This monthly feature from LowellArts offers audiences a personal, insider view into the current music scene from the perspective of West Michigan’s talented performers. Check back on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month for a new article or interview from the featured artist. The March 2023 artist of the month is Sierra Skye Baker.
Article written by Sue Clement
Spend some time with her music. Pay attention and you’ll hear her cleverness, as well as the poetry in her songs. There’s a treasure there, something relatable and offered up for you to connect with on a personal level. Add to that a beautiful, passionate voice and you’ve got Sierra Skye Baker.
Music’s been there for her since the beginning, an integral part of her early life. Growing up with her mom and grandma – both listened to a wide variety of music. Sierra mentioned, “Motown, alternative rock, folk and just all styles of music.” They were always dancing and cleaning with music in the background. Sierra would join in, pretending she was an opera singer. She also has influences from her dad’s side of the family. Joining in jam sessions with folks who have been and still are involved in bands like Alter Ego and Akimbo.
Starting out on piano, Sierra remembers, “I wouldn’t say I excelled, particularly in piano. It wasn’t until guitar that I realized that I could write songs”. Motivated, she practiced more diligently. Sierra ended up graduating from Cornerstone University with a degree in Music for Commercial Music: Vocal performance.
Music is healing for Sierra. She has a clever way to create and use music to process her day. She remembers coming home from school, picking up her guitar and “playing the few chords that I knew and then just verbally processing through song. Just singing whatever came to mind. I still do that to this day. My voice notes are kind of like a verbal journal.”
I wondered how songwriting looks for her? “That’s kind of how it usually is,” she answered, laughing. “That’s why I have like 3,000 voice notes.” Sierra’s songs often start there. Her song, “Fireflies” is just lovely. Her voice moves from strong and beautiful to an ethereal whisper. Combining her soulful voice with these words – it’s a gem.
“Set them free
Let them go
So somebody can know
They’re not alone
No you’re not alone
Let them be
Watch them fly
They were meant to light somebody’s night
and so much more
Set them free”
“Fireflies” is one of my favorites. (There’s a story here. Remember the 3,000 voice notes?) Sierra thought she had lost the whole lot of them. She described her sadness, thinking they were all gone. “All those song ideas that had never got to see the light of day or have anyone listen to them.” Sierra’s loss brought to the forefront her awareness that she needed to start sharing her songs. “They need to be out there,” she recalled. It reminds her of the song, “This Little Light of Mine.” “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m going to let it shine.” Such a simple message but important to hear. A beautiful song came out of her experience, and she did find her voice notes!
“Back to You,” a playful song, is definitely lighthearted and is another of my favorites. Sierra shared that it’s about revisiting old relationships as well as emotional eating. The lyrics start with “Opening the fridge, hoping to find something new. I keep coming back to you.” Another great song and definitely relatable.
During college she spent a semester in Nashville at the Contemporary Music Center. She described it as, “super-hands-on. Our homework was writing songs, our tests were performing the songs and the exams were going on the road.” Students from all over the United States attended. Sierra took songwriting classes with Rick Elias (who wrote music for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “That Thing You Do”). Rick encouraged her to keep up with her writing and to reach out if she needed help with a song. He has since passed away. She misses that connection.
Passionate about working with kids and music, Sierra spent a couple years at WMU studying Music Therapy. She enjoys working at Artists Creating Together as a teaching artist, and has just started training for Positive Behavioral Services, hoping to work with kids with autism in their homes.
You may have seen her perform last year at Blissfest, or heard her at Amore Trattoria. Sierra performs there every weekend. She recently auditioned and joined the Blue Water Kings Band.
Sierra describes herself as being very shy, never dreaming that she would be drawn to performing. She’s found however that she enjoys sharing her music. She has a comfortable connection with her audience, sharing a little bit about her songs and her own story. She really seems at home once she starts to sing.
Keep your eyes open for a chance to see her perform. Check her out at Amore Trattoria Italiana from 6 to 9 on Friday and Saturday nights.
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