Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Sy Smith surprises fans with a new release - a holiday mix aptly titled “Christmas In Syberspace”. As the project title suggests, Sy delves back into her electro-futuristic-soul roots with this endeavor; sonically reminding listeners of her underground roots (think of her 2005 release “The Syberspace Social”). Clocking in at just under 14 minutes, this ep is like a digital stocking stuffer - and Sy is giving the ep away for free on Bandcamp (but listeners can also purchase it at iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, and it’s available on all major streaming platforms after November 25, 2018).
For the production of “Christmas In Syberspace”, Sy tapped Nashville drummer/producer Isaac “Bam” Richardsonwhom she met… well… in syberspace. “Isaac contacted me on Facebook about a year ago and told me he was a big fan of my work. He said he was a producer, just getting started and wanted to send me some tracks. I told him, maybe kinda bluntly, that I really wasn’t looking for tracks at that time, I was knee-deep into 'Sometimes A Rose Will Grow In Concrete' and to hit me up next year. Well, he dropped me a message again this year, about two months ago. So I listened to his ideas and REALLY liked what I heard. I think after arranging and recording background vocals for John Legend’s ‘A Legendary Christmas’ album, I was inspired too! So, I recorded 'Christmas Time Is Here' to Isaac’s track, and then asked him if he’d be interested in doing a whole project with me!” Isaac and Sy tag-teamed this mini-album via the internet (the two have never met in person) - agreeing on songs, exchanging ideas and building on arrangements. “I really enjoyed working with Isaac. He’s got such a wonderful ear for core elements. He really colors with sound! This is his first R&B project, but I suspect that after hearing this, some of my fellow artists are gonna want get his info from me!”
“Christmas In Syberspace” features three holiday favorites dispersed with some creative interludes. After the “Hark! The Intro” sets the subdued mood for this holiday set, Isaac’s children anxiously tell him what gifts they hope to receive, then Sy’s familiar bell-tone soprano voice gently asserts Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here”. She capitalizes on this popular melody by staying true to it, but then Sy adds a soulful refrain encouraging listeners to take the spirit of the holiday with them all year long. After another sweet interlude, Sy boldly takes on “The Sound Of Music” classic “My Favorite Things”by reworking the lyrics to truly reflect on HER favorite things:
“Shoes with fat laces and oversized glasses
Watching my people rise up from the ashes
Sharing a smile with that guy on the train
These are a few of my favorite things…”
After another interlude reworks a popular holiday carol (all the interludes do this), this ep closes with a foot-stomping “Little Drummer Boy” which Sy arranged and co-produced, reminding us that she does this pretty well too (she wrote/produced her entire latest lp “Sometimes A Rose Will Grow In Concrete” to rave reviews and 3 SoulTracks nominations). Isaac Richardson shows off his strong and steady, pocket (his church roots coming through loud and clear) with the head-snapping live drums, and Virginian trumpet player Duane Smith (of Hampton’s The Fuzz Band) provides a tasty horn arrangement.
Sy will be touring for the rest of the year with Grammy-winning trumpeter Chris Botti as a featured guest (as seen recently on his critically-acclaimed PBS special “Great Performances). Her tour dates with him include upcoming shows in Toronto, Boston and New York at the Blue Note for 14 nights. Sy will resume her solo dates in 2019 as a featured artist on the (already long sold out) Capital Jazz Supercruise! Fans can view her tour schedule at www.sysmith.com.
Here are some links for sharing with readers:
Pre-Save on Spotify: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/sysmith/fvDI
Sy Smith: IG @syberspace, sysmith.bandcamp.com, www.sysmith.com
“Sometimes A Rose Will Grow In Concrete” (SRWGC) is the fifth studio album by critically acclaimed progressive soul artist Sy Smith. Often called the “Queen Of Underground Soul”, her previous works include “The Syberspace Social” (named in the top 10 albums of 2005 by The Boston Globe), “Psykosoul Plus” (2007) “Conflict” (2008, with charting radio singles “Fly Away With Me” and “The Art Of You”), and “Fast And Curious” (called “one of the best releases by a female” of 2012 by Soultracks.com). SRWGC is the first album completely written and produced by this multitalented singer/songwriter/musician and features her slick synth bass playing and lithe fingering on piano/keys along with her incomparable soprano voice and signature harmonies/vocal arrangements. Sy Smith is finally having her singer/songwriter moment (think a 21st century Roberta Flack) – this album flourishes with compelling musical/vocal arrangements, thoughtful lyrics and Sy’s voice sounding better than ever.
As a producer, Sy displays an expected but not-before seen maturity on SRWGC. When she does play keys and synth bass, she does both effortlessly; but she brings in some of the top sidemen when the songs call for a different touch. Sy enjoys international acclaim having toured/recorded with some of the best-known recording artists including Whitney Houston and Meshell Ndegeocello. She’s currently a featured special guest on tour with Grammy-winning trumpeter Chris Botti and is featured on his Grammy-nominated DVD “Live In Boston”. SRWGC features many of these previous/current bandmates including legendary percussionist Sheila E. (with whom Sy has toured/recorded) and violinist Lucia Micarelli (bka Annie on HBO’s Treme). Vocally, Sy’s soprano soars effortlessly; she shows off a sure-footed whistle tone (a la Minnie Riperton), confident jazz chops (Sy has been featured with numerous orchestras in tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, including at Carnegie Hall & Kennedy Center), a full-out commanding belt in her upper register – but usually her whimsical, conversational tone is utilized to tell the stories on this project. Still carrying a strong pen, Sy reveals victories won and battles still being fought as she allows her listeners into the most intimate spaces she’s ever exposed. The title track is a powerful, if haunting, ode to people who come through the harshest of trials and still bloom as beautifully as roses. Sy is that defiant rose throughout this entire project.
www.sysmith.com | Sy on Facebook
Sometimes A Rose Will Grow In Concrete
Long renowned as the “Queen of Underground Soul” for her edgy, progressive mix of funk, neo-soul and R&B, Sy Smith launches a fresh new phase of her extraordinary, multi-faceted career with Sometimes A Rose Will Grow In Concrete, set for release on her indie label Psyko Records February 16. The critically acclaimed, multi-talented artist, whose previous album Fast And Curious was hailed as “one of the best releases by a female” in 2012 by Soultracks.com, showcases her transcendent soprano vocals and signature harmonies/vocal arrangements on a 9- track, 3-interlude set that marks her breakthrough singer/songwriter moment (think a 21st Century Roberta Flack) and finds her pushing the boundaries more than ever before as a vocalist, heartfelt, incisive storyteller and first-time producer.
Taking full control of her eclectic, richly textured vibe and expansive musical vision in her first turn behind the boards, Sy lays the foundation for the collection with her slick synth bass playing and lithe fingering on the piano and keyboards. SRWGC also features guest appearances by many of Sy’s previous and current bandmates, including legendary percussionist Sheila E. (with whom Sy has toured and recorded), violinist Lucia Micarelli (aka Annie on HBO’s Treme), top jazz drummer Lee Pearson II (Chris Botti, Spyro Gyra), guitarist Jairus Mozee (Ledisi, Boney James) and the Myron McKinley Trio.
In addition to infusing more of her jazz sensibilities than on any previous project, Sy – who has performed Ella Fitzgerald tributes with orchestras at Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center – shows off a sure-footed whistle tone (a la Minnie Riperton), and a commanding belt in her upper register. Most of the time, however, she brings a whimsical, conversational tone to the poetic, insightful and clever storytelling on SRWGC. As a lyricist, Sy reveals her triumphs and struggles – the victories she’s won and the battles she’s still engaged in – as she invites her listeners to share her most intimate spaces.
The title track is a powerful, haunting ode to the adversity of those who survive the harshest of trials, including her own personal challenges and health issues and those endured by her beloved grandmother, who passed away recently at 101. Yet literally and metaphorically, these survivors still bloom as beautifully as roses. Drawing inspiration from Maya Angelou’s classic autobiography, Sy sings, “Sometimes a rose will grow in concrete/ Sometimes the caged bird will sing…”
Sy balances socially-conscious tracks like these with more lighthearted fare like the album’s lead single “Now and Later,” an infectious, flirty song (featuring the singer’s dazzling horn arrangements) about being head-over-heels in love and waiting for a cold winter to thaw so she can put on a sundress and be her sexy best. Sy pays homage to her father – whose passions for street-corner harmony laid the foundation for Sy’s career pursuits – on a reprise of “Now and Later” simply called “doowop with dad,” which includes him telling stories about growing up singing doo-wop with friends in Queens before he, Sy and two other singers harmonize on the song’s irresistible hook.
Sy’s previous albums include The Syberspace Social, named one of the Top Albums of 2005 by The Boston Globe; 2007’s Psykosoul Plus, featuring stellar production from A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and The Roots’ James Poyser; and 2008’s Conflict, which included the charting radio singles “Fly Away With Me” and “The Art of You.” An internationally acclaimed vocalist, Sy has toured and/or recorded with many legendary artists and musical greats, including Whitney Houston, Meshell Ndegeocello, Macy Gray, Chaka Khan and Grammy winning trumpeter Chris Botti. Her longtime association with bandleader Rickey Minor includes six seasons as a vocalist on “American Idol.”
In anticipation of the release of Sometimes A Rose Will Grow In Concrete, Sy invites everyone to visit her YouTube channel (YouTube.com/sysmith69) and Facebook pages (facebook.com/sysmithmusic) to watch #SySmithSessions, a series of five short clips documenting the process of recording the album and offering insight into her unique creative process. To promote the project, Sy plans to play spot dates in Los Angeles, New York, Washington and Chicago starting in March 2018. “Now and Later” goes for adds at Urban A/C and Jazz format radio in January, and Sy will be filming a short-form music video for rotation in the VH-1 Networks (BET, BETher, BETjams, VH-1Soul and more).
“I feel like this album finally paints a picture of who I am as a person and artist, completely, fully and unabashedly,” she says, “and I love the fact that each song reminds me of a very specific moment, whether of struggle or happiness. I remember reading somewhere that at any given time we only use 40 percent of our brain…well, SRWGC shows that I’ve used every bit of brain accessible to me!”
Artist: Sy Smith
Album: Sometimes A Rose Will
Grow In Concrete
Release Date: Feb 16, 2018
Label: Psyko Records
Genre: Alternative Soul/Jazz/Urban Adult Contemporary
Produced by: Sy Smith
2. Can’t Get Over You
4. We Were Never Free
6. i’ll always come back to you (a prelude)
7. Closer Than You Know
8. doowop with dad (a prelude)
9. Now And Later (Pocketful Of Joy)
10. suri speaks (a prelude)
11. Sometimes A Rose Will Grow In Concrete
12. it’s all in my mind (a reprise)