By Al Kaufman
For most kids, the age of 15 is a time for texting, dating, and making sure they are wearing the right shoes. Fifteen-year-old Decatur, GA native Sydney Rhame is already nine years into her music career. Rhame started writing songs at the age of six. Since that time, she has trained under vocal coach Jan Smith (whose clients include Usher and Justin Bieber) and learned guitar and piano. She won the inaugural Decatur Idol, and has turned down producer requests to audition for The Voice and America’s Got Talent. Because, after all, she’s only a kid. She just happens to be a kid who has performed over 200 shows all over the country. But she’s also a kid who is taking AP classes and is on the cheerleading squad at her school.
Sydney Rhame is a pop singer. Her songs are about “stuff.” There is a certain teens’ point of view to her material, even when it concerns subject matter such as on “Don’t Give It Away,” about losing a family member. At age 13, she dedicated her song, “To the Top,” to Renfroe Middle School graduating class. It’s a well done song and a cute but professional video, both with the right amount of cheese. When not singing her own stuff, she is likely to be covering the people she strives to be, Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkston, and Miley Cyrus. It’s not revelatory music. It’s pop. It serves its purpose, and Rhame does it well.
You’ve been writing songs since you were six. What got you started?
Because I’ve been doing it for so long I don’t remember one definite thing that made me decide that I wanted to write songs. But I do remember that whenever I’d write, I’d feel so much better about whatever was going on in my life at the time so I guess that feeling had a lot to do with why I kept going with it.
Do you ever go back to those early songs and play them?
Sometimes for fun I go back and re-read my old songs from when I was little and, I’m not gonna lie, I’ve actually used lines in my new songs today that I wrote when I was 7 or 8.
How do you like leading a bunch of musicians who are so much older than you?
I think it’s super fun! Even though there is an age gap, we’re all musicians and we all have one goal and that is to make killer music. I also definitely like working with people who are a lot older than me because they’ve all lived full lives, and I love to learn from all of them. They always have great advice.
You’ve worked with some great music people and performed in many respected venues. Did it take any convincing to get these people to take you seriously?
I’m sure at the beginning they were sort of hesitant when I would walk in and say, “Oh yeah, I’m 11 years old,” but usually after my first song people know that this isn’t just a hobby for me and that I’m so determined to make this a full-time career. My age hasn’t ever been a very strong barrier for me besides the fact that some places I play, I’m not old enough to actually be in…oops. (It helps that I’m tall and look older than I am.) Early on a couple of producers originally didn’t think I wrote my own songs, until they worked with me and realized that yep, it’s all me.
Do you feel like you have a normal childhood?
Yeah I think I do have a fairly normal childhood. I still do things that normal kids do – I hang out with friends a lot, go to school, and do homework like everyone else, but every once and a while there will be a huge party with a lot of my friends and I have to say I can’t go because I’ll be in the studio or playing a show that night. Also, not many of my friends have a clue as to what they want to do when they grow up, which is the polar opposite from me. I already have a full-blown career that I’m working toward and a lot of my friends don’t necessarily think of that as “normal” but it’s my normal.
Do you think about how your life may change if you become famous?
Yeah, sometimes I find myself thinking about it when I’m with my friends or something and I wonder if I’ll still be able to do normal things (that is if I become famous). But really it doesn’t cross my mind as often as people may think because I’m really just focusing on my music and becoming the best artist I can be and not all the extra things that may or may not come.
I know this seems like a long time in the future, but where do you see yourself by the time you’re 21? (And when you turn 21, make sure you go back and read this interview.)
At 21, I see myself still playing and writing music and even producing. I’m not sure where, how, or in what way, but those are the exciting answers that I get to discover on my way there.