First Look Friday: Sibide Interview
First Look Friday: Sibide Interview

First Look Friday: Be Taken In By Los Angeles' Own Sidibe

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

There's hardly any debate that Los Angeles has one of the best music scenes in all of America. Voices can be heard belting out tunes from The Fonda and up the 405. And as one of the most thought-provoking new acts out of the City of Angels, Sidibe is a soul musician that is right up our (and yours!) alley. Ever since she unveiled the inner-workings of her heart on 2014's Metaphysical, Sidibe has consistently been on the grind, playing her music live on stages and captivating new fans through her very personal Twitter account.

Swanky, sensuous and a serious artist about her craft, Sibide has inhaled the essences of her influences such as SadeMinnie RipertonJanet Jackson and Joni Mitchell to create a sound all her own. Unapologetic in her songwriting, this beautiful songstress embraces the whimsicalness of love and romance by taking bits of her real-life relationships and crafts them into lush songs that stay attached to your ears for days on end. It doesn't matter if you've heard Sibide at a sweaty dive bar or a historic theater along the strip, this Senegalese siren is capable of capturing your heart and never letting go.

With Grammy Award-winning producer Warren Campbell (Musiq Soulchild, Brandy, Jill Scott) and Finnish writer-producer Nico Stadi as her co-collaborators, this future music superstar offers up a vast array of harmonies, stories and lyrics that makes our ears smile. As Sidibe ascends to the rarefied spot reserved for the best, this week's First Look Friday subject sits with us unapologetically to talk about the evolution of Los Angeles' music scene; the inspiration behind her song "Maybe," and exclusive premieres "You Wanna Love Everybody" for the OKP audience (which you can hear below!). Enjoy!


Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact on both sides of the U.S. What is it that Los Angeleans are seeing and hearing that the world has yet to discover?

Sidibe: I am not very good at pretense, so they, the audience, are seeing and hearing the truest possible expression of my creative voice. I am the writer on all of my songs, and my lyrics tend to be very autobiographical. Plus, my voice is as much a part of the story as the lyrics. So, I think people are really discovering who I am as a woman and as an artist. The single is already released from my forthcoming EP, You Got the Luck, so they can hear the joy and vibrancy that happens when talented people who love music come together to create. I am an independent artist with absolutely no budget, so everything on this album came from all the amazingly gifted people who did it for the love.

OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?

S: I have been inspired by so many artists and continue to discover more and more each day. I practically live at the record store [laughs]. I'll start with the one, the only Michael Jackson. His songs are accessible but incredibly complex while being extremely musical all at the same time. Naturally, I am a fan of his sister, Janet Jackson, as well. She has amazing songs and both she and Michael possess a lightness that keeps even their saddest songs from sounding depressing. Prince is someone else who I am very, very inspired by. He's a ridiculously talented musician and writer. I admire his fearlessness and his love for himself.

Prince was really influenced by Joni Mitchell, who is another one of my favorite artists and the one I most associate with my childhood. With her superhuman talents as a multi-instrumentalist and writer, Joni Mitchell is seriously a unicorn. What list would be complete without the seductress, Sade Adu. I love her femininity and her unique sound that she and her band, Sweetback, create. I also respect how private she has been throughout her career. It has helped to preserve her allure and it keeps the focus on her beautiful music.

OKP: Your song, “I’m Only Dreaming,” is a very dope sounding song and has placed you on the radar of music snobs who have a heavy presence in the industry. Can you talk about how life was for you while developing as an artist in Los Angeles? How did you react to your first bits of press?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

S: Life as a developing artist has not always been an easy journey, but it has been a beautiful one. I've been signed and unsigned, but I have learned a lot along the way. Some of the most important and enduring creative relationships I have today have come out of the darkest times. For example, I met my longtime collaborator Nico Stadi as my relationship with Universal Records was ending. If I had never signed with them, I'm not sure Nico and I would have ever met. Thank God we did [laughs]! He has been my most consistent creative partner and we share a connection that is extremely valuable to both of us.

We have written a library of songs together and even co-wrote an album for a Polish artist that went platinum in Poland. Through other relationships, I had the opportunity to work on projects with Common and Nas. As cliché as that might sound, the truth is that things take time and you need experiences to grow. Without all these experiences, I could not have acquired the resiliency and clarity of vision that led to the creative fruition expressed in my latest songs. I'm thrilled that "I'm Only Dreaming" is being received so well and I am extremely grateful for the people who have shared it.

The entire process has left me feeling humbled and filled with gratitude. And yes, I both danced and cried when I heard my song on the radio for the first time. Thank you, Garth Trinidad.

OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene in Los Angeles? How do you see it evolving in the next five years?

S: I'm not a native of Los Angeles, but as an artist, it is an exciting time to be in L.A. This has been the perfect place for me to grow and form relationships. There are so many different music scenes here, but I think the emerging jazz movement is particularly exciting. Jazz has never gone away, to be frank, but I really love the way it is being incorporated into multiple genres. You can hear it in Kendrick [Lamar] and his music. People are embracing musicianship in mainstream music and it's exciting and liberating. It is impossible to predict what will happen in five years, but I hope that people will continue to demand more integrity from the music they listen to.

OKP: What are some elements that you’ve learned about yourself that comes out in your music?

S: I've learned and embraced that I am a hopeless romantic. [Laughs] I'm the Mulder of love and "I want to believe." I enjoy the spiritual and physical aspects of love. It's beyond romance. I love people. I have faith in humanity and I wish for others to share that optimism. I've learned that I am stronger than I thought. It takes strength to be vulnerable and I am very honest about who I am. I'm also a chameleon. There are so many different sides to me and I love tapping into all of them.

OKP: What were some moments from your recent travels that will forever stick with you? Why?

S: I experience a rebirth every time I visit my family in Senegal. I would say that it is like leaving The Matrix. When I am in Africa, that's when I feel the most free. During my last trip to Senegal, I brought my collaborator Nico with me. I remember I had left the house we were staying in to run an errand. Upon my return, Nico was dancing in a circle of about 30 boys and young men. It was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen. They couldn't really talk because of the language barrier, but they didn't need to.

All that reminded me was that at the end of the day, we all want the same thing — we want to connect. Human to human. It might be easy to be fooled into thinking we are "connected" through social media and smartphones, but we couldn't be more disconnected. When you really decide to be in the moment, that is when you experience a soul connection. My time in Africa reminded me to be always-and-ever present. It is hard to keep that feeling because life is so fast and so different here, but I try my best.

OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it has come to symbolize since you’ve entered the professional life?

S: When I was 12-years-old, I wrote and recorded my first song, which was called "Poor Little Girl." It was about a young girl whom committed suicide. I wasn't really feeling suicidal at the time, but I'm not quite sure what inspired it. Looking back, I can see that I could relate to that feeling of being isolated and alone. There have been many times where I have felt alone in my journey as an artist. In the end, it is your dream and your journey and nobody can walk that path but you. It is good to know now that I don't have to walk it alone.

OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?

S: People respond to artists and music that is authentic. People can tell when you are being truthful in your music and expression. It is an intangible quality, but you know it when you hear it. As for myself, all I can do is speak my truth in the most honest way that I know how. I think people can hear that honesty in my music, voice and message. I'm not trying to sound like anyone else. I'm truly sharing who I am and no one can do that but me.

OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with this year and why?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

S: I am all about collaborating. Nico Stadi, Warryn Campbell and Jack Splash all brought their perspective and talents to my latest project. My music wouldn't sound the same without them. I definitely plan to continue working with them on new material because I think we have a special and unique synergy. Beyond that, I would love to work with Stuart Matthewman and Pharrell Williams. They're both incredibly talented and I am a fan. I would also love to work with Prince, I mean who doesn't?!

OKP: What is the overall message that Sidibe is trying to present in her music?

S: My overall message is to embrace who you are and don't feel pressured to conform. Discover who you are and own it. Don't be afraid to harness your power and that is when you find true love. When you love yourself you are able to love others and that's what it's all about.

OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind your “Maybe” song? Could you speak on the creation and production of that song for the masses?

S: "Maybe" was inspired by true events. Nico and I were writing "Maybe," and we were listening to Stevie Wonder's "Moon Blue" and Jamiroquai. Nico started messing around on the keys and he came up with that incredible and beautiful progression. I went in and laid down some melody ideas. Most of the time, when we're working, the meaning of the song is laid in there in my freestyle. I knew it was romantic and it felt like a song that was expressing the feeling of a new love.

At the time, I had just started seeing someone new, so it just seemed like a natural direction. One night, I took a walk to see if I could finish writing the song. Ideas often come to me that way and all I just needed the chorus. I asked myself how I was feeling about this new relationship and if I wanted to open my heart and allow myself to be loved. In answering myself, I said, "Maybe I should," and there it was. We all go into relationships blindly without knowing what the future will bring, but being the hopeful romantic I am, I was thinking, "Maybe this could be good. Maybe I'll fall in love." As it turned out, I guess the song should have been called, "Maybe Not," because it didn't work out. We are still friends till this day and I am thankful for the inspiration he brought me. In the end, I will always think of "Maybe" as "Tony's Song."

OKP: How do you see yourself changing the music industry for the better versus all of the bad stuff that goes on within it?

S: That's a lot of pressure to place on one person [laughs]! I do feel like there is a space for me. I think there's a lot of darkness in music and in the world right now. I try to infuse my music with light and hope because that's how I want to feel that others want to feel that way, too. When you create music from that place, you impact not only culture but the world. Music is that powerful.

OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with Sidibe — what would it be and in what octave would it sound like?

S: If your readers learned one thing about, I would want them to know that I am coming from an honest place of truth. I love music and what I create is a representation of my heart. I think it would in the fifth octave because I'm always trying to reach my best.

Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for more from Sidibe (and us!) by following her on Twitter @SidibeSings.