Symon: "I was never the type of artist to follow a template"

Singer, songwriter and radio presenter Symon is already making waves in the music world, but from incorporating sign language into her videos to tackling women’s rights, her plans go a lot further

Symon’s latest single ‘Lonely Girl’ has had more than 800,000 downloads in less than a week of its release. The classically trained pop star is a mix between Ariana Grande and Lana del Rey, with a sound that combines pop, R&B, and house. If you’re ever over in the States, it won’t just be her music you hear over the airwaves, though. She’s also co-host on the number-one radio station in North America, SiriusXM, reaching 20 million listeners every single day.

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Symon began her music career as the lead singer of rock band, collaborating with industry legend David Foster, and touring as the opening act for Demi Lovato.

We caught up with her just after the release of her new single, which had already racked up 200,000 views on YouTube in its first week.

How did you first get into music?

Growing up, I quickly learned that music was my escape and that I wanted to make that escape my reality. I began to immerse myself in as much music as I possibly could – whether that was studying opera, musical theatre, popular music, jazz, classic rock, and ska.

I started a band in my garage, shot a music video for two hundred bucks, and before I knew it, I was playing on the Disney channel. After that, everything snowballed, but I knew being a solo artist was my ultimate goal.

Who were your early inspirations?

No Doubt was a huge inspiration for me. I looked up to Gwen Stefani so much and still do as she is so unique. She was never following what everyone else around her was doing. She was a risk taker and performer that no one could compete with. I related to her so much in my band being the only female – always making sure my voice was heard.

Lady Gaga is another major inspiration to me. Like Gaga, I was trained in classical music. She often recounts her teachers in school who would say “you’ll never be in classical because your voice is too pop and you’ll never be in pop because you’re voice is too classical.” I dealt with many people who told me I wouldn’t be able to do it, but deep down I knew that they were wrong and that I would prove it.

Guys, if you just want to hook up there are apps for that! Don’t take a girl out on a date and expect to bring her home afterwards. Come on!

Could you describe your sound for readers who haven’t heard you?

Being signed to Sony as a solo artist was eye opening. I quickly had to figure out who I was as a solo artist as I was used to being in a band. My first single ‘Say’ was Top 50 in US pop radio, which took me on a whirlwind. The sound was fun pop with island vibes, and I think it was a great introduction to me as an artist in the music scene.

This past year has been a case of trial and error – creating some songs that worked and some songs that didn’t. What’s interesting is that the first song I created as a solo artist is my current single ‘Lonely Girl’. It taught me that most times, first instinct is correct – and I love how full-circle everything is right now. Moving forward, I know that I will only put out music that is the truest, most authentic side of me.

What inspired you to write ‘Lonely Girl’?

‘Lonely Girl’ was born from an experience where a group of people hurt and betrayed me beyond anything I could have ever imagined. They were like family to me and they went behind my back and sabotaged a lot for me. The night we wrote it I was laying down a demo vocal and in-between takes I was crying because it was so painful reliving what I’d been going through. I sent the demo to my manager that night and he said ‘that’s the song’. That raw emotion, which came from that time, is also why I chose to incorporate American Sign Language (ASL) into the lyric video for the song. I always knew that someday I would incorporate sign in my art but I just never knew how.

When the release for ‘Lonely Girl’ was coming up, I had this feeling that this would be the perfect song to sign for a lyric video. The song is the most authentic that I’ve ever released, and sign is one of the most precious things in my private life, so why not bridge two of my passions? I learned ASL during one of the loneliest times in my life, when I was in high school being outcast by other girls. Sign became my only outlet. Signing ‘Lonely Girl’ felt so appropriate. I feel incredibly blessed for the response this video is getting so far.

What would you say is your favourite part of the creative process?

I love creating a song but truthfully performing it is my favourite part. The moment when you step on stage and your song comes to life, and that adrenaline rush just hits you so hard. Also, creating an aesthetic for each song is so inspiring because as your music grows your style evolves and takes a new life.

Who would you like to collaborate with?

I would love to work with a handful of producers and artists. I would love to get in a session with Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons, Zedd, Max Martin, Gaga, and Diplo.

Your track ‘No Way (I’m F*cking You)’ is about a date who only wanted to get in your pants. Do you have any tips for guys looking to impress on a first date (and not be exposed in a hit song!)?

Guys, if you just want to hook up there are apps for that! Don’t take a girl out on a date and expect to bring her home afterwards. Come on! Humour, charm, and generosity are key – trust me. It’s the little things we recognise that go a long way, like opening a door. Also, please smell nice.

You’ve spoken about the ‘instant gratification’ of social media. Would life be better if we switched off our smartphones?

Sometimes I think life would be so much easier without the constant race of who can put up the better photo, get the most likes, and have the best story. I feel like people are starting to value their worth by the amount of likes that they receive and that’s just sad.

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I worry that the next generation will equate a like from a friend to being like a hug. We need to go outside and have human connection. I also think the dating scene is harder because people use dating apps and see all of these people who they can have at any instant without really having to get to know them. Things are becoming so impersonal that people are starting to lack social skills.

On the marketing side of things, social media is absolutely brilliant and there really is no better time to create a brand, an idea, a non-profit, or a career from the platforms that we have right now. I know I definitely use social media for those purposes. But nothing ever beats getting a real hug.

Do you think there will be major upheavals in the music industry in the era of Weinstein and #MeToo?

I think that there is definitely still a lot of work to be done, not only within the music industry but within all industries. I attended the Women’s March this year in Los Angeles and it was such a incredible moment for me because I got to experience all of these really powerful women who are trailblazers in the music industry and who are endlessly fighting for women in the industry, which really inspires me to also be a voice for those that have been silenced for way too long.

You’re also a radio host on Hits 1 in Hollywood. That must work nicely with the musical career? What’s the most important skill required for that job?

It’s absolutely crazy that I get to be on this show from Monday through to Friday. Hits 1 on SiriusXM is the number-one radio station in North America. I pinch myself every single day that as a young woman I get to have this platform to talk about what we as women and we as people want to say, and that it reaches more than 20 million people. I love connecting with others and that is definitely a very important quality to have as a radio host. You are speaking to all different types of people and personalities and you need to be able to connect with them.

If you were interviewing yourself, what question would you ask?

I’d definitely ask me about my crazy love of food. I am a huge foodie!

I want to push myself in all areas and keep creating. Television, film, and fashion are on my list. Bring it on!

You’re an LA girl – do you have any particular favourite haunts that we should hit-up next time we’re in town?

Food-wise, Terroni for its truffle pasta; Taverna Tony in Malibu for its spanakopita and belly dancing; Delilah for Kendall Jenner’s slutty brownie; and Gjelina in Venice for brunch. For shopping, stop at Reformation on Melrose.

What are your favourite labels – and why do you like them?

I love both low-end and high-end. I think having good taste is way more important than having a big budget. One of my favourite things to do on the weekends when I am off from work is to go to the Melrose flea market in LA on Fairfax Blvd. It’s just the most fun experience. It’s a bunch of new up-and-coming designers mixed with vintage vendors all set up next to each other, and you basically just hunt around for the best finds. I must admit I’m pretty damn good at it.

In London recently I went to this great store, Paulie, which has such good elevated basic pieces for everyday wear. Right now I am currently obsessed with Gucci; its design team is amazing. Alexander Wang, Saint Laurent, LNA, and good old vintage Levis.

Do you have any piece of gear that you just couldn’t live without?

A friend of mine who lives in the States is a jewellery designer. His name is George Khalife and he let me create this stunning gold ring that has my initial on it in diamonds. Since I’ve had that I really do believe that it’s my good luck charm. I can’t go in a meeting, perform, or do a radio show without it.

What are ambitions do you still have?

I am focused on creating a body of work that feels authentic to me – and when it feels complete, I’m going to put it out. I was never the type of artist to follow a template. I love the way different formats of art bring out different parts of my artistry. I want to push myself in all areas and keep creating. Television, film, and fashion are on my list. I’m ready for anything to come my way. Bring it on!

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