[INTERVIEW] with... Bryony Sier

Bryony Sier wants to "reach as many people as possible" with her music

"Music has helped me through difficult times at school. I turned to my guitar and song-writing for emotional release and way of expression. Fast forward from when I was just starting out which took me to where my music is today, I have become a much stronger musician and person. I know my sound, I know the kind of artist I want to be and what music I want to be creating.", explains Bryony Sier.

Bryony is a very special singer-songwriter and guitar player. Writing and performing her own  material, her songs are emotional, personal and they have a strong narrative. She is currently establishing herself and building a reputation as a talented performer on the live music circuit as much as a recording artist with credibility.

Targeting a release this autumn, there is little doubt that the 21-year-old musician from Merthyr is on to something very positive. Having spent the majority of her time in the studio working on what is going to be a brand new six track EP and playing live, 2018 is a hectic but super exciting year so far. 

Busy working her way through a number of high-profile engagements in her calendar, Bryony has enjoyed opening for the likes of Rick Wakeman, delivered a support slot for Dan Bettridge at Hay On Wye Festival playing the BBC Horizons stage, she shared the bill with Joshua Radin and she recently played with singer Naomi Scott on her UK tour when she played the iconic Clwb Ifor Bach venue in Cardiff.  

Please tell us about what the new material is going to sound like? 

"At the start of the year I was writing a lot and I realised I needed to keep pushing forward with my music and that going back into the studio was the best way to do this. I decided to work with a new producer, Lee House. I always think that as an artist, you have got to explore your options and be open to new experiences. So far we have completed three tracks and have another three to deliver."

"I started up a pledge music campaign to help fund my music, because studio time can be extremely expensive and that is without paying for a music video, self-promotion, photo shoots and CDs. My other two EPs were funded by BBC Launchpad and Forte project so this is a project I’m now having to work on entirely by myself."

"Any support would help towards my music. The new songs are the best work I have done so far, they are honest and are going to speak to a lot of people. For one of my new songs, I got to work with Brad Griffiths from Pretty Vicious, he came into the studio with me to add electric guitar parts to a song I have written. I am really excited to share the song, as I think it is going to surprise some people. It is like nothing I have ever recorded before and it was fun to work with another musician and come up with ideas in the studio."

To those who are unfamiliar with your work please tell us how you started out as a musician

"Growing up I was surrounded by all kinds of music. I used to see my aunt playing guitar and travelling to gigs, my cousins were in bands and my mother was also a singer. I have always loved singing since a really young age and I looked up to my family and their involvement with music. I used to think they were so cool being up on stage and doing what they loved. When I learnt guitar at the age of 12, my own involvement with music grew. "

"My aunt taught me the basics and I found I had a passion for playing guitar. I would come home from school and practice until my fingers ached. I would look forward to Saturdays because I knew I would be having another lesson and I was thirsty to learn more. I had never found such a connection with an instrument before, and I had tried learning lots of other instruments over the years. It never really stuck."

 The music and arts community around Merthyr is special, how much does it mean and what makes it stand out?

"It is great when the community puts together events and shows in venues like, the Theatr Soar and the Redhouse, really bringing creative people together in Merthyr. The New Crown Inn is a very popular music venue in town and Jorge (the owner) is starting to put on songwriter’s nights, which I think is a great idea. For songwriters who are just starting out, this gives them a platform to develop confidence performing their original material in front of an audience."

"It is lovely to see that more is being done in the music and arts field, as it gives a lot of people from all ages the opportunity to get involved, meet people in the industry and do the things they love. I find this is what makes Merthyr unique as people are willing to help and offer support as a community."

The Welsh music scene is definitely expanding and Bryony thinks it is important that the musicians continue to support each other, she enjoys being part of the community where everyone offers each other encouragement, takes inspiration and looks out for each other.

Crossroads is a wonderful piece of work but how did things develop from then on?

"Crossroads was my first EP, and it is pieced with five songs that I had written at the time and wanted to release. Each song is subtly accompanied by drummer Jack Egglestone and producer Charlie Francis who I worked with to produce Crossroads and Babylon EP. The experience was relaxed and it was amazing to see ideas come to life in my songs. Following its release I received some radio exposure and more people were introduced to my music."

How did Crossroads lead on to recording Babylon EP? 

"After this recording experience with Crossroads I was given the opportunity to record a second one which I named after my song Babylon, Babylon is the only song on it that is completely stripped back. I was also able to create a music video for this song which is on my YouTube channel and Facebook page. I love playing Babylon at gigs because it captures my finger picking. I am proud as it took me in a different direction where I was not just focusing on singing, I was creating music that speaks for itself through my playing."

"It is something I have worked really hard to craft as finger picking can be quite intricate, but it was due to dedication, commitment and passion that I was able to learn this technique and adapt it into my songs. Babylon is about being on the road and needing to escape for a while. It is also a statement telling people that I am on my way, I am not going to hide anymore, I won’t give up, I will keep going. I have written at least 130 songs but some of these have never been recorded and are songs I wrote when I was 12, so I do not tend to sing them anymore."

What inspired you to pursue and develop the finger picking guitar style in the first place?
 How did you go about learning and developing it? 

"When I first started learning guitar, I did not realise there were different styles you could learn. I was in awe of the people I came across on YouTube, where they would tap the guitar, finger pick and play lead solos. I wanted to create my own style. I became engrossed in what I was doing, I loved it and was constantly watching different videos on how to play, watching music channels on TV (Vintage TV) and then going to gigs where I would see all these fantastic players who inspired me to keep learning and delving deeper into the world of guitars."

"I remember watching a video of Ben Howard Only love and I thought that his finger picking was incredible. I wished I could play like that. It fascinated me. I was definitely influenced by this style of playing. While studying music in Merthyr College, I was taught about different guitar tuning. This was something that opened my eyes to another layer of guitar playing. I do not read music and play by ear. I might not know exactly what tuning I am playing in on a given day but it works for me and I use this approach to writing songs and live performances."

What singers and styles have inspired you?

"I have never received vocal training but have a bit of an American lilt to my voice. Maybe I used to watch a bit too much Hannah Montana when I was younger. I have always loved singing, since a young age. Looking back over the years, my voice has definitely matured and gotten stronger, but this is from practicing at home, going into the studio and gaining experience through gigs."

 You are a Faith Guitars artist, how did that come about? How does such an arrangement work?

"I was looking for a new guitar which had a different kind of sound to the Takamine model I was playing. I decided to contact Faith Guitars to ask if they would be willing to endorse or work with me. I sent a link to a live video and the two EPs previously worked on. Their response was to have me as a Faith guitar artist, which was amazing news. I could choose any Faith guitar and decided on a Legacy model, which I have been using at all my gigs. Faith promote me and my music whenever I use their guitar, so this could be through videos, photo shoots or recording."

You are inspired by a range of American artists, do you want to talk about how and when you came across their music? 

"I came across artists and bands such as The Eagles, Neil Diamond and Dolly Parton when I was really young. So I was introduced to a lot of bands and American singers throughout my childhood years. But I became more interested in music when I started learning guitar."

"Johnny Cash is a massive inspiration of mine. The interesting thing is that I was never a fan when I was younger but after watching a documentary on his life story and hearing Folsom Prison Blues for the first time I was inspired. I loved his deep tone, almost haunting and some of his songs are quite dark, but they are honest and I was drawn to that. That is when I stumbled across other acts like Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Credence Clearwater Revival and The Beatles." 

When it comes to contemporary artists, Bryony takes inspiration from Jake Bugg, Leon Bridges, Tom Odell, Alabama Shakes and Ben Howard. 

Have you played outside Wales? What has been your best gig to date?

"The furthest I have played outside of Wales is London and I recently played in Wrexham for the Focus Wales festival. I mostly tend to gig around Newport and Cardiff areas but I would love to branch out and experience more gigs outside Wales. Every gig experience is different."

"One of my favourite gigs to date has to be Merthyr Rising festival. This was special because I had never sung there before and to be asked in the first place was exciting. A crowd formed in the tent I was playing in and the reaction was awesome. I had never felt more supported by my hometown. It was more special to me because I felt a part of something and to experience support from the place I have grown up in was wonderful."

What sort of music are you listening to at the moment?

"I have been listening to a lot of Razorlight, Queen and Parson James at the moment. So quite a versatile group of people really but it ranges from day to day. My playlists are random, I am mostly just listening to everything and anything."

In what way would you like to see your music career take off from here? 
"I would love to travel with my music. I have never been abroad before so this would be an amazing opportunity. My dream location is Nashville. There is nothing else I would rather be doing than playing music."

"It is the only time I can be myself and express how I feel. The goal is for my music to reach as many people as possible and I want to help people who may be going through a difficult time through my song-writing. If my music can reach people and they can relate, then that is all I am aiming to achieve. I am going to continue making music and follow my dream."