When Sydney Wayser changed her professional name to Clara-Nova, she sparked a wave of boundless creativity and found a new level of self-confidence she hadn’t felt before.
Though losing a record label is often taken as a big shock to a musician’s career, for Sydney Wayser, it offered a release, a way to start fresh. Just as Picasso painted his symbolic death to move from his Blue Period to his Rose Period, the death of Sydney’s label allowed her to move freely into the next stage of her career.
But alone that wasn’t enough to fully push Sydney’s career to its next level. Her previous music was released under her own name, Sydney Wayser. Now, with a newfound clarity and in the next stage of life, she needed a new name: Clara-Nova. “I felt like for some reason [before the name change], maybe I was shy or timid or maybe it was just being a little bit younger, but I felt like I was always so pigeon-holed as a singer/songwriter,” she says.
“I felt for a while that a moniker would give me some freedom to be anybody I wanted on stage,” Sydney continues. “It came as a way of… a little protector of me or something.” Artists have created characters for decades, from Marcel Duchamp’s Rrose Selavy and Richard Mutt in the early 20th century, to David Bowie’s post-modern Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom, Thin White Duke, and so on. The name “David Bowie” was actually just his professional name, having been born David Jones.
Marcel Duchamp might not have been able to sign his name to a urinal and put it in an art gallery, but he was definitely able to sign R. Mutt’s name and push art into modernity. Just like how it might have been intimidating for Bowie to disturb the status quo and push boundaries on gender fluidity before the term had been invented, yet with the aid of Ziggy Stardust, the creative flow came naturally.
“If you create a character that you can embody for a minute, your thought process is different,” Sydney comments. “And that’s the same as when I go to a museum or something and stare at somebody else’s artwork, I’m kind of putting myself in their body for a minute and trying to wrap my head around their brain. And I think it’s the same thing if you create a character, you’re trying to step into their shoes for a second and be them, whether it’s made up or historical.”
Becoming Clara-Nova has given Sydney a new sense of independence in her work, a sense she hadn’t entirely had before. Any constraints she might have felt in the past were pushed away when she created Clara-Nova. “I feel like I can maybe run around a bit more and just sort of be a bit more free.”
And what has she done with her reborn self and creativity? Gone west. Sydney explains that although she had been a Brooklynite for the better part of a decade, “I just needed a change, I felt like New York wasn’t really me anymore.” So she moved back to her native coast, where suddenly, “It felt like a bunch of doors opened and I kept looking in, like what’s in there, or there, and it felt like I found a new path.”
LA has seen something of an artistic renaissance in recent years – creatives migrating from New York and its history to America’s younger coast in quest of new liberty in their work. And as Sydney has found, the Pacific coast is just where she needed to be in order to properly outlet her Clara-Nova inspiration.
“In LA, everyone’s down to collaborate,” she explains. “I’ll meet someone in a coffeeshop and a week later we’ll write a song just because.” In addition to working with friends like Jen Hirsh, Ryan Levine, Ali Barter, and Timberwolf, Sydney has been collaborating on projects for film and TV, contributing musical work to movies from Spotlight to Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Sydney loves collaborating with other musicians, as it helps her to grow her abilities and her work. “When you’re in a room with someone and they throw out ideas, you learn from them and you add it to your toolbox, to sound really cheesy, but it is,” she says.” “I feel like I go into a room with my set of tools and then at the end of that session, I’ve learned from everybody else in the room.”
As far as her own projects, Sydney recently released an EP, called The Iron Age, and is finishing her next, entitled The Golden Age. “I’d like to get to a place where I’m releasing probably two EPs a year. That would feel good, where there’s just a flow of music,” she says. She prefers the idea of short-form EPs as opposed to full-length records. “It’s like, here I am in life and in movement, and here’s a chapter.”
The Iron Age and The Gold Age are two adjacent chapters in Sydney’s story. After her label split and she had to rebuild her work, The Iron Age came naturally. It was her chapter of perseverance, so the following chapter seemed that it should be one of hope, searching for the best version of herself and of the future.
Even beyond working with others in the music field, LA’s collaborative environment has inspired Sydney to blend visual art with her audial art. The work on The Iron Age is been re-recording music that Sydney had written previously to her record label folding, and as she is a somewhat changed person, she added a new element into the work. “When I set out to make this record, basically a second time, I wanted to add another component that was new to me, and that kind of helped me invigorate the project, and I decided that I would make a visual piece for each song.”
Based on her two EPS Each piece in Sydney’s upcoming Iron/Gold art installation is a photographic work that she made in collaboration with a different photographer in the LA area. “I sort of partnered up with all of these different photographers and we got together and talked about what’s happening in the world and what’s going on in each song, and we found a middle ground between all those pieces,” says Sydney. “We then set out to make a photograph that represented something that we felt was socially, lyrically, and visually important or something along those lines.” The overarching theme throughout the installation is the concept of boundaries and walls. It aims to remind that though borders are sometimes transparent, they’re still there.
She’s worked closely with each photographer to make sure each image can stand alone, without the installation, yet still fit into the music components. Though a challenge, the opportunity has allowed Sydney to form stronger ties with artists with whom she’s crossed paths in the past. She reflects, “Art can form relationships.”
Armed with her moniker, Sydney’s music and creativity have taken flight. Where going by her own name had caused her reserve in the past, Clara-Nova has taken Sydney Wayser to the new heights of collaboration, medium blends, and a new coast. “But it’s funny actually, because now that [my work is] under Clara-Nova, I actually feel like I’ve just become more comfortable in being myself.”