Moments into Valora’s debut album, I Waited for You, it hits home. Singer Syd Duran is the real deal. Throughout the album’s 11 tracks, Syd sings with fearsome conviction, summoning all the just powers of rock into her three-octave range. But Syd is about more than technique or stage presence. She has stories to tell: stories about isolation and betrayal, of misbegotten love and life out of whack. As the album shows, her rock vocal chops would mean nothing if Syd didn’t sing from the heart. “I didn’t want to write a feel-good record,” she says. “You don’t always feel good. For the most part in life you’re getting over something.”
We caught up with Syd to talk about her deep passion to be a musician and what inspired her early on to make music such an important part of her life.
Syd, it’s great to talk with you! Let’s start off by finding out more about Valora.
I started this venture on my own. My lead guitarist and I are kinda the heart of it. We’ve been together the longest. Every member of the band is from a different part of California so when we have rehearsal it takes three hours just to get everybody together!
Your sister Taelor ended up in the band as well. Tell me how she came into the picture.
I had to recruit her! She had no interest in being in the band. Singing for her was always a hobby and I don’t think she realized how great of a singer she is. I started out by asking her to do it for me, as a favor. It didn’t have to be forever. She did a couple of shows with me and got into it. She learned all the harmonies and background vocals. She does really well live. She loves it and now she’s an official member of the band. It’s really great to have my sister there. I think we get a lot of interest from fans because we’re siblings and we’re supportive of each other. There’s no competition on stage. It’s a lot of fun.
Is this pretty much your solo project with a band name? Do you make all the decisions?
I do at this point. I wrote our first record that comes out April 3. I worked with other songwriters but I didn’t have a band. The musical direction and the artwork are my decisions right now, but now that I have a band – these guys are like family to me. Valora is a band. We’ll all be writing the next record and working together more as a band. You’ll notice for this first record that a lot of appearances and interviews will be just me. That’s how it was when I was signed. I did tell the label I wanted this to be a band and not to hire guys for me. I wanted to find the band. They trusted me and it really worked out. It was really hard to find musicians who are dedicated and who love music and are not just in it for the money. Everyone in Valora does it for the love of the music. We’re definitely a team.
Revolver featured you as one of the Hottest Chicks In Hard Rock and your album isn’t even out yet. Of course it’s nice to be recognized, but do you ever have mixed emotions about things like that?
No. I’ve read that some girls find it to be degrading in some ways. I just don’t see it that way. I think it’s a huge honor. It’s very exciting. I’m so glad the people at Revolver gave me a chance and want to help us get the word out about Valora.
Let’s back up a little and talk about you. When did you first realize music was going to be an important part of your life?
I was very, very young. I was five years old. I was at Dodger’s Stadium and I looked down and watched a girl sing the National Anthem. When you’re five, c’mon – you don’t have that many important thoughts! The idea of wanting to be a singer followed me through my youth. As a pre-teen I really wanted to perform. I recognized my voice as an instrument. As I got older I wanted to be a musician and I learned how to play guitar. I started writing my own music every day. Tons of songs. I was kind of a loner as a kid. The fact that I didn’t have a lot of friends around me all the time gave me the opportunity to write and embrace that time of being alone. I was able to figure out my feelings and turn that into music. Writing music is something that I’ve always done and I feel pretty proud of that. It was hard at times. I didn’t know anybody in the industry or have any connections. I had to do it all myself! I’m so proud that I worked hard and got the recognition and made it happen.
Who are some of the bands you grew up listening to?
The Pretenders. Chrissie Hynde is a big influence of mine. I remember I was 16 and my musical tastes were extremely scattered. I just didn’t have that major influence yet. Then I heard the Pretenders and realized what a powerful singer she is and she’s so quirky and strange. I feel so many different emotions when I hear her sing. They were such an influence on me and that really helped me work through all the music that I really liked. I wanted to do rock, but do it in my own way. That was the first time I had a clear direction in what I wanted to do.
You hit the road with 10 Years last year. How did it feel to finally be up on stage, playing your songs?
I have never been afraid to be on a stage in front of people. It goes back to being the outcast. I’m saying “If you come to one of my shows, I’m the entertainment.” I don’t ever hold back.