Getting signed to a label is a major goal and an impressive accomplishment for any musical act. Bands and solo musicians can fill years with touring, performing and promoting to catch the ear of just one A&R rep. And if luck and talent collide, when a label does finally sign one of these up-and-comers, there is a feeling of exhilaration to know someone has enough regard for their talent to back them with both time and money.
One Spanish Fort teen is experiencing this exhilaration. Fifteen-year-old singer/songwriter Sydney Warren is excited about not only being signed to American Anthem Records, but also releasing her debut EP “Trust Issues.”
Music has always been a big part of Warren’s life, as well as her household. Her parents have been avid members of choirs, and her brother is a multi-instrumentalist. Initially, Warren’s focus was her voice. Over the past few years, she has really found her own sound through vocal lessons and live performances. And the more she worked on this, the more she began to realize this would be her career.
“It came to me one day, and I was like, ‘This is what I want to do,’” Warren said. “When I started singing and playing in public, it just felt right.”
Warren’s mother, Lesa, began to notice her daughter’s dedication to her music. While this young musician appeared at events such as the Jubilee Festival in Daphne and a showcase for her vocal coach’s students, her mother began to collect videos of her performances and shopped them around to record labels. As said before, all it takes it attracting that one ear, and that ear belonged to American Anthem Records CEO Kevin Gales.
Acting as a producer, engineer and manager, Gales specializes in finding young up-and-coming musicians in order to bring them on the national scene. American Anthem boasts a roster of teen musicians with dreams of making it big. Warren was none the wiser while her mother and Gales discussed her future with American Anthem.
“Mom did not let me know that she was sending these videos to people,” Warren said. “She wanted it to be a surprise. She told me that a record label was interested, and it kinda took me off guard. It all worked out really well, because she got all of that started.”
While her future with this label looked bright, there was one obstacle Warren had to overcome. Gales required that all his artists write a major portion of their own music. The young artist had yet to write her own song. This combined with her self-conscious nature was a problem at first. However, Gales guided her through the process and helped her establish her own method of songwriting by encouraging her to focus on her own life experience and through keeping a journal.
He told her to record any of her feelings or experiences in this journal. As she began to write down her innermost thoughts, she began to see a pattern, which translated into the album. Her focus was her move from Texas to the Gulf Coast and all the feelings this event brought. This method not only gave birth to “Trust Issues,” but it was also therapeutic for the teen.
“The whole album is based on my move,” Warren said. “I moved to Spanish Fort at the beginning of my eighth grade year. It’s been two-and-a-half years since we moved down here. People don’t expect moving to have such an impact on everything, but it really does. Even now, I still get upset sometimes thinking about Texas. I hadn’t really had a way to express all that, because I never really took up songwriting.”
So as not to force any unnecessary expenses on the Warren Family, Gales made a trip from St. Louis to Spanish Fort to record “Trust Issues.” He filled his hotel room with equipment, and the two set to work laying down tracks. While it did not provide the experience of a professional studio, this proved to be a comfortable introduction to the recording process for Warren.
“I guess it’ll be baby steps, when I get into a big studio,” Warren said. “I’ll know what to do, and it won’t be so overwhelming.”
Throughout the process, Gales acted as Warren’s “little cheerleader.” When her confidence was waning, he pushed her forward and kept reminding her that there was a reason for him signing her. He also convinced her to be more confident in her songwriting. In a matter of days, Warren and Gales had completed the tracks that would become “Trust Issues,” including a cover of Switchfoot’s “Needle and Haystack Life.” Since then, he has also taught her what it takes to find success in the music business.
“When I started this, I knew how to sing, and that was about it,” Warren said. “He got me familiar with the business. He got me more familiar with things that I should be doing with publicity and the writing.”
Warren’s original songs on “Trust Issues” are modern pop pieces. She travels a sonic spectrum with songs infused with everything from electronica to acoustic guitar. The listener can truly experience the range of feelings that she recorded in her journal. These emotions are invoked by upbeat tracks like “Sunny Days” and poignant ballads such as the album’s opening song “The Distance” as well as its title track. “Trust Issues” is definitely a cross-section observation of a modern teen’s soul.
“Trust Issues” was released on Oct. 1. Since then, Warren and Gales have been busy promoting the album and spreading its sound from coast to coast. Their goal is to get as many people talking about the album as possible. At first, her signing to American Anthem was kept secret, save from her family and her best friend. However, the release of the album has slowly brought her to the realization that she has made a major accomplishment as a musician.
It’s a confidence boost,” said Warren. “I can be like, ‘I’m signed to a record label. That’s awesome!’”