’The Skye’s The Limit’
Capitol recording artist Skye Sweetnam will open for Britney Spears and Kelis this spring on Spears' recently announced North American tour. Although her debut album, Noise From The Basement, isn't due in stores until May 18th, the 15-year-old artist has already been making a splash in music, television and film. ’Billy S,’ a guitar-driven tale of teen rebellion that Sweetnam co-wrote for her album, appeared on last summer's How To Deal soundtrack and led to a performance on ‘The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn.’ Her video for ’Billy S’ reached #1 on Canada's YTV and also aired on ‘Total Request Live (TRL)’ and ‘Access Hollywood.’
Since then she's recorded the theme song for ‘Radio Free Roscoe,’ an edgy half-hour series airing on The N, the nighttime network for teens owned by Nickelodeon. She also played an artsy, rebellious student in an episode of the show.
Skye grew up in Bolton, Ontario, a town so small that it doesn't have a mall or a movie theatre. She kept herself entertained with music and began making demos of her songs at age 12. A friend passed a CD along to 21-year-old guitarist/bassist/keyboardist James Robertson, who was impressed by her potential. The pair began writing and recording in the basement of his parents' home and Capitol Records signed Sweetnam on the strength of these songs. The original demos are the cornerstone of Skye's debut album, hence its title, Noise From The Basement.
Blending infectious pop, raucous rock and numerous other influences, Noise From The Basement makes it clear that Skye is that rare performer who can transcend the barriers of age, sex and musical genre to create a new sound all her own. Chatting with her recently, I first wondered what we were to expect from her debut CD ”Well, I wrote all these songs with James Robertson and we just started experimenting with a bunch of sounds and writing and just having a good time, you know. Actually Capitol signed us off of those original demos we gave them. So, basically we’ve mixed and mastered those recordings into this final album. There’s only two tracks on the album that are done in a real recording studio and everything else is straight from the basement. It really has a raw feel to it. There’s a whole lot of different styles that it goes through it. From like very poppy stuff to horror film scores to electronica. It’s really cool as there’s songs for every single mood. It’s basically just a snap shot of my life and are all my thoughts put into songs.”
Some of the lyrics are very angst-ridden! ”Yeah, a lot of my songs are full of just flat out annoying, bratty lyrics. Like ‘I don’t really like you’ and ‘It Sucks’ and all these things. There’s only a couple of songs, a couple of the ballady songs, where I really get personal and can explore that raw emotional side.”
Are you really a brat, Skye?! ”Oh yeah, totally. I have some attitude going on. Me and my band have this running prank that we play on each other. When anybody falls asleep I’m the first one to take out a Sharpie and write ‘Skye was here’ all over their face … and then take pictures of them!”
And what do they do to you in return?! ”They just kick me,” she laughs. ”But, I’m their boss, right?!” she laughs.
What was going through your mind at the time of co-writing these three songs:
‘Number One’ - ”It’s a song about independence and the feeling that you don’t need anything else and you can just look out for yourself. It’s just one of those songs that has these sing-songy lyrics and takes you through all those different kinda places that you’re running away from.”
‘Fallen Thru’ - ”It’s a relationship song about whenever you’ve trusted someone and your trust has been violated and that hurt that you feel. It’s also one of those songs that I love to just sit down at the piano and just play and sing.”
‘Hypocrite’ - ”Is a song about me naming off all these different labels that I think critics are gonna put on me. I’m just rhyming them off and saying them before anybody gets there. The main line in the song is ‘Don’t try to label me hypocrite, because I will do what I want to do’ which is basically the motto of the whole album. Although people are gonna say this and say that, so long as you love what you’re doing and you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’re in the right place.”
And speaking of just that, how are you coping with these continual “Avril-lookalike/soundalike” comments?! ”Well, you know, I did most of this album right before Avril even came out. I mean, even in ‘Hypocrite’ I mention ‘Avril-like’ as one of the labels that I think people are gonna put on me because coming from Canada and being a young girl at this time you’re gonna be getting that. But, in the same token, I think everybody kinda just looks at our images and how we’ve been marketed for trade in that kind of vein. But if you listen to our albums back to back, part of the difference between us is you can tell what’s going through my head when I’m writing and that what she’s talking about comes from a totally different place. There’s so much diversity on my album and so I just think that I’m totally another person.”
Why choose the Blondie track, ‘Heart of Glass’ to cover? ”Basically, I haven’t listened to a lot of the music that was out there before me and Blondie was one of the things that I started getting into. And so realizing that there was so much music that was out there before my time we thought we could do a cool version for my album. Of course, Blondie was class-styling, but she was also like a rocker chick and that’s kinda the thing that could help people that aren’t familiar with my music get out and buy my album. I think that once they quickly get that familiarity in Blondie they can then equate to all the other stuff on the album.”
Who draws all the stick figures on your CD artwork and website?! ”Oh yeah, that’s all me,” she gently laughs. ”On my website all those drawings are all me. I was sending them into the label and asking them to put them up on my website as that’s what I wanted it to look like! The big boots on the girl with the pigtails and the mini-skirt is me … it’s my trademark! I love my fake Doc Martins and my mini-skirts.”
You grew up in Bolton, Ontario with no Mall’s or Movie Theatres … how did you survive? ”Yeah, basically that’s how I got into all this creating and making my own entertainment because I really had nothing to do! We didn’t get cable or Internet or satellite until last year so I really was a kid in her basement trying to teach herself to song write, play guitar and all these different things. So, in retrospect it really helped me not having all the distractions so that I could be creative in other ways.”
Skye – where does that name originate? ”It’s from an island in Scotland called ‘The Isle of Skye’ and that’s where my ancestors came from. So, that’s definitely one place on my list of places that I wish I could go soon.”
If you had three wishes, what would you wish for? ”Oh my gosh, …….. I would wish for a huge recording studio with everything that I would need so that I could write, record and play music; and I would wish for a mountain of chocolate chip cookies; and my last wish would be …… there’s so many things, oh my gosh, …. I would wish for a huge Skye amusement park! It would have a concert venue in it and so every one could come see me and go on the rides and watch me perform,” she giggles contentedly.
Finally, sum yourself up in three words ”Artsy, bratty and fun”
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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