Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
Los Angeles-based artist Samantha Sidley didn't choose the jazz life, it chose her. Her lifelong love of the stage and the Great American Songbook has been the inspiration for most of her career, but when she decided to put together a new one-woman show, she asked her collaborators and songwriters to look to that style and help her come up with material.
Ahead Sidley talks to us in a phone call from her hometown about writing the song, shooting a video in her mom's house, and why Singing in the Rain is her aesthetic.
Refinery29: What was the idea that started you working on this song?
Samantha Sidley: "I wanted to write a one-woman musical show originally that was personal. So I asked Alex Lilly and Barbara Gruska, my wife, to write me some songs. They came up with this one-liner, 'I like girls,' because it's part of my story. Alex had the melody. We all went to an Airbnb in Joshua Tree, where they kept asking me, 'What kind of girls do you like?' I like them all, I don't have a preference! So we wrote the song based on that.
"My usual instrumentation is done by my accompanist, who plays piano and alto saxophone. I also play with a friend who plays the trombone. Sometimes I'll just be singing over horn lines. When they wrote this song, I arranged it so it could work well with two horn parts and piano sometimes so you could really strip it down. It just needs that horn theme. When we went to record it, my wife produced it, and she layered instruments on. She's a genius at making a track support vocals well.
"I've always been a jazz singer and liked songs from the '30s and '40s. I remember hearing Judy Garland when I was young. I didn't have the words for it, but it felt like I understood it. I feel like I have a natural sensitively for the stories they tell. Jazz is beautiful, theatrical, and full of direct stories. When I do a show, I like to string the songs together like a cabaret. I asked them to write for me from the perspective of that genre."
And how about the video? Where did you shoot, what was the concept?
"That's my mom's house, the house I grew up in [laughs]. It's come a long way. It was built in the '30s; it's one of the first California, modern architecture houses. One of my best friends, Nigel DeFriez, directed the video. We've always wanted to work together. We both came up with this story that we wanted to look like Singing in the Rain, to have aspects of that in it. You know that scene where all the girls are lined up in shelves and they're singing about them? We wanted it to be like that, but show all types of girls. We put out calls to all of our friends to have them in the video. It's a celebration of beautiful women."
I'm guessing your outfit was a nod to the Marlene Dietrich wide-slacks style in that era?
"Oh yes, I'm very inspired by Marlene Dietrich. My friend Maria put together all my outfits. I have a wardrobe of way too many clothes that I don't know what to do with. She pulled them from my closet. It was amazing, I didn't have to buy anything."
So when people watch this video and hear this song, what would you like for people to leave with?
"I try not to force any objective onto people and share who I am. It's the audience's job to take whatever they want from it. I hope it makes somebody happy. I remember singing jazz songs and they were always from the hetero perspective. Once I changed the pronouns to something that fit me, it literally changed my life. If people feel represented and like it makes them smile or do Bob Fosse dances, great."