Rising Music Star Syd Carter West On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry

An Interview With Ming Zhao

Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

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Be picky with who you let in and always keep the circle of trust (the people who truly have your back) close to you throughout the journey. The best people are those who were with you when you were considered a “nobody” to a “somebody.”

As a part of our interview series with leaders, stars, and rising stars in the music industry, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Syd Carter West.

From hushed intimacy to audacious authority: Syd Carter West possesses an extraordinary voice. Her artistry maps a fertile musical crossroads where Southern roadhouse blues and rustic country/Americana ignite with the bravado of Seventies arena rock. Finely tuned narratives and expansive melodies match the fierce and soulful vocals of the Vancouver, British Columbia based singer-songwriter.

By age 12, Syd was following a musical path as an opera student with vocal training and music theory studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Conveying words that audiences may not understand in multiple languages taught her to translate drama through eye contact and body language, techniques that she now employs on stage and in videos.

She has always been a storyteller. It was this poetic imagination that illuminated her path from young opera diva to an accomplished lyricist. The songs are brought to vivid life in the studio. “One Home,” inspired by the wave of activism encompassing the struggles of Black Lives Matter, the indigenous people of Canada, and the LGBTQ community, is a poignant invocation of inclusion.

A provocateur, a magnificently expressive vocalist and a deeply evocative songwriter, Syd Carter West arrives as a new artist with commanding courage and disarming authenticity. “I’m still discovering myself,” she concludes “Genuine, and a little quirky — I am an open book.”

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about your “origin story”. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Before I dip into my story, I want to thank you for having me be a part of this interview series! I appreciate the opportunity. :)

I was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada — specifically North Vancouver in a friendly neighborhood surrounded by lots of forest and nature, which definitely contributed to my imaginative and adventurous personality. I would often climb trees, explore the river near my house and pretend I was in Narnia half the time, haha! I hold a lot of great memories from my childhood, growing up as an only child with two supportive parents and a house full of dogs. You could say my siblings were animals. :)

I’ve always been an artistic and passionate person, taking on a lot of projects and hobbies during my after school hours. Whether it was painting, working with horses in equestrian show jumping or studying opera music, I wasn’t the type to be “still.” To this day, if something peaks my interest, I dive right in!

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ever since I was two years old, when I started humming to the radio while my Mom was running errands, I knew music and becoming a singer-songwriter is all I wanted to pursue. There was never a time in my life where music wasn’t my source of expression. I remember writing my first poem at 7 years old, and turning it into a song — I was glowing that day even though the song was about a lost friendship.

At age 12, I began my opera music journey and continued to compete and study in that field until age 20. I chose to distance myself from opera because I wanted to write my own material and felt it no longer portrayed my artistry in the way I was envisioning it.

I ventured through different genres to find my authentic sound and allowed myself to take time to explore and play with it. Now being 27, I feel comfortable and confident with this new journey in Blues Rock/Rock ’n’ Roll music.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It’s difficult for me to pinpoint one story as an interesting one — I’d like to think the entire story and adventure of my music career has been interesting! However, I will say that winning the silver medal (which is considered first place in the Royal Conservatory of Music) for the National RCM exam felt pretty darn cool. :)

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s so true… painfully true, haha!

A valuable lesson I still remind myself to this day: Do not talk a lot before a performance.

A few years back, I had a gig at a local live music bar. An hour before I got on stage, I was talking with friends and family, not realizing the strain I was putting on my vocal chords since I had to speak a little louder because we were at a busy bar. By the time I got on stage, my voice was pretty worn out and I could barely hit the notes I was preparing for. It was brutally embarrassing, but I definitely learned my lesson. I drink a lot of tea and barely say a word before I perform now haha!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

2022 is all about new sound and new branding for me. I’m working on some wicked rocker tunes and allowing myself to show the wild side of my artistry. More to come soon!

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in music, film, and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Here are my thoughts…

Expanding Creative Evolution: Any form of art that inspires, moves and captures people’s attention doesn’t play within boundaries or follow work that has been done before. Iconic and timeless art is a statement of its own and that’s why it’s so memorable. I encourage any artist to push limits and make bold decisions with their process because you won’t be seen or known for work that plays it safe.

Friendly reminders of Inclusion: We live in a world that is shifting between traditional and new age thinking. To me, art needs to relate to a wide variety of cultures, people and personalities in order for it to connect with society in a positive way. The more inclusive and open art is, the more success and respect it gains. It’s important to make everyone feel connected, heard and seen.

Personal Growth: To me, the best part about making art is noticing the wisdom and self-awareness that evolves during the process of creating it, witnessing the final results or even looking back on old work. Some of my most profound moments of personal growth happen during songwriting, live performances and allowing myself to be “weird”, wild and play it unconventional. If I can’t be open to change, how will I grow and gain knowledge as an individual? It could also inspire someone else to do the same!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

5 things I wish someone told me:

  1. The riches are in the journey, not the outcome. It’s so important to pursue your career for the passion, not the materialistic gains. Intentions are important and speak volumes on your character.
  2. Opening up to your authentic self, directly correlates with finding your artistic expression. Initially, I was so busy trying to focus on my sound and it wasn’t until moving through my personal growth that all of it showed up organically.
  3. Don’t worry about having the “ultimate team.” They all arrive through the process — your vibe attracts your tribe.
  4. Don’t stifle your artistic journey by trying to hold onto what no longer serves you.
  5. Be picky with who you let in and always keep the circle of trust (the people who truly have your back) close to you throughout the journey. The best people are those who were with you when you were considered a “nobody” to a “somebody.”

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I have three tips that I will always recommend to any artist pursuing their artistic career.

  1. When things don’t seem to be happening and your career seems quiet, everything is happening behind the scenes. Trust that the next big step to your career and dreams WILL show up. My mother always told me that even if you feel like you aren’t going anywhere at this moment, be patient and believe within your gut that things will move forward. You can’t control the process of your success story — you can only trust that it will happen when it’s meant to. The art of “manifesting”.
  2. Stay in your lane. The hardest lesson I had to learn is not comparing myself with other people and getting stuck in their success stories. This made me confused and second guess myself which delayed me from sharing what I have to offer and how I want to express my art. Authenticity is the only way to stand out.
  3. Embrace gratitude. Everyday I find 3 things that I am grateful for, whether it’s daily events that happen at random, new people I meet (personally or in the music industry), new lessons I have learned and even dark days that reveal my vulnerability. When I state what I’m grateful for, it inspires me to keep going and that I have purpose. (Example: I’m grateful for waking up in a safe and comforting home, I’m grateful for the laughs I share with my music team, I’m grateful for finishing my day with a walk along the beach)

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

A goal of mine is to gain enough income to create a Mental Health/Wellness center that gives youths and adults the chance to discover what they really need as individuals to enhance their mental and physical wellbeing. I was misdiagnosed at a very young age and put on a program that only worsened my condition. After years of finally meeting the right doctors, therapists and new technology that provides what I really need to benefit my health, I’m now able to embrace my day-to-day lifestyle and feel truly happy. However, this is a costly journey and my heart goes out to those who can’t afford getting the help they require and deserve. My number one goal beyond music is supporting everyone’s health and happiness by giving them a chance to connect with themselves and do what is best for their wellbeing, especially for those who can’t afford it! While I continue to plan out my future goals, a movement that I would like to be apart of is artists who have struggled themselves with mental illness, find a way to financially support creating spaces for those struggling to have a safe place to land when needed with all the latest and greatest medical treatment, integrating both Eastern and Western medicines.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have always wanted to answer this question! :)

I believe everyone who was ever involved in my music journey is to be thanked and appreciated because they were a part of my process. I’m grateful for all of them! I do, however, want to specify the people who are still on my team and continue to support my artistry.

My two amazing parents have supported me since Day 1. Not all parents help financially with their kid’s dreams and I’m lucky to have parents who always do and they never miss a live performance. The love I have for them is infinite and I’m grateful to have them be a part of my music adventure.

Trend, my badass PR team is also to be thanked. They work hard to share my art and really believe in what I have to offer.

Lastly, Ingrid Suderman — my singing coach since I was 12-years-old. She was the one who first heard my vocal potential and helped take it to another level. I still visit her for high tea and the occasional vocal training.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Behind the brightest light is the darkest shadow” and in reverse “Behind the darkest shadow is the brightest light”.

To me this states, never judge a book by its cover or the potential someone has to change and personal growth. People always assumed I was a dark and intense person by my appearance or the way I communicated sometimes. I truly hope people learn to be more open to understanding someone’s backstory and the potential all have to show their inner light.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I have two people I would love to connect with!

Singer-Songwriter Dorothy would be my first choice since we have similar music styles. Also, her openness about dealing with the pain and healing process from a past abusive relationship is comforting since I went through a similar situation. I would love to collaborate on an empowering female rock tune!

My second choice is definitely legendary producer Chris Lord Alge. I would love to hear his stories of working with icons such as James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, Green Day, Simple Plan, Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Joe Cocker and more. Dreams would be made if I made a rock album with his talent. Perhaps someday!

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow me on social media @sydcarterwest.

You can also find me on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and other music platforms under Syd Carter West. My website can also direct you to all of the links! www.sydcarterwest.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you for the support and for letting me share my story with you and your viewers! Much love.

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Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

Co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare. Ming is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host.