Sy Smith

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Sy Smith
Birth name Syretha Olivia Smith
Born (1978-02-18) February 18, 1978 (age 39)
Origin New York City, New York
Genres R&B, neo-soul, go-go, jazz, funk, electronic soul, electronica
Occupation(s) CEO, Singer-songwriter, record producer, music producer, actress, keyboardist
Instruments Voice, keyboard, synth bass
Years active 1999–present
Labels Psyko! Records/MDI Distribution
Associated acts Sheila E., Cee Lo Green, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Brand New Heavies, E Reece, Mark Whitfield, Cassandra O'Neal, Zo!, Jeanne Jolly

Sy Olivia Smith-Peterson (born February 18, 1978) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, actress, and music producer. Sy Smith has released four albums and twenty singles during her career. She is also the president of her own recording label, Psyko! Incorporation. In addition, Smith has composed and written songs for many singers including Carlos Santana, Brand New Heavies, Mýa, Terry Lewis, and many other recording artists.

Smith's musical genre has varied throughout her career including R&B, Go-go, soul, funk, jazz, and neo soul. Her artistic influences include Michael Jackson, Minnie Riperton, Sly Stone, Diana Ross, Chuck Brown, LaBelle, and Sheila E.. Smith has pioneered in the sound "Electrosoul" and "Futuristic soul", an amalgam of funk, neo soul, and R&B that has influenced many other musicians.[1] She was also a key figure in the rise of the "Indie Soul" movement.[2]

Smith has a soprano vocal range with the ability to utilize the whistle register. She is also known for her signature songs "Fly Away With Me", "Aquarius Rising", "Ain't Nobody's Bizness", and "Fa'Sho". She is known as The Underground Queen of R&B and Soul.[3][4][5]

Early life and career beginnings[edit]

Sy Smith began her career leading a six-person Washington D.C. go-go band called "In Tyme".[6] After graduating from Howard University with a bachelor's degree of Science in psychology and a minor in music therapy, she moved to Los Angeles, California. She soon charted territory singing backup for Usher, Eric Benet, Me'Shell NdegeOcello, Ginuwine, Brandy, and spending more than a year on the road with Whitney Houston.[6] Among it all, Smith made appearances in GAP advertisements, as well as being a regular fixture behind Vonda Shepard on the FOX television show Ally McBeal.


1999-2003: Psykosoul and departure from Hollywood Records[edit]

Smith moved to L.A. in 1997 and signed with Hollywood Records in 1999. Later that year, she released her first single "Gladly", which charted at number 79 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. In early 2000, Smith released the second single "Good N Strong". In April 2000, Smith released her first album, Psykosoul. In mid-2000, Smith released the third single "That Ring".

In 2001, Smith was dropped from Hollywood Records. In the same year, Smith made a cameo appearance in All About You as the restaurant singer. She has since written for Santana, sung backup for Whitney Houston and with Vonda Shepard on "Ally McBeal," and contributed vocals to commercials for The Gap, Procter & Gamble and Nissan. After talking to the proprietors of a coffee shop in Los Angeles' Leimert Park neighborhood, Smith established B!tchcraft in 2001. The monthly showcase ran for nearly two years. The showcase featured three to four female acts, unsigned and signed singers, and comedians. Between releases, Smith served as sometime lead singer for British funk outfit Brand New Heavies on their album We Won't Stop.[7] In 2001, Smith released a single "Welcome Back (All My Soulmates)", which later received an Emmy nomination for "Outstanding Music and Lyrics".[8] In 2002, she released her extended play One Like Me.

2004-2007: The Syberspace Social[edit]

In 2004, Smith received a minor role in The Seat Filler as Fitz (VJ). Smith also signed a recording contract with Kajmere Records and began recording her second album in 2004. Later that year, Smith starred as Rose in the independent film Black Rose. In early 2005, Smith began her own recording company, Psyko! Inc. In early 2005, Smith released the first single "Fa'Sho", which aired on BET's Soul Sessions. In September 2005, Smith released her second album, The Syberspace Social. The album featured contributions from R&B singer Anthony Hamilton[9] and producers such as James Poyser and Victor Duplaix. In late 2005, Smith released the second single "Drop That". In December 2005, Smith released a deluxe edition of her first album entitled, Psykosoul Plus, which contained three additional songs. In the same year, she also appeared in the theatre If You Don't Believe: A Love Story. She received a NAACP Theatre Award nomination for Best Supporting Female - Local.[10]

In February 2006, Smith released "Aquarius Rising" as the third single. Sy Smith, along with Sharlotte Gibson and Kenya Hathaway, have been highly visible as featured background singers on American Idol. Smith also appeared on The Article 3, a 2006 EP release from bass guitar impresario Me'Shell NdegeOcello in addition to opening for the artist. In mid-2006, Smith recorded a single "Fill in the Blanks", which was featured on the Airpushers' Themes for the Ordinarily Strange. In 2006, Smith released a deluxe edition of her second album, The Syberspace Social. The album featured two additional songs. While embarking on her tour in 2006, Sy Smith released her first live DVD Sy Smith Live: Worship At The Temple, recorded live at Temple Bar in Santa Monica, California. She also appeared in the theatre Body Language in the supporting role "Holt". She received a NAACP Theatre Award nomination for Best Supporting Female - Local.

2007-2009: Conflict[edit]

In mid-2007, Smith released a buzz single "Ain't Nobody's Bizness". In late 2007, Smith released another buzz single "Reach Down In Your Soul", which featured Wes Felton. Smith also released a music video for the song. In April 2008, Smith released her third studio album, Conflict, with "Fly Away With Me" as the lead single. The song "Fly Away With Me" charted at number 38 on the Top 40 Hot Adult R&B Chart. In September 2008, Smith and her band Deeznuts performed at Temple Bar's Farewell Show. Smith performed a seven track set-list. She also released the title-track "Conflict" as the second single and the music video premiered at Temple Bar. In late 2008, Smith's album Conflict received an "Album of the Year" nomination from Soultracks.

In February 2009, Smith released the third single, "Spies", and the music video aired on Logo. The music video also features the cast of TV-series Noah's Arc. In 2009, she made a guest performance at the Live in Boston show of Chris Botti where she sang the Burt Bacharach classic "The Look of Love". She also features on the DVD release of this concert and is seen in his tour in Europe. Sy Smith also serves as the voice actor of Aisha in the Saints Row video game series, recording three tracks as the character for the games' soundtracks. Sy Smith's "The Art Of You" appears on Independent Soul Divas 2 on UK label, Lola Waxx. In mid-2009, Smith released the fourth single, "B-Side Love Affair".

In May 2009, Smith auditioned for Michael Jackson's This Is It concerts. Although her audition was a success, the concerts never happened due to Jackson's sudden death. In June 2009, Smith toured with the singers Yahzarah, Conya Doss, and Maya Azucena on the Soulsista Tour. In June 2010, she appeared on Fox DC to promote her single "The Art of You".

2010-2011: Syberselects and Authenticity Tour[edit]

In April 2010, Smith appeared on The Mo'Nique Show to perform her single "Fly Away With Me" and promote her album Conflict. She later announced that she was planning to release a new project in 2010.[11] In July 2010, Smith went on tour with Mark de Clive-Lowe. On August 5, 2010, she performed at the special event "Summer Concert Series" at "Baldwin Hill Censhaw Plaza" in Los Angeles, California. In mid-August 2010, Smith released a single "Truth" to iTunes. In October 2010, Smith received a Soultrack Readers Choice Award "Song of the Year" nomination for her song "Greatest Weapon of all Time". On October 26, 2010, Smith released her best of album, SyberSelects: A Collection of Sy Smith Favorites. In 2010, Smith began the recording sessions for her fourth album.

In December 2010, Smith confirmed in an interview, that she will be doing a jazz album. Smith stated, "I'm kind of closing the book on that part of me for a second, so I can embrace other things that I really want to do. I'm working on a jazz record that's more straight-ahead kind of jazz. I'm working to finish this synthy '80s throwback dance record...".[12]

In January 2011, Sy Smith and Mark de Clive-Lowe recorded a version of Teena Marie's 1984 hit "Lovergirl" and went on the Authenticity Tour with The Foreign Exchange. In March 2011, Smith went on the "Sunstorm Tour" with Zo!. In June 2011, The Foreign Exchange released their live album Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange.

2011-present: Fast and Curious[edit]

In November 2011, Smith began touring with Sheila E. and the E Family. In December 2011, Smith announced her fourth album, Fast and Curious to be released on March 6, 2012.[13][14]

In January 2012, Smith and The Decorders released a remake of Minnie Riperton's song "Inside My Love". On March 6, 2012, Smith released her fourth studio album Fast and Curious. The album's lead single "Personal Paradise" is planning to be released to radio along with a music video. In May 2012, Smith began her tour with Zo! called Sy Smith & Zo! - The Mini Tour. During the week of July 15–20, 2012, Smith appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno substituting for Dorian Holley as the vocalist for the house band. She regularly appears as a guest soloist on tour dates for trumpeteer Chris Botti. In 2013, she performed regularly as a supporting vocalist for French musical icon Johnny Hallyday. Smith also re-joined Chris Botti as the featured vocalist for his tour.

In September 2015, Smith released a cover version of Janet Jackson's "When I Think of You".


Vocal ability[edit]

Aside from her various hits, Smith is noted for her ability to sing in the whistle register. Smith possesses a five-octave vocal range. Smith's ability to enunciate in the high register sets her apart from most other whistle-register singers. This feature is most notably heard in the live performance of the song "Look to the Rainbow", where she sings "follow the fellow" in the whistle register. Whistle-register enunciation can also be heard in songs such as "The Primacy Effect" and "Star". Smith is also noted for her ability to sound almost mechanical or instrumental in the whistle register. In "Find My Way", she sings "Oooo" and then plays with her whistle tone for 26 seconds. She has also been credited for her ability to sustain notes in the sixth and seventh octave for long periods of time, as in "Would All The People From Compton Please Leave? (Minnie Reprise)", "The Primacy Effect", "Star", the live performance songs "Make Luv 2 Me" and "Ain't Nobody's Bizness" from the Sunstorm Tour. Having an innate ability to imitate many instrumentals (particularly horn sections) has helped Smith gain the notice of music critics.[15] In her recordings, Smith's highest recorded note reached in the whistle register was in the song "The Primacy Effect" from her album Fast and Curious.

Smith has also done scat singing on her records. This feature is heard in songs "Message from the Stars", "Find My Way", and "Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)".


Smith cites her biggest influence as Diana Ross and Sly Stone. In an interview with Fox DC, she jokingly stated, "I'm sorta like Sly Stone and Diana Ross had a baby, I'm like the lovechild of them".[16] She also told Soultracks in an interview, "Never realized how much I'm influenced by Minnie Riperton until recently when I started playing around with my whistle tone... But when I listen to her placements and her interpretation, I'm definitely inspired."[15] She also cites influences from Michael Jackson, Teena Marie, Sheila E., Prince, and James Brown.[17]

Although Smith has done many R&B influenced songs such as "Fly Away With Me", "That Ring", and "Broke My Heart", her primary musical style is heavily influenced by go-go, electronica, and funk music as displayed on her songs "Spies", "Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)", and "Bad on You".

Personal life[edit]

On July 11, 2010, Sy Smith married actor/music video director Shawn Carter Peterson. The wedding began at 11:35 A.M. and ended with the reception, which began at 9:00 P.M.[18]



Video releases[edit]




Year Title Role Notes
2001 All About You Toomie's singer Cameo appearance
2004 Black Rose Rose Lead role
The Seat Filler Fitz (VJ) Supporting role
2005 If You Don't Believe: A Love Story Ellie Jackson Supporting role
2006 True Grits Pregnant woman Supporting role
Body Language Holt Supporting role
2016 California Love - A Triptych Herself Main role

TV/video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1997–2002 Ally McBeal Singer 1 41 episodes
2002 Lyric Cafe Herself Music director
2006 Saints Row Aisha Supporting role
2008 Saints Row 2 Aisha Supporting role
2011 American Dad! The Hot Tub Singers Episode: "Hot Water"
How I Met Your Mother Singer 1 Episode: "Tick Tick Tick"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2001 "Welcome Back" Primetime Emmy Awards: Outstanding Music and Lyrics Nominated[8]
2005 If You Don't Believe: A Love Story NAACP Theatre Awards: Best Supporting Female - Local Nominated[10]
2006 Body Language NAACP Theatre Awards: Best Supporting Female - Local Nominated
2008 Conflict Soultracks Reader's Choice Award: Album of the Year Nominated[19]
Sy Smith Soultracks Reader's Choice Award: Female Vocalist of the Year Nominated[19]
2009 Sy Smith LA Weekly Music Awards: Best Contemporary Blues/R&B Artist Nominated
2010 "Greatest Weapon of All Time" Soultracks Reader's Choice Award: Song of the Year Nominated[20]
2012 Sy Smith Soultracks Reader's Choice Award: Female Vocalist of the Year Nominated[21]
Fast and Curious Soultracks Reader's Choice Award: Independent Album of the Year Nominated[21]
"Nights (Feel Like Gettin' Down)" Soultracks Reader's Choice Award: Song of the Year Nominated[21]


  1. ^ Sy Smith: Too Fast, Too Curious | Soul Train. Soul Retrieved on May 29, 2012
  2. ^ Sy Smith | SoulTracks - Soul Music Biographies, News and Reviews. Retrieved on May 29, 2012
  3. ^ Singer Sy Smith talks 'Fast and Curious'. QCityMetro. Retrieved on March 16, 2012
  4. ^ Emerging Artists join The 6th Annual “Jazz In The Gardens” Johnny.... Retrieved on March 16, 2012
  5. ^ RA: Nu Jazz Festival: Mark De Clive-Lowe at Revival, Toronto (2010).
  6. ^ a b "Sy Smith". The Soul of Amsterdam. 
  7. ^ The Syberspace Social on
  8. ^ a b Sy Smith - Awards. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on November 15, 2010.
  9. ^ The Syberspace Social on CD Baby
  10. ^ a b "NAACP Announces Nominees for Annual Theatre Awards". Broadway Wisdom Digital Media. January 25, 2005. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  11. ^ Published by Krysten Hughes Q&A// CONFLICT, LOVE AND NO REGRETS: SY SMITH. CentricTV. Retrieved on April 30, 2010
  12. ^ Sy Smith: The Girl That Everybody Knows That Nobody Knows (Let Her Explain). Washington City Paper. Retrieved on December 8, 2010
  13. ^ Get your pic in Sy's new CD cover. MyEmail.ConstantContact. Retrieved on December 8, 2011
  14. ^ Upcoming Soul Music CD Releases!.
  15. ^ a b Sy Smith Interview by Tom Paul. Retrieved on March 10, 2012
  16. ^ Singer Sy Smith Discusses New Album. FoxDC. Retrieved on March 10, 2012
  17. ^ Sy Smith Biography. AOL. Retrieved on 9-6-10
  18. ^ Sy Smith gets married!. Chris Botti Forum. Retrieved on November 5, 2010.
  19. ^ a b "2008 SoulTracks Readers' Choice Awards Winners!". SoulTracks. SoulTracks, LLC. October 4, 2008. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  20. ^ "SoulTracks Awards Show coming on Dec. 7th". SoulTracks. SoulTracks, LLC. November 30, 2010. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  21. ^ a b c "SoulTracks 2012 Readers' Choice Awards nominees named!". SoulTracks. SoulTracks, LLC. October 9, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 

External links[edit]