Local Musician, Becky Sinn discusses the inspirations behind her original brand of music.
Tell us about the evolution of “Becky Sinn” as a persona.
Becky Sinn was a stage name given to me by a local music legend, Chris Morgridge. I used to sing backup for him during his shows at O’Malley’s Alley. He would introduce me by saying, “If singing is a sin, Becky is the worst sinner I know.” The name stuck and Becky Sinn evolved over the years as a way for me to be a little darker and funnier than I would’ve been otherwise. I was once a very shy artist and performer. Having a stage name was like having an alter ego that could get away with saying or doing things I wouldn’t normally be brave enough to say or do.
Tell us about the very first song you ever wrote.
It was a percussive, rhythmic, strummy song, it almost sounded Celtic. I think it was called Widow. I was only 15 or so when I wrote it.
How has your songwriting process changed since that first song?
Back then, writing was about discovering guitar chords. As I was learning, I would come up with little chord progressions first and then write lyrics. Now, it’s the opposite, I will often come up with a concept and lyrics first, then fill in the music.
Who are some of the artists that have heavily influenced your sound? What was it about them that drew you in?
Growing up, my parents listened to old country and golden oldies, so I was more influenced by them than I realized as a kid. I do a lot of covers of that stuff now, but, when I first started playing guitar, I was obsessed with Nirvana. I loved the quality of Kurt’s voice and the hooky pop sensibility of the music. It was so raw at times but also so catchy and melodic. My dad showed me my first chords on his guitar, but it was Kurt Cobain on MTV’s Nirvana Unplugged that showed me what I really wanted to play then I learned tablature from guitar magazines. Vocally though, as bad as I wanted to be a singer for a metal or grunge band, my voice was too pretty. My biggest vocal influence was Björk. She has such a powerful and unique voice. Singing along with her as a budding artist definitely developed my vocal range and influenced my style. I also listened to a lot of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald in high school and sometimes hear a touch of them when I sing with my jazz band Swing Theory. All of those women have powerful, almost other worldly voices. I couldn’t help but be drawn to them.
Your latest album Lamb and Lioness delves into the varying stages of emotional connection between two people. Do you find that each songwriting phase has a theme that surfaces during the creative process or do you mentally determine the theme when sitting down to write?
Those songs poured out. Most of them started as little private jokes or funny ideas. The theme of love just surfaced. It was a body of work that spanned a relationship, the songs are these messages to my love who didn’t quite love me back the way I wanted. It’s so beautiful and funny and heartbreaking because I was writing from experiences that were happening to me. Themes just kind of evolve naturally as I go along sometimes. It’s way tougher to choose a theme and write in it.
in each song, there are hints of theatricality woven throughout your album From the cover art to the songs themselves. Does the theater have an important part in your creative process?
I am a dramatic person. I am easily moved. I love grand, sweeping, breathtaking romance. I love comedy and tragedy. A breeze or a tender moment may move me to tears. I have always loved live music and art and theater. It’s just a part of my being. I have been very fortunate to always be surrounded by some form of the arts. So yes, there is always a little element of theater, mostly due to the amazing community of artists, musicians, and performers that I am honored to call my friends.
The cover for your album is truly a work of art. How involved are you in that process and what goes into deciding what will be on the cover?
Thank you! The cover photo of me was taken by my longtime friend, independent filmmaker and photographer Erica Summers. I told her I wanted to do a photoshoot inspired by Norma Jeane’s playboy shoot, but not nude, I wanted to be covered up with the red sheets. The collage was created by me. This album was all about epic romance. The most romantic era for me, and my most favorite, is the Victorian Era. I collect antiques and Victorian trade cards and valentines. It’s an aesthetic I have always been drawn to. All of the images in the collage are scans of real antique Victorian ephemera from a website called The Graphics Fairy. There are little tributes to my relationship all woven in the cover art, especially Paris and Coney Island references. I knew I wanted it to be a Victorian collage early on. It took quite a while to move all the pieces into the perfect places, but I designed it myself in Photoshop.
During your sets, you mix up both original songs and covers. How do you go about choosing which covers you will perform?
The covers I pick are just songs I love. As far as choosing what to play, it’s all about reading the room. I try to tailor my sets to the venue. At places that are a little edgier, I feel a little freer to play some of my more scandalous originals and covers. Family-friendly places tend to steer me towards those oldies and classic country songs I was talking about earlier.
In an age of digital media where everyone is clamoring to be seen and heard, do you feel the internet has helped or hindered your ability to get your music out there?
I feel the internet has definitely helped my music get heard. I feel so blessed to live in this miraculous age where I can be my own manager/marketing director/promoter and just do it all from the convenience of my home with a phone or laptop. It’s like living sci-fi. The internet is infinite and there’s room for all of us. I think you can be seen as much or as little as you want, you just have to be willing to put the work in with the tools you have at your disposal. I love it.
What is it that you love most about the Ocala music scene? What do you wish you could change about it?
I love that there is one! Ocala has always had a great scene. It was here long before me and will be here long after I am gone. I think now is a particularly exciting time for arts and music in Ocala because we have organizations like The Insomniac Theater, The Reilly Arts Center and The Magnolia Art Xchange trying to make a difference in the arts community. Not to mention, there are tons of locally owned businesses that are all doing their part to support local art and music. There are so many inspiring community art events and performers in the area. The only thing I would change is to have more time in the day so I could attend more events and see more of my fellow performers in town. The art and music scene is thriving and very exciting these days. I wouldn’t change it, I just want more.
What projects do you currently have in the works that we can look forward to in the near or distant future?
I have lots of shows coming up with my band Swing Theory. Keep an eye on our website for our events calendar at swingtheoryjazz.com. I am booked for the rest of the year with lots of solo shows too, watch on Facebook and Instagram for my upcoming Becky Sinn solo shows. There is a long overdue album of Dr. Sinn’s Freak Island Musical Sideshow Greatest Hits that needs to happen (That’s my sexy clown band for those of you who don’t know). I am also starting to write some new songs so hopefully a new Becky Sinn album will be in the works eventually as well.