Meet Sidney Gish, the student who went from singing about The Hunger Games to winning a Boston Music Award

Sidney Gish is fresh off a tour with the critically-acclaimed musician Mitski and recently notched a win at the Boston Music Awards. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Everyone is talking about Sidney Gish.

The music magazine Pitchfork has described her as a musician who “confronts challenges with erudite analogies, then conceals them with earnest, unaffected charm.”

The Fader, a music, culture, and lifestyle magazine, recently said the singer-songwriter has a “knack for turning the chronic self-awareness of the post-adolescent psyche into lilting, lyrical gold.”

And the British news outlet The Guardian called the Northeastern student “mordantly funny, her bleakly cute rhyming schemes souring her sweet indie-pop.”

As for Gish? She said that she’s trying to “think less, in a very head-ass removed way, about how I’m being creative, and set aside a time to be creative every day. As long as I’m not hurting anyone and not hurting myself I’m allowed to do whatever I want to do.”

Gish, who’s studying music industry and is set to graduate from Northeastern in December, was fresh off a tour with the critically-acclaimed musician Mitski and had just notched a win at the Boston Music Awards (she was nominated for four awards and won Album of the Year for her second album, No Dogs Allowed), and was thinking about New Year’s resolutions for 2019.

“New year, new me!” she said in a high-pitched voice that both mocked the earnestness of those yearly goals and acknowledged their value.  

Gish does that at times when describing herself or her songwriting process. She changes the tone of her voice in a way that relays two different pieces of information at the same time: what she was saying and a commentary on what she was saying.

The vocal trick betrayed the same sense of conflicting layers that Pitchfork, The Fader, and The Guardian each noted in their descriptions of her work, and it indicates something about how Gish thinks.

Her iPhone, she said, is a “hellscape” of ideas. In an attempt to organize it, she recently deleted 2,000 notes that contained half-formed poems, couplets, thoughts, funny observations, and the like. Gish saved hundreds of other notes and has thousands of voice recordings stored on her phone, quick blips of melodies captured before they slipped out of her head.

Gish composed her first two albums, Ed Buys Houses and No Dogs Allowed, by stitching together several of these ideas, pairing poetry with melodies that may have been conceived months apart.

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

And even then, she has hundreds of ideas that haven’t seen the light of day.

“I was living in this huge world of all the ideas I’d had that I’d written down and been listening back to, to scan for quality and maybe include in creative work, and I’d been doing that my whole life,” Gish said. “And so instead, I’m like, ‘you can’t do that,’ the only creative work I’m trying to make is going to be the stuff I actually share, so that way it’ll be less of a hellscape and I’ll be happier.”

Gish has always been musical. She played the recorder in elementary school, started fiddling around with recording music in middle school, and performed in her high school choir. In high school, she also started recording and posting covers of songs, or made up her own about “The Hunger Games or whatever,” she said.

At Northeastern, she did co-ops at Aircraft Music Library and Island Records, and started teaching herself everything she could about music production and management, while honing her guitar-playing skills.

Gish has an agent and a manager, but otherwise said, “I want to be as self-sufficient as I can possibly be.”

It seems to be working just fine.  

In 2018, one of Gish’s songs made it onto one of Spotify’s “New Music Friday” playlists. She was named one of NPR’s Slingshot Artists to Watch the same year. And she’ll perform at the Boston Calling Music Festival in May.

Beyond that, Gish isn’t planning too far ahead.

“I can’t predict the future at all,” she said. “But I can predict that if I try to please anyone else but myself, I’m never going to do anything. I’m kind of just charging into this void of the future being like: any creative impulse I have, I’m going to clean it up and present it just for me.”

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