Sykamore Talks New EP, And What She’s Learned Along The Way

Kat Harlton

Sykamore’s songwriting is equal parts country and pop, mixing intimate reflection and empathetic storytelling with instantly memorable hooks and sing-along choruses that capture the emotional rollercoaster of youth and young love. 

In 2014, Sykamore won the ATB All-Albertan Song Writing Contest, and the following year, she was nominated for prestigious CCMA Discovery Award. Soon, she had her music featured on national television and was sharing bills with the likes of Miranda Lambert and Josh Ritter. Sykamore’s biggest break, however, didn’t come onstage, but rather online, when songwriting heavyweight Rhett Akins came across her music on Twitter.

At Akins’ invitation, Sykamore joined the roster of Home Team Publishing (which Akins founded along with his son, country star Thomas Rhett, his manager, Virginia Davis, and Roc Nation/Warner Chappell) and relocated to Nashville in 2018. There, she released her first EP, ‘Self + Medicine,’ which garnered more than a million on-demand audio streams and helped land her a spot in CMT’s coveted “Next Women of Country” class for 2020. Helmed by acclaimed producer Michael Knox (Jason Aldean, Kelly Clarkson), Sykamore’s new EP marks her first release for Music Knox Records/Wheelhouse Records and previews a forthcoming full-length debut.

We had the opportunity to chat with Sykamore about her new EP, and what she’s learned along the way.

Kat: Can you talk about the inspiration behind your latest EP California King?

Sykamore: Contextually I was inspired by freedom – the freedom to feel exactly what you’re going through, the freedom to say exactly what you want to say. The purity of the feelings we have, that was a big source of inspiration for this one. Sonically and visually I was inspired by a lot of 70’s and 80’s pop music – there are obviously a lot of subtle nods to California, which is in the title of the EP and where we shot the cover art. 

Kat: It’s mentioned you draw inspiration from George Strait to George Michael, what was the sound or direction you were hoping the album would go in?

Sykamore: I was definitely in a throwback mindset for this batch – I wanted it to sound modern but for there to be winks to early Laurel Canyon rock like Joni Mitchell and The Eagles, mashed up with sounds from this era of country. The great thing about country music is it makes room for a lot of that, because in the end a great song is a great song. I was also heavily pop inspired for this round – taking on my influence from Lana Del Rey and Halsey, and yeah even George Michael. 

Kat: How would say music off this album, differs from your past work?

Sykamore: I’d say it’s more gutsy, it adheres to the ‘rules’ a little less. When I moved to Nashville I discovered right away that the rules and rigidity of the format were all in my head, and that people will resonate with whatever is authentic to YOU. So I sort of let that be my mindset going into this, it wasn’t to necessarily to hit an industrial benchmark, it was to just make music that I like, and take on influences that I have, whether they’re country or not. 

Kat: What track are you most excited to have people hear?

Sykamore: I think California King, the title track, is quite a statement. So I’m pretty keen to show that one to the world. The production on it is very experimental and it is quite lyric forward, and it’s a side of me I don’t think I’ve ever shown so that’s very exciting for me! 

Kat: What was the biggest thing you learned making this EP?

Sykamore: I touched on it a bit before, but I’d say just that there are no rules anymore. If you wanna be an artist, lean into what makes you different. Don’t do what’s already be done, blaze your own trail. It’s the most rewarding road to go down.

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