Vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and songwriter are just a few of the titles Sierra Swan holds in her multi-dimensional music career.
With her father being famed country musician Billy Swan, she was exposed to the L.A. music scene from a young age. As a teen, Swan worked her way from playing in coffee shops, to joining the alt-rock band Dollshead, a jumping off point for the rest of her illustrious career. Her talent goes beyond genre, and her unique artistry has caught the eye and ear of Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman Billy Corgan, to whom she’s collaborated with over the years and for her latest endeavor.
Swan’s solo music is where her distinct style and diverse musical background shines brightest. Tangerines, Swan’s most recent solo project, came out on May 14th; each of the six songs on the EP is able to stand alone, but still contributes to the overall mesh of the project – which is a rare feat. The eclectic influence of genres creates a backdrop for Swan’s vocals that not only shows stylistic range, but also a high music-IQ.
The EP’s lead single, “Tangerines,” combines instrumental elements reminiscent of Radiohead’s Kid A with a dance beat; the end result is a dark-synth-pop sound that only an artist well-versed as Swan could accomplish. “I Want All of My Shit Back”, the EP’s second single is an edgy dance-pop track; the guitar riff and stacked vocals bring an 80s vibe that is easily mistaken for a Prince song. The spectrum of sounds in Swans songs on the EP creates a broad appeal, somehow managing to create harmony between alluring vocals, vintage synths, and mechanical drum beats.
Before the release of Tangerines, I had the opportunity to ask Swan about her creative process on this project, plans for 2021, the highlights of her career, and more.
Having a father that was steeped in the country music world, were you ever interested in pursuing a similar route yourself? What attracted you to the alt-rock/pop scene?
Not really, I also feel that country was a bit different back when my dad was really doing it. The kind of music my dad was doing and Kris Kristofferson, whose band he was in for so long, was more American folk/something else. The country that is out today is a little bit more polished. Not all of it, but most of it. That’s never been my thing, as a kid I really gravitated more towards more unique artists, such as Prince and T.Rex. I love Patsy Cline though, her voice to me is God.
You’ve collaborated with a variety of amazing artists over the years. Which might’ve had the most lasting impact on the musical style you have today?
No one in particular. I’ve always kind of been inspired by my moods more than music. If that makes any sense 🙂 but certain music speaks to me more if I’m feeling frustrated, or happy. The artists I admire are the ones who stay true to themselves. So, if I had to answer that question, I would say Chad Hugo is certainly inspiring and so is Billy Corgan. Both very much who they are.
Your new EP, Tangerines, has a badass electro alt-pop feel throughout it. How does this record compare and contrast from your previous releases?
I think on the releases prior to this one, I’ve been more structured about the making of them. This one, I really just wanted to have fun; I wanted to see or hear what it sounded like if I just went in my basement and had a good time. So, this particular release encompasses an artist allowing themselves just to have fun and not be so controlling about the process.
Are there any overarching themes or motifs throughout the album?
The theme is very do-it-yourself. From the videos to the EP itself, it’s all really coming from one person. There’s not a lot of cooks in this kitchen, and that’s the charm of the EP.
What was the idea behind the music video for your second single, “I Want All Of My Shit Back”?
I came up with that idea because during Covid times, you can’t do a lot of things without testing everyone and things getting very expensive. So, I directed that video and came up with the concept based on the limited resources I had. I wanted to do something in honor of Minneapolis. Considering it’s been through a lot this last year, I wanted to include people I’ve met here who have been so wonderful to me, and I love my dog. So, putting all those ideas together, I came up with that video.
And how about the idea behind the ballet music video for the title track “Tangerines?”
The video for ‘Tangerines’ was also my idea and I directed that one too. I had a very vivid dream about a ballerina one night. I woke up just thinking ‘wouldn’t that be great for this video?’. So, I wanted to find a ballerina my age, the concept of the video is basically it doesn’t matter how old you get, your dreams don’t have to die. You can keep dancing, you can keep making music. You don’t have to just stop because society doesn’t encourage you to do it anymore. Keep dancing is the message there.
Is there any significance in the order of the tracks, particularly the record ending with heartfelt Billy Corgan-penned ballad “Peach”?
Sequence is always a very complicated thing, but there’s only six songs on this EP, so I just kind of sequenced them in order of what I had been working on the longest. It’s a high-energy EP, so I thought it would be nice to put “PEACH” at the end to kind of calm everything down, and it is a gorgeous cherry on top.
What was your favorite part of creating this EP? Least favorite?
I guess my favorite part is the very beginning, getting the idea and getting inspired. Going down to my basement and allowing myself just to have a great time as an artist. My least favorite is when you’re all done and the party is over, basically, and now you have to bring it to the masses. It’s a nerve-racking thing, taking something that you were having such a great time with and letting people judge it. But I’m at a point in my life where I have a sense of humor about how people feel about what I do. As long as I’m being honest, I’m feeling pretty good.
With live music returning, can fans expect to see you bringing this EP to life on any stages in the near future?
Listen, I would love that. But I have to be realistic, I don’t have the money to do that. This album has a more-high production quality. And hiring musicians and booking shows – that is a whole other ballgame. I am an independent artist, no one is handing me money to do this, this is on my own dime. That’s why it’s so important for people who are fans to support people like me through their websites, by purchasing merch and buying your music.