Siena Streiber is a singer/songwriter who began writing and composing original music at the age of 11, after she learned to play guitar. Her first song was titled “Internet Relationship,” and highlighted the complexities of a romance through AIM. From there, Siena went on to write several other original songs, which she has performed at such venues as Genghis Cohen, Room 5, and The House of Blues. She has also performed with the A Cappella group “Everyday People” at Stanford University. Siena has recorded with artists like Macy Gray and Luke Christopher. In 2020 just before the pandemic hit the US, she released a self-titled album, “Siena.”
Today we are pleased to join forces with her for the premiere of her music video for her latest single “Always Be A Friend.” The video, directed by renowned photographer / director Art Streiber (best known for his work with Vanity Fair, EW, GQ, The New York Times Magazine and more) who also happens to be her father. In many ways, the concept of the video is simple; however, the closed enclosures make is easier for us to connect with what’s certainly a very personal song.
We also get to sit with Sienna to talk about the single and more!
Hi Siena, welcome to Vents Magazine! How is life finding you on this fine day?
Life is good! Any day in Los Angeles that is 70 degrees and sunny is a good day for me.
Congratulations and kudos for the upcoming April 23 release of your brand-new single Always Be A Friend! Unpacking this from the top, can you talk a little bit about this lovely tune and how it came into being?
Thank you! I first came up with the idea for the song in early quarantine, May of 2020. I recorded a voice memo of myself just singing through it once and playing it on my guitar, because if I don’t, I have a tendency to forget lyrics and melodies I make up on the spot. The original song was nearly five minutes long and we were able to get it down to about four, which was kind of a miracle! At the time I was processing a relationship with someone that had gone sour, and this pervasive thought I kept having in the aftermath of it all which was: why can’t we still be friends?! I wanted desperately to keep the relationship alive and didn’t understand why this person couldn’t see that the love I still had for them could remain platonic. I think the song helped me heal from a relationship and friendship I knew was never gonna quite be the same.
For those not in the know, can you talk a little bit about your style of music?
Much like my musical taste, I think my style is a bit of smorgasbord of genres that inspire me. When I was first starting out it was definitely singer-songwriter with a twang of folk and country (thanks early Taylor Swift), and now I think I’ve started moving into exploring pop influence while holding strong to my singer-songwriter roots.
The music video for Always Be A Friend is dropping on the same date as your single. This is no run-of-the-mill music video for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the biggest reason for you personally might have to do with your father, photographer Art Streiber, actually directing the video. Can you talk about how this all came about and what it was like to have your father direct you?
It was really funny, I went to my dad and told him I was thinking about having a friend direct, and he essentially said “No. I’m directing. I love this song.” I was inspired by a photograph he took of the Duffer Brothers (Stranger Things creators) of the two of them standing amongst a bunch of lamps and said, “I want to do this.” We storyboarded the song together and figured out how we could pull it off. He’s great at problem solving and I’m great with ideas, so together we made a great team. Going into shooting the video I was definitely worried about how our dynamic would be on set, but we had the same vision which made our collaboration seamless.
This was his first music video directing gig; any chance he might do more work along this line?
I think so. When we wrapped, he teased me about when the next music video shoot would be! He and Justin Schaefers, our DP, make a great team and I can definitely see the two of them doing more videos together in the future. Hopefully one of them is mine!
Has your father been a big influence on your music? Do you vet new material for his discerning ear?
I’m definitely inspired by his dedication and how after years of photography, he is still in love with his job. My mom is the same way, she’s a writer – so I’d say the combo of the two of them is undoubtedly how I got my creative gene. It’s funny, I tend to be pretty private about my music because it’s so personal. I know the second I play my parents a song they’ll know who it’s about, because I’m typically not very good about hiding who I have crushes on. But I get very picky when people hear unfinished songs, so I’ll usually play something for them during production, just to hear their thoughts. Usually it’s as simple as, “I LOVE IT!”
Always Be A Friend was produced by producer Johnny Hanson. What was that collaboration like for you?
Incredible. Johnny has such a good ear. When I came into the studio, he already had an idea for the track that he played for me, and we both knew that was the direction we had to go in. We slowed the song down a little from the original tempo, so the final is a bit more heartbreaking than when I first wrote it, but I think it expresses the emotion of the song more this way. And like I said we ended up having to cut a lot of lyrics so there’s a much longer version of this song somewhere. The bridge was this crazy, happy accident melodically – I was trying something vocally that wasn’t landing but then we stopped to listen and got this great bit. We were like, “WE HAVE TO KEEP THIS!” Johnny also loves experimenting. It was like, “can we bang this pencil against a mic stand and use that?” Which made being in the studio that much more fun – no idea was off limits.
You’re one of those rare breeds of artists: The singer-songwriter. Can you talk about what your writing process is like? Which comes first – the music or the lyrics?
I really love writing my own music. It’s like therapy or writing in a diary. Some people have journals, singer-songwriters have the Notes app and Voice Memos. Songwriting is a hodgepodge, and it depends on what I’m doing in the moment when an idea comes. Sometimes I’m messing around on the guitar and come up with a chord progression and melody. Sometimes I’m in the shower and start making up lyrics or I wake up at 4am with a song lyric in my head. The best songs are when music and lyrics happen simultaneously. I’m a sucker for a clever lyric.
What got you interested in music?
Thanks to my mom, I grew up listening to everything. Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Carol King, Cream, Credence Clearwater – I was pretty much raised by my parents and the artists of the 60s and 70s. My friends were going to see Britney Spears, I was going to see Dido and James Taylor. Then my sister started taking guitar lessons when she was 7 and the first song she learned was “Smoke on the Water.” I remember being jealous that she was learning an instrument and begged my parents to let me take lessons too. I think the first song I learned on guitar was “SOS” by the Jonas Brothers. Then the realization struck that I didn’t just have to learn other people’s songs, I could write my own! And I’ve been writing ever since.
Musically, who recharges your batteries and inspires your own journey?
I don’t even need to look at my Spotify Wrapped anymore because I know it’ll say that I listened to absurd amounts of John Mayer and Taylor Swift. Continuum (Mayer)and Red (Swift) are these evergreen albums for me that every time I listen, I hear something different that inspires me. And then Taylor will do something like Folklore and blow my mind. Maggie Rogers, Stevie Nicks, Kacey Musgraves, Harry Styles… they all play a role in my music making. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of writing a song and think, “dang it, this is just Watermelon Sugar in a different key.” Which is my way of complimenting Harry, of course.
In 2020 you released your self-titled album, aptly titled Siena. Did it feel like the completion of one leg of what will surely be a very long journey for you and your music?
Definitely. I wrote the majority of the songs on Siena when I was 16, 17, 18, that capture the angst of teenage love and heartbreak. I was 24 when the album dropped, so I was in a state of feeling like “no, I swear I got over this guy like 8 years ago!” I love all the songs on that album. It’s like taking a walk down memory lane. But I was no longer that teenage girl crying listening to For Emma, Forever Ago in her childhood bedroom. I was ready to get started on the next chapter.
Can’t get around this one, alas: how has the worldwide pandemic affected how you promote your work?
I think any artist will tell you that the thing they miss the most is playing shows. There’s nothing like the energy of a live gig and the feedback you get from the crowd. Usually, live gigs are how you can attract new listeners, but interestingly platforms like TikTok have proven to be godsends for indie, unsigned artists who want to promote their work in a more grassroots way. We’ve all adapted and are figuring out ways to get the word out about our music in this new normal. I mean Driver’s License by Olivia Rodrigo went viral in a matter of hours, all through the power of social media, and she’s yet to play a live gig! That’s power.
You’ve played in some distinguished and notable venues such as Genghis Cohen, Room 5 and – my personal favorite – The House of Blues. Do you have a favorite among those, or is it a bit like Sophie’s Choice (i.e. an impossible choice)?
Man. I mean some of those venues just hold such incredible memories for me. I opened for Phoebe Bridgers at Genghis Cohen when we were both still in high school. We met through a mutual friend and I remember just thinking I was so lucky to share the stage with someone who was both a peer and someone I admired. I remember a Room 5 gig where my setlist was mostly songs I wrote about this one guy, and he showed up and sat front row. He had balls. House of Blues was insane – The energy of that show was incredible and unforgettable. Then I got up the next day and went to school. Very normal 17-year-old stuff.
Although Siena was released just last year, are you beginning to plan your next album?
Yes! I’ve been working on a ton of new stuff, experimenting, and trying things out. I love getting to work with different producers. Siena was like dipping my toes in the shallow end, and this time around I dove in head-first. I feel really excited about what is to come, mostly because I’ve been getting out of my comfort zone, and because the music I’m writing is so relevant to my life. Heartbreak will always be a relevant theme. That’s not going away.
Final – SILLY! – Question: Best rock movie ever: Almost Famous or This Is Spinal Tap?
Hands down Almost Famous. Frances McDormand? Tiny Dancer on the tour bus? Iconic. As Penny Lane said, “it’s all happening.”