When we met SIRA last year, she reminded us that everything would be alright with her single “BBDC” (Bad Bitches Don’t Cry). This year, the visual artist and genre bending musician takes us on a hero’s journey with her debut EP “The Stars Between My Teeth.”
“[I] love the idea of going on a journey and making it to the other side triumphant.”
SIRA’s own heroine’s journey is on full display as she takes us through feelings of denial, frustration and chaos, and ultimately gets us listeners to a place of empowerment and ownership of one’s life. Like many women her age, the musician is faced with uncertainties and plagued with the typical questions that arise as we get older: where am I going to live, is my career choice the right choice, and will this relationship go the distance. We often think that the neverending questions that coincide with growing into womanhood will stop after reaching a certain age or after “getting it together”, but the questions don’t magically come to a halt, they only evolve. “The uncertainty doesn’t really end,” says SIRA. However, it helps to know that any decision made during this time and in this space “is the right choice, because you made it.”
The EP’s lead single “SHOULD I STAY,” produced by Hush Forte and SIRA herself, highlights the burdensome pressures and occasional monotony that comes with finding one’s path to freedom. For SIRA, freedom looks like full trust in herself, the ability to make mistakes, and a self-assurance that rids her of indecisiveness. This journey to the other side and the feeling of joy when you arrive, is something she wishes for all Black women who are judged more harshly than their counterparts of other races. “There’s so much pressure to make the right choices and not mess up,” she says reflecting on her teenage years. “I was really adamant about not wanting to make mistakes. It felt like the consequences of that could be severe.”
How has SIRA changed since releasing her first two singles? She tells me she is more confident in her musical ability and knows what she wants sonically. So much so that she made sure she was in the room for most of the project’s production. Her team consisting of producer and guitarist EPT, multi-platinum Grammy nominated engineer Michael Snell have crafted a sound that is all SIRA. “I wanted to hear something different.” She was advised to lean into the weird, and she did.
An independent artist, SIRA jokes that she put herself through her own development program. From finding her sound: a little Alt R&B, a unique mix of jazz and drill (cue track three: OUT OF CONTROL), and a little rock, to navigating live performances with her band, SIRA’s evolution is a testament to her belief in her music and what she has to say as an artist. “For me, feeling is the most important thing.” She credits Betty Davis as an inspiration, saying “[she was] completely motivated by feeling, guided by storytelling.” If her own music can capture a feeling the way Davis’ has, “it’s immediately a win.”
Taking in her own songs as a listener rather than just the creator has allowed her to make the music that wins. “I was having an issue with longevity as a listener,” she tells me as she mulls over her early singles. “I feel like this [EP]…feels more connected to myself. I’m expressing what I’m going through [while] curating what [I] sound like. I think there’s elements from my last songs that still exist within some of these songs. You can still hear that connection but it’s more fine tuned.”
The journey to today’s version of SIRA, the musician whose music hits in all the right places, is something she is extremely proud of. “Without a manager, without being signed, all of it is hard.” The singer chose to work with UnitedMasters in their SELECT program for the EP’s release. The premium distribution plan allows independent artists to distribute as much music as they would like, while increasing their reach and exposure. “It makes me proud that we’ve been able to get playlisted in certain spaces amongst artists I love and admire, who are ahead of me in their journey in different ways… that’s really rewarding.”
Though there are many things that make the life and career of an independent artist difficult, like the lack of funds, SIRA makes a point to highlight the benefits. “I can do whatever I want and that’s really great,” another nod to the freedom she craves. The path to the career she wants will not be easy. “I think you have to be very delusional to think that you could make it in music, but I do believe there is space for me, ” she responds when I ask if she is still in tune with the dreamer inside her– a question I asked just last year in the GROWN feature SIRA Reminds Us Why NY Girls Rule the World. SIRA’s vision of her future is even clearer now, than it was when we sat in her Harlem apartment many months ago. “Dreaming is a practice,” she takes a mental note to make time to continue doing just that. To her, though the release of “The Stars Between My Teeth” marked the end of a project, it was just the beginning. The EP will be followed by a short film with an all new score, and she is eager to send it to film festivals.
“If I feel like I honored myself that’s when I feel like I won. If I was brave enough to trust my heart then I did what needed to be done.”
The EP and subsequent film are just two of the ways SIRA is chasing freedom, freedom to be herself, freedom to bend the rules, freedom to let go of external and internal pressures. Her heroine’s journey is far from over, but the release of this EP does bring the triumphant ending she worked for.
Check out “The Stars Between My Teeth,” now streaming on all platforms.
Ashley Fern is a Brooklyn based writer. She is a health copywriter by day and holds an M.S in Publishing. Her interests include exploring health, wellness and beauty through the lens of Black women.