Sydney Rose Wray, a teenage singer-songwriter from Oak Ridge, has released her debut EP, All I Want to Say, out now via streaming platforms.
The four-track release espouses Wray’s “win-some, lose-some, keep pushing” mentality, spanning topics befitting a country-girl princess who spends her time playing shows and modeling in between fixing-up a pickup truck and making plans for college.
“People think teenage years are only for planning for the future, but I believe it’s so much more than that,” Wray explained, “it’s a time when you can experiment without fear of failure and find out who you are.”
Seeing herself primarily as a country-pop artist, Wray strives to make relatable material while staying true to herself. “The EP is about how hard the teenage years are, but also how very human we are— making mistakes and being unkind,” she said, ”each of the songs are personal stories for me, but I hope they resonate with many.”
The dual-enrolled homeschooler, and GTCC student, will graduate high school in May with an Associates Degree in Arts and a Criminal Justice Certificate. “Music and words have always been my favorite things,” she said of her passions and ambition.
“I wrote a screenplay at 11, and a devotional at 13. As a kid, I couldn’t really sing Adele or Carrie Underwood, but it didn’t stop me from trying.” At 12, she co-formed “Once Upon a Fairytale Parties,” an event-company partnered with Make-a-Wish and Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provides appearances from princess characters.
Wray’s first public performance came at an open-mic at Oak Ridge Craft and Vine in the summer of 2019, and she hasn’t stopped since. Her song, “Broken Wing,” won the youth category at the 2019 Richard Leigh Songwriters Festival; and she placed top in Triad Idol, 2019, winning a front-of-the-line pass for American Idol auditions in Raleigh.
Though she didn’t make it past the audition, Wray started 2020 with vigor: releasing two singles in the spring, publishing a book of poetry, and singing the national anthem at a Charlotte Hornets game—one of the last before the NBA shutdown in March. ”Being on the court with pro-athletes, surrounded by a full stadium, and my face up on the big screen was just crazy,” she said.
Over the summer, she live-streamed as part of the Rockingham County Arts Council’s “Rock-Aid” against childhood hunger; and appeared in artist spotlights for Fox8, the Grey Room Sessions and Pass the Hat Radio. She also recently acquired a 1980 Ford F-150 she plans to fix-up.
“It’s funny because I was always a Chevy girl, and said I’d never own a Ford,” Wray noted, with a “never say never.” She’s already written two songs about her truck, with plans to record “Little Old Ford,” in November.
Reflecting on previous releases, Wray considers the EP her next logical step. “It’s full of messages I want to share with others, and hope they can relate,” she said of her source-material, based around the first single,” Rearview,” which focuses on regret.
The title track, “All I Want to Say,” deals with identity and personal foundations. “Why” examines the complexities of love from a young perspective. And “Bad” relays the harm in labels and images. “I’m sure we can all relate to people being unkind, or talking bad about us, and wishing we could say something to bullies,” she noted.
Though she released the EP independently, Wray credits the support of her parents. “They get me where I need to go,” she said, noting their help with gigs and in times of distress—like when leeches attacked during her EP cover shoot.
“My mom, usually cool under pressure, started googling how to remove leeches. My boyfriend tore his shirt and started wiping my feet—getting most of them off. My mom removed the rest with her debit card. We left with amazing cover-photos, but we’re all a bit traumatized.”
The family affair extends to her boyfriend and photographer, Isaac Woodlief, who, along with Wray’s mom, helps craft content. “My mom has a really cool vision to go along with my songs,” Wray explained, “I see words, she sees images. And Isaac makes them come to life.”
They’re currently filming videos for the second EP-single, “Bad,” and “Monster Under the Bed,” a “spooky pop song” Halloween release, which explores the abusive relationships people can have with themselves.
Beyond Wray’s immediate family, she, alongside her mentor Devin Noyes, also maintains the Syd and Dev Duo, and Bordering Red, a classic-rock cover band. As a solo artist, Wray has upcoming shows on Oct. 2, at Brewskie’s in Asheboro; Oct. 4, at the Carrboro Music Festival; Oct. 9, at Ole Hickory Smokehouse in Liberty; and on Nov. 20, at Muddy Creek Cafe in Sparta.
The Syd and Dev Duo will be at Kickback Jack’s on Oct. 8. Bordering Red will be part of the “HorseFriends Therapeutic Riding Program’s Annual Event” on Oct. 14 at Summerfield Farms, and at SteamWorks Stage and Bar in Madison on Nov. 6.