"I went from knowing how to play three Ed Sheeran songs to learning over a thousand songs": An interview with Daniel Sid

"I went from knowing how to play three Ed Sheeran songs to learning over a thousand songs": An interview with Daniel Sid

Daniel Sid has been hiding in plain sight. The Singapore Management University undergraduate is also a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a voice that emanates experience and empathy,  a voice that doubles as an antidote to the stresses of life in these accelerated times. “Beauty” is its foremost veneer but it testifies to something deeper – to deepest existential rumblings it can articulate, and ultimately, heal.

He’s only two official songs in but ‘Greener Grass’ and ‘Bluer Skies’ are heralds of a monumental vision. One that expands the lexical tongue of pop to the point it can sing of the extremes of the human condition. There is no artifice here.

In the interview below, Daniel shares his story and reveals what making music means to him.

Tell the people who you are.

I'm Daniel Sid and I just turned 24 even though I look 42. I think I've come a long way since getting rejected by every bar I auditioned at in 2017. Honestly, I just wasn't good enough. I don't have a big ego so I have no problem saying that I was absolute garbage! [Laughs] Every time I played a song, it was bad. But I couldn't hear that it was bad. Going Om, which is a place I play now and pack out, rejected me thrice. After that, I practiced for about 10 hours a day for months until one traumatic experience made me realise that I wanted to do music full-time, and, for once in my life, take something seriously.

And what was this turning point?

I had a pulmonary embolism – I almost died. Basically, I had a bunch of blood clots that went to my lungs. What happened was that I was wearing a cast on my ankle from a football injury that was so tight that it constricted blood flow. The cast was on too tight and for too long that it led to that. During that ordeal, I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and I realised that I had a few interests but nothing made me as happy as music. I decided to give it one good shot; put in the work and the hours. 

So, on that hospital bed, I made up my mind go overseas for a while. So I packed my guitar and went to Europe for three months. After being rejected so many times, I didn't want to be where anyone recognised me. I busked on the streets without an amp and just built my repertoire from there. I went from knowing how to play three Ed Sheeran songs to learning over a thousand songs. I just love music – it's that simple.

How did you go on from making covers to writing your own songs?

*SCAPE played very big role in that. I love the guys there. They've given me so many big pushes. In February of 2017, I signed up for a programme where I had to write an original song for DBS. At this point, I didn't like anything I had written. The night before, in 10 minutes, I wrote 'Greener Grass'. When the lyrics come from deep within you, the song just flows. After that, I looked more into making music in Singapore. 

What would you say is the most important thing to you as a musician?

It would have to be growing listeners. As much as I write for myself, I'm also writing because there are messages in these songs I really want the world to hear. 'Greener Grass' is a song that says, "Shit happens. But give it time because it'll get better". 'Bluer Skies' is about dealing with death. All these issues are universal. Music brings comfort to a lot of people. It's the main reason I listen to and make it. I'm not trying to sell it or to sound like anybody else. 

The two songs you've released testify not just to your musical vocabulary but to a fundamental sense of soul. Where does that come from?

Honestly, it comes from back when I was screaming without an amp in London. When I'm performing, I'm loving every minute of it. Some days, I play six shows back-to-back. I enjoy every minute of it. I've learnt to scream and project without hurting my voice. 

What are you currently working on?

I'm working on a couple of EPs. Everything's written. The first one will be called Colours. 'Bluer Skies' is part of it. The funny thing about that song is that the guy who mastered it had worked on music by Mumford & Sons – and I had sent him a Mumford reference track when I was working on 'Bluer Skies'! Mixing it to get that blend of electronic and organic sounds took hours and hours.

Lastly, what is the biggest thing you hope to get out of the choice you made in 2017?

I want to start seeing the world through other people's eyes more. Growing up in Singapore and taking the traditional route, I find that I haven't experienced much of life. There's so much more to the world. My aim is to be a touring musician. I want to play music in other countries and learn about different cultures, different struggles and what makes people outside of where I'm from happy.