Sydney Wayser, better known by her musical moniker CLARA-NOVA, is on the rise. With experience as a backup singer for Lorde during the New Zealand artist’s 2017 tour, Wayser has set out on her own and is poised for stardom. With the release of her new single, “Echo,” we caught up with the electropop songstress and talked upcoming EP “The Iron Age” (set for release on March 2nd, 2018), the dreamy way she came up with the name CLARA-NOVA and her musical influences.
Can you tell us about how you got into music?
Music found me really. My dad is a pianist and songwriter, so there was always music in the house. Either he was playing piano, singing or records were playing, but there was always some kind of melody floating inside the walls. I used to sit on his lap while he was at the piano and put my fingers on top of his to feel what the different chords felt like. From there I started writing songs in elementary school, took private lessons, had bands in high school and joined any choir I could. I decided to go to music school in Boston and eventually found myself living in New York, playing in the East Village and cutting my teeth in historic NYC venues. New York felt like the real musical teacher. I’d go to shows every night and absorb as much as I could.
You’ve said that the inspiration for your name, CLARA-NOVA, came to you in a dream. Can you elaborate?
The name just sort of crept inside my head in the middle of the night and glued itself firmly there. I woke up and CLARA-NOVA was clearly written in my mind. It felt like a new exploration or something. My first time on the moon (if that makes sense haha). The name to me is a new clarity, a new chapter, and a new moment that pressed its way into my subconscious. I woke up and the name was decided.
You grew up splitting your time between Paris and Los Angeles. How do you think French and American musical sensibilities differ, and how do they each inform your work?
France shaped me overall as a person. My artistic interests, style and taste feels very much a product of time spent in Paris as a kid. I grew up absorbing the rich artistic history, style, music, food and overall culture. Serge Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy, Léo Ferré, Eddy Mitchell, France Gall were playing on our record player often. I guess to me these French artists overlap with some of my favorite American and Canadian artists like Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell because they write great songs. They tell a story and come at you with a full force of emotion. My aim as a songwriter is to keep you hooked the way theses writers do. You’re in the palm of their hand from the second they start singing.
What can we expect from your upcoming EP, “The Iron Age?” How does it differ from “The Bronze Age?”
First off, the title, The Iron Age, speaks of perseverance and strength. Writing, recording and releasing this music has been a journey to say the least. I was signed with a label that put out The Bronze Age then folded and took all of my music leaving me with nothing to show for the last few years. I spent the next 2 years rebuilding everything and The Iron Age is a glimpse into that world. The Illusionist speaks of disappearance while my new single, “Echo,” is about our past histories and ghosts that float around each other. Both EPs are produced by GRAMMY winning producer and engineer, Shawn Everett. I think there are a lot of through lines between EPs. They are both wild and exploratory. Shawn and I aimed for a sonic explosion.
Who and/or what would you consider your primary musical influences?
I’m all for a mixed bag of influence. While making the EP I listened to a lot of Malienne music, Serge Gainsbourg, Little Dragon, The National, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Metronomy, Rufus Wainwright, Jain, John Lennon, Grizzly Bear, Bat For Lashes, Radiohead…the list goes on.
Besides your upcoming EP, can you talk about any other projects in the works for this year?
I’ve been working on a photography installation to accompany my full-length release, IRON // GOLD, coming out in the late summer/fall of 2018. I find my music is inspired by visual mediums very often; therefore, each song already paints a picture in my head. I wanted to find a way to share those images with the listener. This series of photographs is a collaboration with my favorite Los Angeles based photographers as we expand on the ideas of each song into a visual format. The images speak of transparent walls and hidden boundaries that we place on ourselves and on each other.
I’ve also been co-producing a record with a phenomenal Los Angeles artist. She is bursting with talent and I can’t wait to share the record we’ve been working on for the last year and a half. She hasn’t announced it yet so I gotta bite my tongue too, but I believe it will be coming out this year! I can’t wait for the world to hear it!
Do you have any advice for young women pursuing a career in music?
Keep going! My main advice would be to keep blinders on and keep working. Stay in your lane and don’t worry about anyone else. Go where the fun and love are and you’ll be in your right place. If you are in a room that doesn’t feel good or support what you do, find a room that does. There are many incredible collaborators and artist so make sure you surround yourself with the ones who make you feel like you are your best and most creative self.