Local artist molds her music career in Denver
A look inside the Battie world
A home can sometimes be as transitory as a stage. For Sydnie Battie, this has certainly been the case. Born in Sarasota, Florida, Sydnie bounced around with her family, spending time in different cities across Florida, Las Vegas, and briefly Denver while her mother got her degree at CU Boulder.
Sydnie first discovered the stage when in fifth grade she auditioned for the play Dig It, centered around two archeologists being lead through time by a skeleton. From there, she continued to work in musicals and plays—which she had always preferred the latter, but in high school her involvement in cheerleading took over the school’s play-season, leaving springtime musicals the only chance for her to perform.
Graduating high school, she wanted to pursue both singing and acting, but her music teacher, Mr. Hughes, warned her about the difficulties of pursuing both as a career at the same time. So she chose to pursue acting, having been fresh out of her theatre experience. “It was very natural to me—I loved it, and it felt like it loved me.”
Knowing she wanted to leave Florida, she applied to the Art Institute in Los Angeles and got in, but the extortionate tuition prices moved her to University of Florida—also called “The Swamp.” Starting as an English Major and a Film Studies focus, she switched over to theatre in hopes of getting a more hands-on experience. Even while in theatre, she didn’t perform in any shows—she knew she was in need of a change.
During her year in theatre, she had begun writing lyrics to YouTube beats in her spare time at the dorm rooms. Her friend she met from her few years in Denver encouraged her music-making and told her to move out to the city to work with some of her friends in the industry. “I tend to not do things without the validation from somebody else telling me that it’s okay,” she said. Although she received none for the idea of coming to Denver, she pushed herself out of her comfort zone, and within the first week she was meeting with another artist: “It was like ripping off the worst, stickiest Band-Aid.”
With a decade past since she’d first been in Colorado, the new environment on top of pursuing a new facet of her talent was an all-in-one reinvention. “It’s been about three years now,” she said, “who I was back home is like a completely different person than who I am now.” Her time in the Denver music scene has proven to be more educational than any of her time in school.
First moving to the city, she had projected this idea of an artist persona: “How I wanted my shows to look, how I wanted my music to sound, how I wanted people to perceive me was kind of this nice little R&B package… and it’s funny because it just didn’t feel right.” While she tried to convince herself it was necessary to make a name for herself, her personal growth began to even outpace her music. “I am not supposed to be in this little box,” she realized “but I think the music gave me the nudge.”
Battie feels her artistry and identity have developed separately but complementary towards one another. “I have noticed that in learning more about myself, it has made my approach to music a thousand percent better,” she explained, “if I don’t spend time just on building myself in general—outside of the music—then the music doesn’t grow.”
In fact, her time in Denver has yielded such fast personal growth, Battie feels the music isn’t always up-to-speed. “It just doesn’t reflect who I am anymore in a lot of ways.” While they reflect parts of her true self, she feels they were also made “in a time when I was trying to fit into a mold—what an R&B artist looks like and does.”
While success can generate growth, often trying experiences play a heavy hand in that curve, and Battie has witnessed old challenges in new ways since coming to Denver as a woman of color. “Oftentimes when I am dealing with producers, artists, 7-to-8 times out of 10, it’s a guy,” she recounted. Even for all the positive experiences she’s had with her producers, she has chosen to not work with plenty as they clearly weren’t just after her music.
Battie recalled a show for Black History Month at Regis University—she was the only female in the lineup. While backstage with her manager and the rest of the show’s lineup, a group of men entered—greeting everyone in the room except the two of them, not even acknowledging their presence. “Oh,” she thought back, “they walked into the green room and saw women and automatically thought that we were groupies, that we were here for the men.” Of course after hearing her set, they were ecstatically supportive, but the implicit assumptions had already been made.
Like icons such as Drake, Battie says she wants to be able to appeal to both women and men as an artist, and not just as an icon of desire. “I pride myself on my writing over my singing,” she says, and yet lots of people assume she doesn’t write for herself.
With the protests following George Floyd’s death, Battie had been arrested with two of her friends while being out past curfew. “We were told we were just going to be given our charges then sent home,” she said, but she and hundreds of others ended up in 12-hour processing and put into a cell block for over two days. Often when she writes she prefers obscurity so that people may shape distinctive experiences from listening, but she knows she will write about her experience in jail because of how eye-opening it was.
“I used to hate performing,” she said, feeling stressed about the way she would come across to the audience. She used to think, “I have to appeal to people a certain way, and now it’s like—fuck that—I don’t care. I want to appeal to myself. If you rock with it, great, if you don’t, that’s okay—you don’t have to.”
Her most recent show was on the rooftop of False Ego, a clothing supplier in RiNo Art District in Five Points. “When I allowed myself to just be myself,” she said, “they were laughing, and they were smiling.” Battie feels proud and deeply fortunate to have been able to play in four shows and two live video shoots since COVID’s eruption.
On performing virtually, Battie said, “I’m happy that we can do that. I don’t like doing it.” Taking away that physical togetherness is a major loss for people who feel most at home on the stage: “They can hear me, I can hear them, we can interact with each other, I can see everybody’s faces—we are in this moment together.”
This is a selection from the Oct. 14 issue. To view the full issue, visit: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/323923/