“If I’m going to go out to be a solo artist, it’s because I want to do something different without having to wait on someone else’s schedule or hobbies or be limited by other people’s prejudices. I’d be kind of stupid not to exercise that.”
In the extramundane landscape of the music industry, a solo music artist is like a melodic superhero, standing unaided and constructing their own identity in the kingdom of music. Going solo means they’re the boss, free to try diverse styles and sounds and to grow and amend over time. Every time they perform, it’s like they are narrating a personal story through music, with each song comprising fragments of their heart and soul. Being a solo artist isn’t just about getting famous; it’s an excursion of figuring out who they are and sharing that with others. Whether they’re facing harsh times in the music business or celebrating success, solo artists show us the amazing power of one person’s unique voice in a world where a lot happens each and every second. The decision to board on a solo career is a profound choice that comes with both challenges and unparalleled rewards. Sierra Marie Swan, born into a world of melody on April 5, 1978, is a witness to the significance of forging one’s path in the kingdom of solo artistry.
Sierra’s expedition began in the San Fernando Valley, a region parallel with musical richness. Her father, Billy Swan, paved the way with a hit at the age of sixteen, setting the stage for Sierra’s deep connection to the world of music. It was amongst the backstage echoes, while her father accompanied Kris Kristofferson on rhythm guitar, that Sierra’s own visions of becoming a professional musician began to take shape.
Her mother, who played the violin, also played a huge part in fostering, within Sierra and her sister, a love for instruments and making music. However, instead of the violin,
Sierra seemed more interested in learning the piano. As a teenager, Sierra also began learning the guitar and thus, is fondly known as a multi-instrumentalist. With a miscellaneous musical palette, Sierra drew encouragement from the likes of Prince, Queen, Oingo Boingo, The Beatles, and Patsy Cline. At 16, she took her first steps onto the L.A. coffeehouse stage, kindling a passion that would drive her towards a solo career. This fundamental decision led her to join the alternative rock band Dollshead in 1997, signing with MCA Records.
However, the magnetism of a solo journey proved irresistible, prompting Sierra to part ways with Dollshead and sign with Atlantic Records two years later. Her solo career stretched out having associations with renowned producers, including Chad Hugo from The Neptunes, Howard Benson, Anne Preven, and Scott Cutler. It was during this phase that Sierra encountered Linda Perry.
Alongside Linda, Sierra began working on an album. However, due to the unpredictable nature of the industry, she had to face several roadblocks. Eventually, Sierra’s persistence shone through and she ended up producing the haunting EP “Coward” and the ’80s pop homage Queen of the Valley. The release of her third full-length album, Girl Who Cried Wolf, and a cover EP with her father, Billy Swan, at the iconic Sun Studios in Memphis further showcased Sierra’s versatility and resilience.
Picture Credits: Kristin Burns
The beauty of a solo career lies in the capacity to navigate dissimilar musical landscapes, and Sierra Swan’s partnerships and tours with The Smashing Pumpkins, William Patrick Corgan, Aimee Mann, Bill Bottrell, Dave Stewart, Linda Perry, Ringo Starr, and Frank Black emphasize her prowess in this regard.
In 2013, Sierra researched her most personal project of that time, collaborating with William Patrick Corgan as the producer. The result was the fascinating album Good Soldier, earning accolades from Corgan, who hailed Sierra’s new songs as ‘the best material he had heard from any songwriter in forever.’
Each album, from Ladyland, Queen Of The Valley, Coward, Girl Who Cried Wolf, Good Soldier, The Sun Sessions, Tangerines, and System Breaker, represents a chapter in Sierra’s musical odyssey. Her ability to effortlessly reinvent herself while staying true to her artistry ensures that Sierra Swan’s music will endure, echoing with audiences as a symbol of the power and depth of a solo artist’s journey.