Sydney Yeo | soundcloud.com/tallmountainsImagine this: You are walking through a forest and sunlight filters in through the canopy of leaves above you. The air is cool and you breathe in deeply, grateful to be away from the less than ideal air of the city. Gradually, you hear the swell of a violin accompanied by the soothing yet strong voice of a young girl blanketing the atmosphere with a calm. Okay, i am getting carried away. But that's kind of what the music of "Tall Mountains" feels like; something fresh and clear from the smoky recesses of our island city.
Tall Mountains is the moniker of Sydney Yeo -- folk pop musician whose stage name is befitting for her tunes that lulls the mind's eye with idyllic images of nature. Before moving to New York to pursue a BFA at the Clive Davis Institute of Record Music, she performed at venues such as The Pigeonhole and Somerset 313 and was also an intern at Snakeweed Studios.
From top : 1.Monster 2.Better (ft. Topaz Jones) 3.Long DistanceHer music owes inspiration from a slew of folk musicians, such as Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens and Beirut -- musicians characteristic for their musical complexity and multi-layered sounds that incorporate and meld unique and perculiar instruments and styles. This probably appealed to the side of her that is open to "new directions and textures". She also mentions Kings Of Convenience and of course, the father of folk rock, Bob Dylan. Closer to home, she gratefully gushes about the people from Snakeweed Studios, Thunder Rock as well as Leonard Soosay, Brothers Deon and Ian Toh and Han Tingyan who extended support and guidance during the course of her journey as a musician. It's good to know that individuals within the local scene pay crucial roles in inspiring each other.
William Wordswoth once said that "poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." That was the line that came to mind when Sydney described her songwriting process. When the circumstances are just right, when everything is in its place, "the words and melody and chords just appear at the same time". Everything that pleases her ears can be a source of inspiration for Sydney, who is sensitive to the different nuances and textures available to a song. She confesses to being unsatisfied with sticking to the same sound for too long when it comes to producing a song. She is always to pushing to make the most out of her songs and find ways to drive the song to its greatest potential (it really is no wonder that she is inspired by the sounds of Bon Iver and Beirut).
I just get this feeling that the world is one, that humanity is united, when I read other people's work or hear a song and I really connect with it - that's what I feel art is about at its core, to express yourself and yet everyone else, too, at once.
As for where she is currently as a musician, she has the following to say -- “I feel like the crux of my music is to find that balance between the intrigue that constant experimentation brings, and a single, recognizable sound or feel that my songs create when put together as an album.” Here's an interesting paradox: while writing a song allows her to have closure, it also revisits and replicates the memory and emotion attached to the song.
Aside from music, she also practices analog photography, armed with her Ricoh SLR. She also used to dabble with poetry, but didn't advance this particular interest after someone dismissed the effort as "pretentious". On hindsight, she does regret having allowed the remark get in the way of her genuine interest in poetry. Although songwriting has taken its place, she admits that there was a certain special freedom and flexibility with words that she is not able experience with songwriting. Nevertheless, she recently did a collaboration with electronic musician Cody Alan (Incidence in the Fog part 2- Cody Alan feat. Tall Mountains). The ambient beats, her lulling voice and the poetic words congeal to create a subtly persuasive lullaby. When he began speaking out his poetry she improvised and "vibed off phrases" she particularly liked.
Another source of inspiration is (no surprise here ) poetry. Sydney mentions specifically Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath, and Richard Siken. Poets characteristic for their arresting imagery and strong, confessional voice. Jonathan Safran Foer is another source of inspiration owing to his brilliant ability to control and maintain focus over his intricate plots. She cites Tim Walker as her "imagery inspiration" and who can forget the best source of inspiration of all? The world. "Just everything I see and experience, and everyone I have the privilege to know, is gold." says the grateful Sydney Yeo. Now -- time to give her music a listen.