Oct. 09--Failure is not an option for Kaela Sinclair.
In the middle of recording songs for her first album, with musicians she declines to name, the Denton-based singer-songwriter realized she was unhappy with the results.
"There was definitely a moment where I was listening to something, and I was like, 'Oh, this is all wrong -- I actually can't do this anymore,'" Sinclair says now.
Rather than grit her teeth, forge ahead and live with a compromised record, Sinclair decided to pull the plug, at considerable financial -- and emotional -- cost.
"About halfway through the album, I faced what I had been trying to deny: despite the money and time and effort I was pouring into it, it was not turning out [to be] what I wanted it to be at all," Sinclair says. "It was really uncomfortable to decide, basically, to throw away a bunch of money and hurt a bunch of feelings, which I didn't want to do."
Instead of giving up, the University of North Texas grad regrouped over the next eight months, and rededicated herself to making her dreams a reality.
The second time turned out to be the charm: Sinclair reached out to someone she barely knew, McKenzie Smith, drummer for Midlake and co-owner of Denton's Redwood Studio, to help her translate what she heard in her head into something real.
The result of that union, Sun & Mirror, is one of the best albums to emerge from North Texas so far this year.
Befitting the 23-year-old Sinclair's tenacious vision, Sun & Mirror exudes a startling ambition.
Given its pedigreed cast of contributors (in addition to producing Mirror, Smith drummed on the record; Buffi Jacobs, Daniel Hart and Joey McClellan also pitched in), a confident polish is evident on lush cuts like lead single Original Sin, the gorgeous album closing Coral Castles or the stunning Better.
"The first time I heard Kaela sing, I knew she possessed an uncanny amount of talent," Smith says. "Being able to work side by side with her on this album, I witnessed firsthand a musician that seems to have everything you could hope for in an artist -- passion, dedication, creativity, amazing songs and the ever elusive 'it' factor.
"Kaela Sinclair is destined for success and I won't be surprised one bit if she is a household name sooner than later."
To that end, Sun & Mirror is a logical benchmark for Sinclair, whose entire life has been steeped in music.
"I've been singing since I could talk, pretty much," she says. "My mom said [as a child] I would sing while I was cleaning my room."
Sinclair went on to attend a magnet arts high school in her native Florida, taking classes in music theory, dabbling in classical music and jazz and even forming a band, where she began writing original songs.
"I've never had a point in my life where I've thought maybe I won't do music," Sinclair says.\
Even after abandoning that first attempt at a full-length album, Sinclair, who teaches at Southlake's Hall Music Productions and performs occasionally around town, simply retrenched, and wrote an entirely new set of songs for what would become Sun & Mirror, laboring deep into the actual recording process.
"The vision I had was something more ... expansive, more cinematic in feel," Sinclair says. "I wanted the songs to feel big, but not melodramatic, with the richness and darkness, but have it be subtle and real. I didn't want it to be over the top."
Backed by an all-star constellation of talent, Sinclair says, despite "a lot of late nights with everyone just sitting there, trying stuff," the second stab at making a full-length record was "straight ahead."
Although Sinclair allows she's still writing new material, including a recent tune she envisions as the single for a second album, she is, for the moment, focused on getting as many ears as possible exposed to Sun & Mirror, which includes undertaking a brief tour outside of Texas next month.
"I'm definitely really excited to put [ Sun & Mirror] out and see what reactions I get," she says.
Whatever comes next for Sinclair, one thing is certain: there will be no half measures.
"I guess I take myself seriously -- probably too seriously," she says. "In musical ways, I've never really felt that being ambitious or trying hard would be a problem."
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones
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