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Echosmith’s Sydney Sierota: Staying cool after going platinum

The band Echosmith: Bassist Noah Sierota, guitarist Jamie Sierota, singer Sydney Sierota, and drummer Graham Sierota.
The band Echosmith: Bassist Noah Sierota, guitarist Jamie Sierota, singer Sydney Sierota, and drummer Graham Sierota.
(Steve Appleford)

It’s a busy afternoon at home for Sydney Sierota, just weeks away from her 18th birthday, sitting by the light of a living room window as a hair and makeup artist prepares her for another night onstage. Waiting on a nearby hanger is a sparkling silver dress.

“It’s not like I woke up like this,” Sierota says with a laugh, still in faded jeans and a gray pullover, a plate of salad in her lap. “A lot of it is a team effort.”

In an hour, a Mercedes van will roll up in front of her family’s house in Toluca Lake, not to pick up her band Echosmith for a concert, but to deliver Sierota to her very first gig as a TV host: for MTV’s “Artist to Watch” show. Upbeat and modestly anxious, she’s counting on cue cards to get her through.

A year ago, Echosmith were on the show as unknown makers of guitar-based pop with a debut album, “Talking Dreams,” from Warner Bros. Records. Now Sierota and her three brothers are platinum-selling artists, whose earnest and catchy “Cool Kids” single reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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“Obviously a lot has happened. ‘Cool Kids’ literally changed our lives. It’s crazy to see that one song can do everything for you,” she says. Last night, she heard the band’s newest single, “Bright,” on the radio for the first time. She turned it up. “It never gets old to me. You should be excited about it.”

On the mantle is a baby picture of her brother Graham, now 16 and the drummer in Echosmith. Somewhere is a wall covered in childhood photos that include bassist Noah, 19, and guitarist Jamie, the oldest at 21. Jamie is married and the only sibling no longer living at home. They get plenty of family time on the road.

On March 27, the band’s current tour will deliver Echosmith to the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, their first hometown headlining show since reaching the charts.

Their days on the road are full, with less time for songwriting than ever. “Sleep or write a song? I should probably sleep,” she says, but admits to making time to sketch out ideas or write in her journal.

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“Writing is so soothing to me,” says Sierota. “It’s as if I’m my own therapist. The way that I work, I need to either write or say something out loud to figure it out. I’m not super-internal. When I write a song, sometimes I will figure out how I feel about something or what’s going on. I do get a lot out of it.”

The Echosmith track that has connected deepest is “Cool Kids,” one of the last written for the album. The lyrics unfold with a girl watching longingly at other kids who seem less awkward, less isolated than the rest.

In a voice vulnerable and searching, Sierota sings: “They all got the same heartbeat, but hers is falling behind / Nothing in this world could ever bring them down / Yeah, they’re invincible, and she’s just in the background.”

“We wrote that from an honest place,” she explains. “Everybody at some point feels like its hard to fit in, no matter who you are, no matter how old you are, no matter how much success you may have.

“Yeah, this song is platinum. People ask, ‘Do you feel like the cool kids now?’ No! I still relate to the song, even more so now, which is interesting. It just proves that no matter what place you’re in, you feel that desire to be somebody else, or to compare yourself to other humans. It’s a message of accepting yourself and being OK with who you are and who you aren’t.”

All four band members weigh in on the songwriting process, contributing ideas on lyrics and music, Sierota explains. The drummer might suggest a melody line, the bassist a guitar part. “That leaves so much room for creativity,” she says.

The Echosmith name sounds like an amalgam of ’80s new wave band names, and Jamie will sometimes erupt like a fully formed student of U2’s the Edge. But the guiding example is Coldplay. The hugely successful British act was Sydney Sierota’s first concert experience when she was about 7. She fell asleep.

Echosmith became a band almost by chance when a neighborhood charity event needed some live music. The Sierota kids got together and played a seemingly random set list that included songs by the Cure, Rage Against the Machine and Rihanna. It worked well enough to continue.

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While Sierota got a taste of a normal high school existence, she was home-schooled once Echosmith’s touring schedule got busier. And she’s seen a lot, traveled the world and watched a lot of faces from stage. She met Taylor Swift and Katy Perry within minutes of each other at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards.

Back at home, she likes to escape, taking long drives in the little car she’s nicknamed “Baby Bean.”

“Mentally I would have been completely different,” she says, contemplating her life if she’d never toured the world, “because naturally if you’re socializing with adults and hundreds of kids every day, you’re gonna definitely be different and mature a lot faster. I’m not even 18 yet, but sometimes I feel like I’m in my 20s.”

She adds with a laugh, “When I hang out with people my age, I’m like ‘Why are you talking about this? This is so not important.’”

When Echosmith went into the studio to make “Talking Dreams,” Sierota was just 15 and unknown. When the band begins work on a sophomore album, after spending most of 2015 on the road, she will return as a 19-year-old platinum-selling artist.

On a dining room wall hangs a framed platinum sales award. She glances at it, her hair and makeup nearly done. “I don’t know who put that up, but it looks nice on the wall. I like it,” she says. “Even if ‘Cool Kids’ is our biggest song and nothing else happens, I’m still grateful that it even happened. I’m not worried about the future.

“You should evolve but I don’t think you should completely disregard all the things your fans love you for. We’ll take note of what works, and still create what we want to create.”

What: Echosmith, the Colourist

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Where: Fonda Theatre, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

When: Friday, March 27, 9 p.m.

More info: (323) 464-6269


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