By Melody J Myers
Sydney Ross Mitchell is a Texas based singer-songwriter who’s taking the world by the storm
with her honest lyrics, and raw emotion-rife songs. With every track Mitchell has put us in a
trance with her vocals, with her newest tracks "Altitude" and "I Wish You Were Lonely." A few months ago, Sydney and I were able to chat about all things music, her inspirations and what makes her music hers.
Hi Sydney! Thanks so much for answering my questions, how are you?
Hi! It’s 5:14 AM and I haven’t slept, but I’m really good. My creativity ebbs and flows pretty drastically, and when it’s running high, I don’t do much sleeping. I’m very happy to be spending my morning with you, though!
For those who don’t know you, can you give them a little introduction?
Absolutely. My name is Sydney Ross Mitchell and I guess most people would call me a singer-songwriter. I grew up in Lubbock, Texas but moved to Nashville about two and a half years ago after meeting a would-be mentor of mine at a songwriting expo in New York. I loved it there, but I think the year 2020 left me spinning a little. I came back to Texas, to my hometown, mostly to re-ground myself, and ended up finding a home in a studio about an hour away from my parents house. I recorded my first EP there and am really looking forward to rolling those songs out over the next few months. The first single, a song called "Altitude," came out at the end of July and the second will be here in October.
How did you get into music?
This is a really good question that I wish I knew the answer to. No one else in my family is particularly musically inclined, but my Mom says that I was humming and singing before I could talk. I think I figured out really early on that singing just felt good, but it wasn’t until I got older and began to discover music that resonated with me emotionally that I really fell in love.
What made you want to be a singer-songwriter?
Writing songs has always been a means of catharsis for me. I think I started writing solely for the purpose of processing emotions that I couldn’t understand. My coming of age was swift and disorienting, and I remember feeling an incredible sense of safety in songwriting - like all these thoughts and feelings that I could never say out loud finally had a place to go, to live. It was addicting.
Circling back to Texas, would you say where you from inspires you at all when writing and creating music?
In the past, it hasn’t. I was raised almost exclusively on early 2000’s country - I was a passive listener back then and any connection I feel to those songs now is mostly just nostalgia. However, over just the past six months or so, I’ve been deep diving into older country, the outlaw stuff that my grandparents would have listened to. Jerry Jeff Walker, Merle Haggard, a whole lot of Loretta Lynn. I have such a visceral reaction to it, like I’m banging sticks together around a fire. I think that’s gotta come from somewhere in my bloodline. Maybe in the future some of these themes will start to peek through my songwriting but I can’t say for sure. I’m just enjoying listening and learning for now.
You’ve recently released your newest single, "Altitude." What was the inspiration behind it?
I remember the night before we wrote it very clearly - I was home alone watching Free Solo, a Hulu documentary about Alex Honnold free soloing El Capitan. What I’ll say is that a lot of the sentiments expressed in the film reminded me of someone I knew. I went into the write the next day with emotions running really high, and Stone, my co-writer, met me right where I was at. It was one of the most peaceful, easy writes I’ve ever had.
Was the writing and creative process for "Altitude" different from "I Wish You Were Lonely?"
Very much so. The version of "I Wish You Were Lonely" that you’ve heard was not recorded with a release in mind. I recorded it, unfinished, only because I had booked out some free studio time at the college where I had just started taking classes. I ended up releasing it pretty impulsively a few months later, not expecting much to happen. To this day, I’m still shocked by the amount of love I’ve received on that song. "Altitude" was more of an intentional process, I would say, both in the way it was written, and released. I took "Altitude" very seriously, maybe because the content is so personal. I felt very protective over it and really wanted to do it right.
When creating a song, what comes first — lyrics or music?
It all comes at once for me. Sometimes, I’ll jot down certain words, phrases, or ideas, but when it really takes form, it happens all at once.
What inspires you the most when writing lyrics and creating music?
I think what drives me to write music is equal parts wanting to understand and wanting to be understood. I’m so inspired by artists who are capable of articulating incredibly complex and fleeting emotions in such unique and beautifully simple ways - it’s an overwhelming feeling, to have one of your innermost thoughts reflected back at you so clearly. Like something has been on the tip of your tongue for your entire life, and they just took the words right out of your mouth. I think it feels like being held. I hope that one day something I write can hold someone else.
Do you listen to any bands or artists during the writing and creative process? If so, who?
I don’t, actually. I get stuck on melodies really easily, especially ones I like, so I try to keep the slate pretty clean when I’m writing. I really enjoy looking through playlists on Spotify and just reading the titles. No listening, just reading the titles. It’s fun to imagine what the song might be about, what it might be referring to. It definitely gets my mind going.
Is there a formula you follow when creating music and writing lyrics?
I don’t think so, no. I’m sure there are patterns that I subconsciously follow but I try to approach each song with an open mind. Some of my favorite moments in the songs I’ve been working on recently are parts that were improvised. I like to leave room for spontaneity.
When writing lyrics do you have a certain audience you want to reach?
I don’t. Maybe I’m overly optimistic but I believe that songs have a way of getting exactly where they need to go.
Out of all the songs you've ever written, which one was the hardest to write?
Definitely an unreleased one called "Earthside." I typically write songs from beginning to end, but in this case, I started with the chorus. I had to work backwards to piece the song together and it felt like a foreign experience. This song is also really special to me so I was handling it pretty delicately.
Are you more inspired by daily life, or interpersonal relationships?
Interpersonal relationships. The way we interact with the people close to us is so fascinating to me, so nuanced. There’s endless material there.
If you could tour with any band or artist, who would it be?
I would kill to tour/sing with Ruston Kelly. I think he’s an incredible writer and his voice is one of my all time favorites.
Which artists or bands inspire you the most?
Bob Dylan, Madi Diaz, Radiohead, Mark Ronson, Cher, and Arlo Parks.
We’re all about discovering new music, who should we be listening to right now?
Gatlin, Obed Padilla, Caity Krone, Samia, and Adam Melchor.