophomore album, “Lonely Generation,” Echosmith doesn’t shy away from exploring life’s valleys while addressing society’s obsession with social media. Those ideas are tempered by reflection, joy in the sibling trio’s journey together, and, of course, finding love.
Songs on the alt-pop album are uplifting, while also showcasing the band’s musical talents.
Though the content is multilayered, it’s not unapproachable or preachy. Rather, it’s well worth a listen to – and for some, it will serve as inspiration to seek out face-to-face relationships (like, with real people … not avatars).
“I think it’s really, really important for us to be showing every side of ourselves, even the sides that feel scary to show, or maybe feel a little too vulnerable to share with complete strangers,” Sydney said. “But I think, when you have that little bit of fear in you to share that kind of thing, I think that's a really good time that you should share it; because somebody else is going to feel that way, too, and probably needed to hear; or that someone else – maybe even a singer in a band that may seem happy all the time – does hurt, too.
“We wanted to express all the things that come with growing up and coming of age, and finding out who you are, and, you know, even the feeling of losing somebody you love – to possibly disease, or whatever it may be. We wanted to talk about all the aspects of life, not just the fun, great stuff that we also get to experience. We wanted to have all the layers and talk about everything.”
Fans will learn more about the messages within “Lonely Generation” when Echosmith performs next week in Toronto.
Sydney offered some additional insight into the album, and what it means to interact with fans around the world, in this edited Q&A.
Q: Did you watch the big halftime performance with Shakira and J-Lo and, if so, what did you think of that?
Sydney Sierota: I did watch it, and honestly it was probably the first football game I've ever watched in full. So, it was quite a day for me (laughs), branching out! But the halftime show was amazing.
I love J-Lo. We got to meet her a couple years ago – I think on “American Idol.” But, I mean, she's so beautiful and so sweet, and she completely killed it, along with Shakira, that day.
I was very inspired and I'm inspired to go work out tomorrow, as well. They’re inspiring in every sense of the word.
Q: And that's why I asked you – and I kind of want to segue into a couple different things here. One of the things I want to ask you about is, for as great as their performance was, obviously there's still people that say things on social media. And, inasmuch as our society has taken some steps to allow women to be treated equally and fairly – as they should be – it's still got to be pretty tough to be a woman in rock ‘n’ roll. Am I right?
Sydney Sierota: I would say yeah; being a woman in music, period, is a very interesting journey. I mean, it's gotten better and better over the years, I would say. Of course, there is still haters, and people who just might not like you, or not care as much. But, at the end of the day, I think we're in a better place than we've been in, probably ever.
And I think it's amazing that we’re even able to have these kinds of conversations and talk about it openly; and there are a lot of people who are all for women and so excited to support other women. So, I'm just thankful that we're in the place where we can have those kinds of conversations and it's not taboo anymore. I'm grateful to be doing music in that kind of time.
And I think there's, obviously, more to be done to just keep going as a woman in music, and make sure that you're treated fairly, and make sure you get awesome opportunities, as well. But at the end of the day, I think we're doing pretty good right now, and I think that the halftime show is a great example of that.
Q: A lot of these conversations take place on social media, and we know, whether it's for music, or whether it's for what I do with journalism, social media, obviously, can help us; but social media can also be detrimental to society, as well. Social media was a big topic for you guys with “Lonely Generation.” I'm wondering: What was your thought about social media, and what was the message you wanted to get across to your fans about social media with this album?
Sydney Sierota: We really wanted to get the idea that social media isn't everything. Because it's really easy to get caught up in social media, and feel like it’s the most important thing in the world, or think that what people are saying on social media is the most important and relevant thing in the world; and that's just really not true. Because, first off, not everyone in the world is on social media. And second, people are usually completely different people online than they are in real life.
I think really emphasizing that and talking about the importance of real-life connections and real-life, face-to-face relationships is so important, because the art of that is kind of being lost. And I think people are forgetting and getting distracted by social media, and forgetting that they need to connect to people in real life – and how much more meaningful that can be.
So, we wanted to just open up the conversation about that, because, of course, we also have Instagram. And we’re using all those platforms very actively, because we want to connect to with our fans in a special way. We’re in a great place right now, where we can talk to fans in Brazil at the same time as talking to someone who's in Japan; and I think that's so cool that we can use it as a tool to connect. But I think, at the end of the day, we want to use our platform to remind everyone – ourselves included – that real life is so much more important, and it means so much more.
Don't put everything into social media, because you won't get that much out of it. And I think that's just a reality that we're all sort of learning as we all scroll for possibly hours a day, and usually not feel better about ourselves – and maybe even feel worse. So, we just want to open up that kind of conversation, and bring more awareness to it, to finding balance, because I haven't found it quite yet. But I would still like to find it one day, and I feel like I'm on the path to at least discovering it sometime in the future, along with everyone else’s help, in just talking about it more.
Q: The other reason I asked you about the halftime show is I'm not sure if you were watching it and thinking, “Oh, maybe we could do that,” or “Maybe we can incorporate that”? It seems like you guys are really excited for this tour; it seems like you're hard at work practicing. What excites you about going out on the road now, and what can we look forward to from you guys when we see you up on stage?
Sydney Sierota: I am so excited to play these songs for the very first time with people in the room, because we just started rehearsals (last) week and it felt so amazing and freeing to play these songs out loud, and not just press play in the car to listen to one of our new songs.
So, first off, just getting to play these songs in real life, in front of our fans, especially since they've had a few months or so to live with the songs, and you know even learn the lyrics, that's gonna be so much fun to bring these songs to life in a completely different setting.
I’m really excited for that. But I’m also excited to just show different parts of ourselves and be ourselves, and really have layers throughout the show, and make it a very dynamic show that feels really, really fun and exciting, and helps you feel possibly a little better about yourself, or what you're going through right now.
And we want to have a lot of moments, too, where it feels very personal, because this is the most personal album we've ever put out, and we want the show to reflect that. We want the show to have several moments where we can connect with the crowd and the fans in a deeper way, where it possibly even just feels like it's you and me hanging out at our house, and we’ve been friends forever, and I'm just casually playing this song right now.
We want to have all those different kinds of moments in the show to really give our fans a dynamic and exciting and special and heartfelt experience.
Q: So, on my way over to my office, I was just going through a mix of songs in my car, and I happened to flip on a song by the Tragically Hip. It got me thinking that the folks in Canada, they're more into certain types of musical genres. We are right on the border, so we get a lot of Canadian radio, which we love. But Canada is obviously a different market than the states.
What kind of reception do you guys get in Canada? How do they receive your music, and how do they receive you guys on tour?
Sydney Sierota: It’s really fun to play in different countries, even if they are countries that are really, really close to America, because the crowd changes, and the feeling changes once you set foot in another country. I think that's such a special feeling that not every band or artist gets to experience. The fact that we’re even able to play in Canada is so exciting.
I would say every time we’ve played in Canada, which has been several times at this point, it's been so fun and so exciting to see how they react to the music. Yes, we're so geographically close to each other but, you know, Canada has its own culture and its own things going on. And I think it's so cool to be able to connect with music, even though we may be from a different place.
We've had amazing shows in Canada, and I'm so excited to come back to Toronto. And then, of course, we would love to come back to as many places in Canada as possible in the future. So, I'm excited to bring touring to them more, but starting with Toronto is gonna be really exciting. We’ve had great shows in Toronto in the past.
Q: And, plus, they have Tim Hortons. I don't know if you've ever heard of Tim Hortons or not. …
Sydney Sierota: Yes! I have, and I love it (laughs). It’s too good.
Q: Very good. So, as you said, your songs are very personal and they reflect where you guys are in your lives. That being the case, how do you go back and approach playing older songs when you're in concert? Do you approach them differently? Do you have different feelings when you're performing them, or how does it feel to sing those other songs relative to the new material that you have?
Sydney Sierota: It’s a very interesting experience playing older songs, alongside very, very new and fresh songs. Of course, there’s a comfortability there with the old songs that we’ve played literally thousands of times at this point. And that's a nice feeling, to just feel comfortable and not even think twice about the song; that's a great feeling to have that in the set. But it also feels very nostalgic, because you grow up with these songs, even though they were put out however many years ago.
I'm growing with the song, and the meaning of the song is kind of growing with me. So, it's really cool to see how music can change. “Cool Kids,” for example, came from a very personal place, however many years ago; but it honestly feels even more personal now. It feels like I can relate to this song even more so now than I ever did when we first wrote it.
So, it's cool to be able to grow with your music, and to see how it applies to your life – as your life changes drastically – and keep relating to it.
That's really what I try to do mentally with the older songs is try to relate to it even more now, so that I feel in the song, and feeling the song when I'm singing it. Because, I think when you're performing, it's very obvious if you're feeling it or not. And I always want to be feeling the music – it’s so important to have that.
But it's also so special, of course, to play those older songs that have been growing up also with all of our fans, and they have so many stories attached to them, memories; and it's such a great, nostalgic, special moment that we get to share with our fans when we play those older songs.
I’m always making sure that I can relate to whatever I'm singing, no matter what – whether it’s an old song or a new song. And, of course, life happens, and life makes it so you can relate to songs more or less over time.
I think these songs have just run true for me more and more as I’ve gotten older – especially “Bright.”
I mean, it’s a love song. And when we wrote it, I had never been in love before, and I had no idea what that felt like. It was more of a dream that I dreamt of feeling one day. I had no idea that I’d get to experience it in such a special way now. So, I relate to that song definitely more now than I did initially (laughs). And it means so much more to me now than it ever has. And it's really special to share that feeling of being in love with our fans, and seeing couples in the crowd, you know, hugging or holding hands, or laughing. … It’s pretty funny to see how everyone responds to it differently. It’s just really special for us.
Q: Something that I'm personally curious about – because I've known the Smallbone family for quite a while; I've done a lot of work with Joel and Luke and with Rebecca St. James – you partnered with (for KING & COUNTRY) for a remix of “God Only Knows,” which I thought was awesome. What was that experience like for you, and what did you like about that opportunity?
Sydney Sierota: There's so many things I loved about doing that song with them.
First off, they are some of the sweetest people – if not … actually, I take it back. I think they are the sweetest people in the music industry.
We’ve met so many people, and there are amazing people in this industry; and there are some people who are more jaded, or who don't see life in maybe the same way as you, and that's OK. But with the Smallbones and with for KING & COUNTRY, we just got to connect so well right off the bat.
And this song was actually – the collaboration happened virtually. So, we spent a lot of time on FaceTime talking and going back and forth with ideas of how to make the song perfect, and have the right harmony in the right places. Technical things like that. But, I think, just right off the bat, we all got to connect in a really special way. And when we met in person to shoot the music video, it was like we had known each other forever.
They’re just really sweet and passionate people about what they do. I, honestly, was very inspired by them, because I have loved their music for a really long time, “God Only Knows” has really spoken to me in a personal way. So, getting to have that sort of experience of putting my own voice on it, and my own spin on something like that, was really cool. And it was a very memorable moment that I'll always remember, and I just love those guys.
I had the best time. And, of course, having sung on a Timbaland track was also amazing (laughs), and something that I never thought I'd be able to do.
So, working with them was amazing, and I just love those guys, and love everything they stand for, and what they do. I'm just honored to be part of it.
Echosmith performs Monday, Feb. 17, at the Mod Club in Toronto. For more information, for tickets, or to order “Lonely Generation,” visit https://echosmith.com/. To book the band, visit https://mn2s.com/booking-agency/live-roster/echosmith/.
Echosmith (Photo by Ariana Velazquez)