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Behind The Music: Sierra Sellers on Influences & Inspiration

Songwriter and musician based out of Pittsburgh, PA, the charismatic Sierra Sellers began writing her own original music during her childhood. Inspired and heavily influenced by soul R&B and jazz music, Sellers is known for her mesmerizing feminine vocals and sultry live performances.

In 2018, Sierra debuted alongside her live band opening for Apple Music’s Joe Kay of Soulection Radio. Shortly after, she was also recognized on NPR’s “2020 Slingshot Artist to Watch.” The same year Sierra released a five-track EP titled Ophelia. The reception was positive and widely covered by local publications.

Sierra Sellers has headlined other large-scale events including the 8th annual Deuschtown Music Festival, a Pittsburgh-based festival that attracts over 20,000 visitors to the city. Sellers is a brilliant addition to the music scene using her artistic gifts to elate and inspire audiences everywhere.

We were overjoyed to catch up with Sellers and ask her a few questions:

How has your background influenced your music?

I am from Pittsburgh, PA and I would say that my family influenced me more than my location until I got older. Once I became an adult, I got introduced to Jazz and the rich history that exists in Pittsburgh.

Who are your biggest artistic influences?

Jill Scott and Erykah Badu hands down.

Tell us about your favorite project/single. Why do you love it?

My favorite album is by Jill Scott, 'Words and Sounds' Vol. 1, but vol. 2 is a very close second. I love this album because it was the first time I heard a female wordsmith. Jill has bars and poetry.

How do you channel inspiration? Favorite time of day to create?

My environment inspires me. Honestly, new experiences, people, culture, etc. I need to live in order to grow and write new material. In the morning. I love me some sleep, okay?! Tracee Ellis Ross said to sleep when you're tired and I said SAY LESS. I used to try to thug it out and stay up to make music but I am more focused and driven in the morning. When I create in the evening it is 100% organic and truly a fit of pure inspiration, which is dope and beautiful, but rare.

In your opinion, how does art impact our world?

Art is a reflection and expression of the society in which we live. What is crazy about art is that it comforts the blow of the world around us, but it also has the power to change it.

Your source of motivation?

I have no idea. Sometimes I wish I had my gift and love for music without any desire to pursue a career in it because your girl is tired, but this motivation and love for it is truly within me. I am not one to talk about how they feel too often, so music has always been an ear to me.

How do you define success as an artist?

I don't. My dreams change, my goals shift, and my priorities alter as I move through life. As of right now, I would say that success as an artist is a world of art lovers having access to your art.

Does art help you in other areas of your life? How do you hone your skills?

Yes, whenever I sing or write something it brings me so much peace. Right now, it is trial and error. I try to push myself out of my comfort zone and see what I can do.

Favorite artistic collab?

My favorite collaboration has been Words and Sounds. An open mic and jam session I've curated with featured artists in Pittsburgh. Named after those Jill Scott albums. Those albums, and Def Poetry Jam.

Favorite performance to date?

This is difficult to say. I love singing in Con Alma and remember the first time I sang there I felt so honored, but I also closed out the main stage at DMF in Pittsburgh this past summer and that was the most people I have ever performed for and it was a crazy feeling.

First album you purchased?

Crazy in Love- Beyonce.

What's the purpose or goal of your music?

To uplift and inspire young women like Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, India Arie, Beyonce, Lauryn Hill, and so many more did for me. My mother died when I was 5, and although I was blessed with other women in my family, these artists had a motherly hold on me.

When were you most vulnerable with your art?

When I was a Junior in high school and started showing people the songs I recorded on my school computer. I left the classroom and the teacher played the class two of my songs. They were so supportive and that teacher, Ms. McGrath really made me believe in myself as a writer and as a singer.

Which trends inspire your current work?

I wouldn't call this a trend but the shift in women owning their sexuality and sensuality. I love how artists like Ari Lennox and Jazmine Sullivan are so honest in their writing and don't tone it down to make others feel comfortable. I hope to get to that place soon.

How has your style changed over time?

My style is going to change a lot. I am phasing out of pleasing others with the music I make and moving to please myself.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the music industry?

Social Media could kick rocks. So much is put on the shoulders of the artist, and I am sensitive so I am afraid my skin isn't thick enough to handle the hard truths coming my way.

I am blessed with a beautiful network of artists and musicians. They play with me, rehearse with me, create with me, and support me at shows, I am eternally grateful for this community.


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