Swan song: A singer's journey to 'Ladyland'

By Gregg Shapiro

"Ladyland," the debut album by radiant redheaded diva on the rise Sierra Swan introduces us to one of the more fascinating artists of the year. A big voiced singer/songwriter who combines the piano rock flourishes of Tori Amos with the pop sneer of Pink, Swan has the potential to float right past the competition. Having Linda Perry and Aimee Mann as collaborators doesn't hurt either. After touring during the beginning of the year with James Blunt, Sierra Swan is hitting the road again for an "Uncorked and Unplugged" tour.

Gregg Shapiro: Was the (James) Blunt tour a good experience for you?

Sierra Swan: Yeah, it was really fun. Anything that involves playing music everyday, day in and day out, is a good thing and a good experience. I've played a lot of shows but the reason that was so good was that it was more challenging. That was the most challenging thing I think I've done in a long time. Because I had a trio and no one knew who I was, it was difficult, but it was well worth it.

GS: Were there certain cities where you felt like you had a better connection with the audience than others?

SS: Yeah, it's really strange, I don't know if it had to do with the city or the moment, but Seattle was a really good show, as I recall. Some are hit or miss. Some shows were definitely better than others. I enjoyed myself in Chicago, I do remember that.

GS: Your album "Ladyland" is being released on Interscope and out musician Linda Perry's Custard imprint. You worked with her on some songs and she produced some tracks. What was that experience like?

SS: It was really wonderful. She's different than any other producer because she allows the artist to be themselves a hundred percent. Instead of assuming what I wanted or who I was, she let me do the record that I wanted and let me take leadership in it, which is something an artist should do since it has their name on it. She lets you do that. Especially if she has faith in your musical style and your writing.

GS: She offers encouragement and support.

SS: She definitely offers encouragement. There are times when she'll just leave you there alone to work the song through and then come back and check your works. She understands that artists do need that privacy. She has that as a producer and artists need that, too. If she trusts your opinion, she'll just do it. She'll try what you want first, and if that doesn't work she'll have a suggestion.

GS: The album's title is probably going to remind a lot of people of Jimi Hendrix's "Electric Ladyland."

SS: Yeah, I know (laughs).

GS: The album also has some very personal moments, I was thinking particularly about the song "Mother." Do you think as a songwriter that it's important to open yourself in that way or do you think it's better to keep a distance between you and the audience?

SS: No. If you're a pop star, maybe. But I'm not here to dance around and do choreographed routines. I'm here to connect with an audience. Who knows, maybe in the future that will be part of my art? But right now, I'm strictly a songwriter and at this moment that's how I want to connect with people. If that means getting personal, I'm totally fine with it. I don't know how to keep my mouth shut anyway, I have no filter. For me to keep something private would be kind of impossible (laughs).

GS: So you're an open book.

SS: Yeah. I don't see anything to keep to yourself because everyone experiences it and it's a healthy thing to share. That's why I'm here and that's how I see myself.

GS: You are about to embark on the Uncorked and Unplugged tour with MoZella. Is there anything that you are looking forward?

SS: I'll have my band with me this time. That's exciting (laughs). I look forward to going to Nashville because my dad lives there (laughs). And New York. I have to make up with New York. My first show in New York with James (Blunt) was not the nicest (laughs). I have to make friends with New York again.

GS: Will you be encouraged to have some wine onstage with you?

SS: Of course! Are you kidding? I'd do that even if it wasn't a wine tour.

GS: Visually, you have a very glamorous and compelling look. And the queer community always connects with a diva...

SS: ...a hot broad.

GS: A red hot broad. Are you ready to be embraced by the LGBT community?

SS: Heck, yeah! For sure! Listen, this is a hard road I've paved for myself, so being embraced by anybody is really a good thing (laughs); but especially that.

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