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Female Friday: Sykamore

"If I could shoot for the stars, I would hope that my art would live forever..."

Written by Cillea Houghton
Female Friday: Sykamore
Sykamore; Photo courtesy of ShoreFire

Sykamore’s journey to Nashville proves the power of social media. The Calgary, Alberta, Canada native was discovered by songwriter Rhett Akins through Twitter after she started following his superstar son, Thomas Rhett, on the social media platform. Her unique stage name was enough to grab his attention and after a few clicks through her YouTube channel, Akins invited her to Nashville to meet with him. As she was shopping around for publishing deals, the hit maker offered her one with the company he co-founded with Thomas and Virginia Davis, Home Team Publishing, officially making Nashville her new home. In 2019, she also locked in a record deal under Music Knox Records, an imprint of Broken Brow Records, and earned a slot in CMT’s Next Women of Country class of 2020.

Sykamore is the first artist to be featured as part of a new series, Female Friday, which shines a spotlight on female country artists across the spectrum. Sykamore sat down with Sounds Like Nashville to discuss her song “California King,” her upcoming debut album and the gift of being different.  

SLN: Where does the name Sykamore come from?

Sykamore: I was in a few bands for a few years and I decided to go solo for a lot of reasons, and I thought I’m a little bored with my name, so maybe I should have a stage name of sorts. If that’s going to happen, it should reflect the music that I make – it’s got roots, it’s strong, it’s tenacious, it’s evergreen, and it had this very tree like symbolism about it. Sykamore was one of the first things that came to mind and I thought “that’s cool.”

“California King” was a memorable moment during the CMT Next Women of Country event. What was the process like writing the song? 

I wrote it with a guy named Justin Morgan and a guy named Justin Weaver… We were talking about California kings in terms of the bed, and then Justin kind of took a beat and was like, “We should write a song called California King, but have it not be about the bed.” I’m like, “that’s a really great idea” and I wrote in my phone. Then before he and I were supposed to write with Justin Weaver, I sat down and tried to write a little something just to come in with an idea, and I thought, “what if a California King is a guy who’s just full of himself, thinks that everyone knows who he is and everyone’s just blessed to be around him.What if it’s a song about maybe cutting him down to size a little bit, or giving him a reality check?” That was the approach we took with it.

Sonically, it’s a real moment on the record because it was never super designed to be a single.It was always designed to be a singer-songwriter, kind of a witty moment with some pretty weird sonics happening. I think it reflects a side of me as a songwriter that doesn’t really show up again. This album itself is overall quite amorous and positive. This is one little tongue in cheek moment on the record that doesn’t always happen, and I’m glad that it’s there, because as a person I am kind of tongue in cheek a lot of the time, and so it just gives another side of the of the diamond, just showing it as a well-rounded experience.

What have you learned about yourself as a person and artist through writing and creating your upcoming debut album?

I’ve learned, especially with this album, to just lean into what makes you different, because so often you come to a mecca of the industry and you will start to feel self-induced pressure to maybe assimilate a little more than you should. You see what other people are doing and you question it and you have imposter syndrome and you’re like, “maybe I should just, not play it safe that they’re playing it safe, but look at something that’s already been done and just do that.” There’s pressure to do that, but I find if you can rebel against that as much as you can and instead focus on “what do I want to write, what do I like to hear, what’s the story and the message that I want to tell the people,” and just be okay with that, I find you’re way more likely to have a product that you like in the end, and for it to actually work because people can always sense that authenticity.

What makes you different?

I’m a writer on all the songs on this record, which I feel really excited about. A few of the songs I’ve written 100 percent by myself, and so there’s definitely a lot of my life on this record and my perspective. I think that in itself does set me apart from other people as a writer, just because nobody can see things the way I see them. Being true to your own vision and your own point of view automatically sets you apart.

I also think sonically, my own influences tend to set me apart a little bit. I grew up very agricultural back home. My parents met on the rodeo circuit and I grew up on a farm, and it was just a very rural upbringing. The first music I ever heard was country radio, and it was always around, so that’s how it started. But then when I was 10 and going into my teens, I got really into top 40 and pop music. Then that expanded into indie rock and classic rock and going back to the foundations of pop music. Just letting all of those influences bleed through I think will always ultimately make your music sonically stand out as well. But also, a lot of them are just story songs, they’re a little bit three-dimensional in that way. My favorite kind of song is a story song.

What do you want your legacy to be as an artist?

I would love to be remembered as a songwriter first and foremost. Songwriters have this way of living forever. I’m not obsessed with immortality, but all of my favorite works in my life, whether they’re literature or music, arts, they live forever, they transcend every generation. If I could shoot for the stars, I would hope that my art would live forever and that the next generation could still find something in there that they can relate to.