Sye Elaine Spence
Sye Elaine Spence is a singer/songwriter from New York City, currently residing in Atlanta, GA. As a songwriter, she has collaborated with various artists in the New York City indie music scene since 2008. She also records and performs as a solo artist. Her latest release is a warm, folk-inflected EP entitled Bloom.
Delving first into poetry as a child, Spence married her fascination with words and melodies at the age of eight after receiving her first piano, a gift from her mother. She studied the voices of Nancy Wilson, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone that her grandmother played on 45s.
In 2008, she began collaborating with artists and producers in New York City in efforts to begin a career as a professional songwriter. In doing so, her interest in becoming an artist was heightened. After digitally releasing a bevy of songs between 2010 and 2012, ranging from pop-rock to soul; gigging between New York and Atlanta, Spence took a brief step away from music at the end of 2012. “I felt like a hamster in a spinning wheel. I was writing songs, releasing them, making some small buzz and gigging but there was no true fulfillment or purpose behind it. I needed to step back to remember what it is that I was searching for. I needed to feel eight years old again.”
This break, which permeated personal realms, resulted in a move just outside of Atlanta, Georgia and a chance meeting with folk multi-instrumentalist, Michael Lesousky. It is with Lesousky, that Spence returned to her roots as a writer and a poet. Collaborating for months, choosing scenic and serene locations to create, the two stumbled upon a simple quiet sound that supported Spence’s simile laden lyrics and hushed vocals. Of the 10 songs written by the pair in Spring 2013, four were brought to a quaint pond house in Athens, Georgia to be recorded.
The four-track set, Bloom, begins with its title track, featuring a softly-plucked banjo as the sole accompaniment. This instrumental arrangement is constant throughout the EP, continuing into Spence’s cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’, which recalls the similar GRAMMY-winning 2011 version released on Corinne Bailey Rae’s The Love EP. With a delivery that regularly hangs behind the beat, Spence’s take on the classic comes across as relaxed and romantic. In contrast, third track ‘You’ feels more urgent, with the repeated line “I just wanna love you” growing in volume along with the eighth-note banjo countermelody as the song climaxes.
In addition to the lovestruck feel that the EP embodies, Bloom evokes the sound of summertime, with light instrumentation and twee arrangements. While earlier tracks include references to fireflies and shorelines, closing track ‘Long Live The Summertime’ is the most obvious contributor to the idea. Its lyrics are full to the brim with summery references, including barbecue, sweet tea, and ice cream; as the song closes, a flock of birds tweet as they fly into the distance.
As evidenced in Bloom, and surely works to come, Spence is a storyteller, with every pluck of the acoustic accompaniment, a truthful narrative of love and pain exposed.