All About Sirena

 


FAQs 

Where are you from?
I was born in Columbus, Georgia but grew up in Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. DMV, holla!!

Have you always been a singer-songwriter?
As a kid I sang in every choir that I could (‘cause that’s where little black girls go to sing).  I was always singing in my room.  As a teenager and young adult I struggled with self-esteem and body image.  (For more about that story, check out my essay ‘The Black Beauty Myth’ in the anthology Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism.) Music was where I found solace.  When that dress at the mall didn’t come in my size, music always fit.  That boy I liked didn’t call? No problem. Music beckoned 24/7. When there was family drama, I tuned it out with my favourite tunes.

I pored over lyrics.  I was that girl who was always writing out the lyrics to hip hop songs and passing them out to my friends so we could all rhyme along. And like the great Notorious BIG said: “It was all a dream / I used to read Word Up Magazine….” I was obsessed with music, in magazines, on the radio, on TV, in films.  But to me it really was all a dream!  I kept my desire to be a professional singer a secret.  I didn’t think it could really happen. I didn’t think my family would approve.  Above all, I didn’t know anyone who was a professional singer.  And in the days before social media, the people I heard coming out of my radio were completely inaccessible.  I kept my head down and kept music as a hobby.

I didn’t officially study music while at the University of Maryland, College Park, but as many college students are wont to do, I discovered jazz and blues and started taking private voice lessons with DC-based jazz singer.  I thought my voice suited jazz, and I fell in love with the melancholic melodies - they were delicious to sing. After university I started working in the feminist non-profit world with a determination to improve the lives of women of color.

But all the while, I was singing in bands, providing vocals for independent electro artists and writing what would eventually become my very own songs, in my little DC studio flat.

So... London?
Through my activist work, I crossed paths with an artist / activist who opened my eyes to a world of musicians who were making a living playing jazz and blues, travelling back and forth to Europe.  How romantic?! How jazzy?! I was craving adventure, so I hopped on a plane to London to check it all out… and I never left!

What do you like about London?
I fell head over feet in love with London (did you get that Alanis Morissette reference?  Check you out)! I’ve worked with countless talented musicians and released my debut album of originals entitled The Lunatic, The Lover and The Poet.  I’ve been blessed enough to sing in the best clubs in London (including Ronnie Scotts, the Bulls Head, the Vortex) and at venues and festivals all over Europe.

For me, the UK is the sweet spot between Europe and the US. It’s so easy to get everywhere else in the world.  London is also one of the most diverse and exciting cities on the map. You can be whatever you need to be and find your tribe.  There’s enough of everything to go around.

What kind of music do you sing?
What’s with the trick question?  Well, my debut album had a moody, midnight jazz vibe a la Cassandra Wilson or Abbey Lincoln.

My current sound is more soul/R&B, reminiscent of the vocalists I used to sing along to all those years ago including Anita Baker, Janet Jackson, Phyllis Hyman, and Teena Marie to name just a very small few (because believe me, I could go on!).

Click here to listen to my latest song Step Out of the Shadow


That said I’ve done musical theatre, performed with modern classical string quartets and recording backing vocals for electro  Cult With No Name. Suffice it to say, I ain't’ got no type.

And you’re a voice over artist, too?  
As it turns out, my speaking voice is as good as my singing voice and as voice over artist I’ve landed gigs for National Geographic, Marriott Hotels and Al Jazeera to name a few.  I had the great honour of being the voice of activist Assata Shakur for her autobiography on Audible. (If have a project in need of a voice to bring it to life, I might be your girl.  Check out my voice over demos here)

What about your online shop?  
I’ve always been inspired by visual art.  You can often find me in galleries gazing into paintings, notebook in hand (or these days, the iPhone notepad app).  My life in London has led to collaborations with visual artists: I’ve been a muse, artists’ model and I’ve been commissioned to write songs based on artists’ work, including live multimedia performances at art festivals all over the world.  With my merchandise, I personally collaborate with artists (particularly in the African diaspora) to create one of a kind designs that express my love for The Culture.

All in all…
If you’re like me, you love music that has something to say, but you’re not above putting that booty to work when the groove hits you.  You know there’s still good music out there. It might be hard to find but you feel like a hero every time you introduce a new gem to your friends. You love the old school, but you’re not so set in your ways that you can’t explore new sounds and open your heart to what a new artist might have to say...

So here I am, singer, songwriter, voice over artist, writer, arts entrepreneur.  And it all started with my little voice in my little room. I don’t learn as many albums by heart as I used to, but when I’m at home I’m crooning away to my old favourites and creating new tunes of my own every day.  

Music is the constant in my life and in yours.  Music makes our memories real. Music helps us celebrate the triumphs and makes even the most tedious chores tolerable.  And now, more than ever, music goes everywhere with you. Anytime you like you can put on your old favourites or come across a new sound that makes your soul sing. I hope you find something in my music and merchandise that speaks to you  in some small way.


If you’ve read this far, it’d be rude not to invite you to come along with me on my journey.  Click here to sign up for my mailing list

Still need more info?  Hit me up at sirena@sirenariley.com