“I’m an interpreter. I’m a singer/singer,” Samantha Sidley tells me, giggling. Sidley is a jazz singer (but not songwriter), who is perhaps best known for her work with The Bird and the Bee, both as a touring member of the dream pop outfit and also as a contributor to Inara George and Alex Lilly’s solo work. She is currently on the road with The Bird and the Bee, who will find themselves at World Café Live this Friday, August 16th. For the live show, Sidley will actually be doing triple duty. Kicking off the evening are solo sets from both Sidley and Lilly (… where, of course, they play in each other’s bands), before they all come together for The Bird and the Bee’s headlining set (which is in support of their Van Halen tribute album… just in case that impacts any of your wardrobe decisions…) “It’s like a salon,” she tells me of the night’s festivities: “Expect to be entertained. Expect to have the time of your life [laughs].”
I spoke to Samantha Sidley this Tuesday, as she was preparing to play the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland. Although they were only two shows in, Sidley tells me that she was already really feeling the love of her touring partners: “We’re all like family. Honestly, this tour is just four days in, but I already feel so inspired. It’s been so fun, but every day of tour feels like five days, because you’re always somewhere new [laughs].”
Samantha Sidley is actually touring in front of the release of her solo debut, which hits shelves next month. Interior Person, out September 13th on Release Me Records, is comprised of songs composed by some of Sidley’s favorite ladies, such as George, Lilly, and her wife and “favorite musician of all-time,” Barbara Gruska, who also produced and played-drums-on-many-tracks-of the album. We quickly get into the discussion of being a singer, but not songwriter, in 2019, which is getting slightly less common, outside the world of Billboard-topping arena-headliners, and Sidley is more than happy to talk about how comfortable she is in the role of “a singer/singer.”
“It’s not so common anymore, but that’s how it used to be. I know so many singers that have these big, powerful instruments, but they’re not songwriters. I mean, I’ve written some songs, but they just never feel quite right… But I arrange my songs. I love making stories out of songs, because that’s what they are. They’re all very personal. They’re all about me.”
Earlier this month Samantha Sidley released a music video for “I Like Girls,” a track that has been around for a few years now, which kicks off Interior Person. The video features Sidley bopping about a classic SoCal mansion with some of her favorite girls, and resembles David Lynch at his quirkiest (It’s worth noting that, when I saw her opening for The Bird and the Bee in 2016, I characterized her as someone who desperately needs to be a lounge singer in Twin Peaks.) The song itself is equally quirky and also a pastiche of both the vintage and postmodern, appropriating the popular sounds of our grandparents’ youth for an explicitly and abrasively pro-queer anthem. And while the rest of Interior Person has equal amounts of quirk (including songs like “Naked to Love” and “Butterfly in My Ass”), the remainder of the album stays a little closer to the sonic palette of a jazz club, than the pop crossover potential of the opening track.
Although Samantha Sidley has accomplished quite a bit in her musical career (She’s actually a touring backup vocalist for Dave Grohl’s crew.), she tells me that her debut release is certainly her biggest musical highlight thus far: “Singing background for Foo Fighters has been great, but this has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I mean, prior to recording, my wife turned my childhood bedroom into a music studio [laughs] and the process has just been so great. As a solo artist, this has always been my dream and it’s coming true.”
When we discuss what the future holds for Samantha Sidley, after her debut drops, she tells me that playing live is certainly at the forefront of her mind and what she considers to be the most satisfying aspect of being a singer.
“I either want to do a residency at a certain club, or I wanna keep touring. I mean, I sing background for the Foo Fighters, so I kind of have to pack up and head out on tour whenever they do, but I think my dream would be a residency at the Carlyle in New York and just have that be my gig. I mean, I feel like that would be the perfect setting for me. My shows are like a cabaret, they tell a story. I mean, I always say that singing is the Olympics of talking [laughs].”