After taking a decade-long break from music to raise her children, Santa Barbara native Cory Sipper is making a comeback. The celebrated singer/songwriter, who has been making music since she was 13, just released her fifth album, titled Make Your Magic. With songs featured in television shows and commercials both domestically and internationally, and creative partnerships with members of Toad the Wet Sprocket, many have already fallen under her spell. I corresponded with her in an email interview about her life in the music industry, allowing herself to be vulnerable, and raising chickens.
You are releasing your fifth album now. How does it feel? How did the recording process compare to previous albums? It feels amazing. I didn’t release any albums for over 10 years because I wanted to give a lot of time to my kids, who were very little then. I felt I couldn’t do everything at once. I did write songs for a music library under a “work for hire” agreement during that time, but I didn’t write for myself, and I didn’t know if I ever would again. And then one day … I realized I had to release another album. I felt it swelling up inside me like a big balloon. And I started writing songs like crazy! Then I ran into Thom Flowers — a musician friend from my past. Turned out he worked in a studio close to my house [Orange Whip]. It all came together from there.
Tell me about the title, Make Your Magic. What inspired it? What’s your magic? Make Your Magic means doing your thing, following your heart. We are all magic, but the problem is we often fall out of touch with that part of ourselves. The first song I wrote on the album is called “Wild Heart.” I wrote it to myself, to champion myself through this huge project I was taking on, making another album after so many years away. It’s hard sometimes to trust that we can do what we love in life. There are so many voices that most of us hear telling us all the reasons we should NOT do what we really want to do or that we are not worthy of succeeding. We all “make our magic” when we feel the fear and do it anyway.
What was it like working with members of Toad the Wet Sprocket? How did that connection come about? I’ve known Glen Phillips for a long time. We are old friends. I just kept hearing his voice on “Campfire,” so I asked him if he’d lay down a backing vocal. I feel very lucky to have his talent on the album. As for Dean Dinning, Toad’s bassist, I didn’t know him well at all, but he was doing some recording on a project at the same studio I was working in. I had a feeling that he should play bass on some of the songs, so I asked him one day. It was the best instinct to follow because we had an amazingly fun time in the studio together. He ended up coproducing one of my favorite songs on the album called “Black and White.”
You have a song on your new album called “My Turn to Shine.” What’s the origin of that song? Do you feel this year is now your moment to shine as a musician? It’s a vulnerable song with a backbone of strength. And that pretty much sums me up as far as my music career. I do feel it is my moment to allow myself to shine as a singer/songwriter. Back when I was first in the music industry, I was very naive and a lot more self-conscious, and I got knocked around. Now I’m a little older and hopefully a little wiser. There is a lyric in the song, “I have been around, but never really found, like a secret fortune.” I think a lot of people have been able to identify with that feeling at some point in their life. When you put yourself out there, you are vulnerable. And, when you first start out, you never know how many people will “get your scene,” so to speak. But, maybe it’s not about that. You have to put it out there anyway — with everything you got.
If you could say something to your 13-year-old musician self, what would it be? Oh. I cry at the thought. I was so confused back then. I think I would say, “Be true to yourself.” But, I don’t think my 13-year-old self would have listened.
To what extent does Santa Barbara as a city or as an atmosphere influence your music? Well, the Santa Barbara people I have worked with musically have very much been a part of my sound. Bruce Winter, who produced this new album, doesn’t live here anymore, but he’s produced all my albums and is a huge part of my sound. I met him at Santa Barbara High School! Everyone in my band and the folks I record with are people I’ve known for years and years, we were all raised in this little city together and have been influenced by its unique vibe. Santa Barbara is an inspiring place to live — we moved away for a few years but had to move back. My music was born here, essentially, and it’s a very comfortable place for me to work.
You took at 10-year break from the music business — how does it feel to be doing it again? What did you learn or experience in your time off? I was with my kids during my time off, basically just being at home and being a new mom. I couldn’t have done both the music and given my kids what they needed at that time. And I wanted to be with them all the time, every minute. When they started school, my life opened back up quite a bit, and I could come back to the music. The music industry is a different beast now with the Internet being so powerful and all the self-promoting one can do. Artists can be less dependent on record deals for success. Years ago, I would sit around and wait for the phone to ring. Managers, record companies, promoters — they held all the power. Today there is more room to be self-empowered. And also, my goals aren’t as lofty these days. I don’t need to be mega-famous. I’m happy to just make a living doing what I love.
If you could soundtrack a movie for any actor/actress or director, which would it be? Or if there’s a movie that’s already been released that you could add your music to, which would it be? I saw a movie recently called Begin Again with Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. I’d love to write songs for a movie like that — one that’s about a songwriter or the music industry. But honestly, I’d be glad to have one of my songs in any movie. Licensing songs is a great way to get music heard these days.
What’s it like raising chickens? It’s awesome. When I wasn’t doing a lot of music, when my kids were in diapers, I did a lot of “homesteading.” I baked a lot, and learned to sew and embroider and got backyard chickens and ducks, too. I would like goats, but we don’t really have the time or space. I guess you could say I’m kind of a farm girl at heart. Funny though, people ask me, “Do you eat the eggs?” Um, yeah, we eat the eggs. Why else would anyone have chickens in their backyard?
To hear Cory Sipper’s music, check out her new album on iTunes, Spotify, or her website, corysippermusic.com. She will perform July 10 at Hotel Café in Hollywood. Her CD release show, with a full band, is Thursday, September 10, at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club.