In the latest edition of our interview series, we talk to singer-songwriter Sydney Kwan about music, Recess fan film “Third Street” and trusting your gut.
PW- Hey Sydney! How are you doing?
I’m doing well! Thank you for asking.
PW- So, first thing’s first. For those who haven’t met you yet, how would you sum up who you are and what you do?
My name is Sydney Kwan, I am a D.I.Y. 80’s influenced bedroom pop artist from Vancouver, Canada. I write, sing and produce all of my music which I have been doing for about a year and a half now.
PW- I first discovered your music through ‘Hear Me’. What can you tell us about how that track came about, and what it was like producing it?
I am a frequenter of writers block and it’s funny because I always get in the mindset that I’ll never write another song again and then something magical will happen like writing ‘Hear Me’. I don’t have any music theory knowledge so I was trying to figure out the chords to ‘1999’ by Charli XCX and Troye Sivan on my computer and made this pretty chord progression instead.
It fit perfectly with the chorus of hear me which I had written a few weeks back. From there, I basically kept adding to the track until it was done. The hardest part for this song was mixing it and I spent every day for a month working on it and trying to get it perfect. If I like a song I have made, I go pretty crazy and can spend a long time making tiny adjustments to it but I think it’s worth it in the end.
PW- The music video for ‘Hear Me’ is very romantic and nostalgic- what are you influenced by aesthetically?
My visual work is pretty feminine and I like to create my own version of a pop universe. It’s hard to pinpoint what I am inspired by aesthetically but all I can say for sure is that I love using bright colours and being fun and playful with any of the visuals I make.
PW- Tamara Black directed the videos for both ‘Hear Me’ and ‘Believin’. What initially drew you to working with Tamara and what was it like working together for a second time?
Tamara is the best! We got together for a coffee after she dm’d me on instagram explaining she was a director and loved my music and wanted to work on something together. When we first met, I knew right away that we would be a good fit based on our tastes and work ethic. I think it has also helped a lot having a female director to execute my vision. She understands my aesthetic and can tell the stories through the female gaze which is really important to me.
For ‘Believin’, it was really cool to see how much both of us have grown in front and behind the camera. That shoot was crazy because we transformed my entire house and shot in it all in just two days!
PW- The fan-made Recess film, ‘Third Street’ features your music, and I’ve noticed a lot of people are discovering your work because of it. How did that project come about, and how has it impacted your work in terms of new fans/ attention?
I am so so so thankful for ‘Third Street’. It is such a great short and I am so happy my song got to be a part of it. Jerome Yoo, the director and writer for it was in need of some music that he wouldn’t have to license as it is an indie film with a low budget. He mentioned this to Tamara so she sent him ‘Hear Me’ in hopes that he would use it and he did! I am so grateful that he did because I really had no idea how much traction it would bring to my own music.
I have had multiple people reach out to me after watching the short and it’s wonderful to connect with people from all over with a song I literally made over a year ago that used to have a couple hundred plays.
PW- Quick fun question- if you could only listen to three songs for the rest of your time on Earth, what would they be?
That is such a hard question! I love a lot of different music but these are some that I will never get sick of.
- ‘When I’m With Him’ by Empress Of
- I know it’s cheating but any song by Ariana Grande
- ‘Maybe Your The Reason’ by The Japanese House
PW- In this kind of industry, it can be tough to feel like you’re moving forwards sometimes. How do you battle these feelings when they come up, and do you have any advice to other people who might be struggling in a similar way?
I feel like I am not the best person to answer this question because I definitely have my days where I can feel discouraged. My best advice would be to trust your gut. If you think a song is amazing, then put it out. Chances are, someone out there will resonate. The worst thing you can do is to stop trying. Also, if there is something you want to do but are nervous about it or too scared, then you should just go ahead and do it. You have no idea what opportunities will happen once you do.
PW- And final question! It’s more of an invitation actually. Use the next few sentences to tell us what you’re up to next, and where we can follow you online 🙂
The next few months I will just be writing and recording until I have a bunch of songs I am ready to put out. In April, I am going to be going to L.A. on my own to try and meet some more people in the industry and in May I’ll be doing my first live show! If you want to follow me online I pretty much only use instagram which is @sydkwan