Nashville, TN is a city which goes by many names. It is a place full of hopeful people chasing and living out their dreams. Recently joining the scene in 2014, but already leaving their mark is country/pop duo, Sugar and Steel, comprised of Spencer Askew (guitar/vocals) and Sidnye Lathan Askew (vocals). We got the chance to conduct an exclusive interview with Spencer and Sidnye to find out about where it all began, the challenges of working together as a group when you’re married and much more.
Joe: How did Sugar & Steel begin?
Sidnye: Spencer and I met in college in Virginia at an open mic night. I was currently on a vocal scholarship touring for the school, and I had gotten back into town after winter break. My friend asked me to go to an open mic night with her, and little did I know I would meet my future husband there! Fast forward to 2014 Spencer and I got married. We moved to Nashville the year before to pursue solo careers in music and as we continued that into our first year of marriage, we started wanting to play together more. We had been writing together some, and realized, “what’s the point in doing it separately when we could do music together?” With the guidance of some amazing mentors in the music industry, we became Sugar & Steel. The response has been incredible! We love making music together. It’s a dream come true.
Joe: Where does the name Sugar & Steel come from?
Spencer: I actually came up with the name Sugar and Steel. It was originally a song title I had a couple years ago. As we were discussing names for our duo, it popped into my mind as a unique name. We both thought it fit! My nickname in high school was Superman, and Sidnye’s nickname (that I’ve called her since we started dating) is Sugar. So, it fits!
Joe: What were your backgrounds in music prior to starting Sugar & Steel?
Sidnye; As stated briefly before, we were pursuing careers separately before we became a duo, and even long before we ever met. Spencer grew up in a home filled with music. His dad is a successful minister of music and his mom is a music teacher and piano instructor. I grew up in a family of musicians, as well. My mom was a singer, my grandfather a professional musician, and my great uncle was Scott McKenzie of the Mamas and the Papas. Growing up, Spencer and I were both involved in leading worship in church, writing music (pop, singer-songwriter styles, etc.) and both studied voice, piano and guitar for many years before we met in college. Spencer attended Mississippi College and studied composition and opera for three years before transferring to school in Virginia, where he met me J
Joe: You have discussed how Sugar & Steel brings a unique vocal, instrumental, and songwriting style, but can you elaborate on what you believe sets you apart from other acts out there?
Spencer: Musically, we are both very eclectic. I grew up on a ton of blues, jazz, and even studied opera in college, and Sidnye grew up on pop and several decades of country…along with many other genres as well. This melting pot of influences has given us an approachable, but unique sound that stays true to our diverse backgrounds. In any given set list, we may have a country tune, a swampy blues tune, a soaring pop-country ballad, or a fun jazz groove, but it never strays too far from “our” Sugar & Steel sound. It’s easy to just do what is popular at the time and not try to push the envelope at all, but musically, we want to be known as trend-setters, not just trend-followers. Also, as Sidnye and I have developed our duo, one of our goals has been to show people what love is. Music is such an amazing platform to meet people, impact people, and be impacted by others. There can be such a lack of love in this world, and through our music we want others to see the love we have for each other, and see that there is hope. We are not perfect and do not have the perfect marriage- no one does, but we strive daily to love one another the best we can and put each other first. If even one person can get a glimpse of love and hope that we try to share through our music, that makes us just so excited. You can be in a group, a duo, anything, but if there’s no chemistry or true relationship, what’s the point? We want to be honest and true to who we are, in our lyrics and music, too. We believe this sets us apart and we are so thankful for the people we’ve met and opportunities we’ve had because of it.
Joe: You’ve been quoted as saying, “What has made country music so amazing is its authenticity”, but when it comes to Sugar & Steel’s music, what have been some experiences that have brought the most authenticity?
Sidnye: We have been in Nashville now for about 2.5 years, and a duo for less. Through all these experiences, we just love how genuine so many people here are. It’s a town full of dreamers and doers. We have been so thankful to be surrounded by individuals and mentors who push us and believe in us. It’s a magical place to be. Country music has historically been about hard times, loss, and heartache, but also great times, freedom, and love. There is a song for every situation. As newlyweds, we have experienced wonderful and difficult times. We’ve had wins and losses, joy and sadness, plenty and little…but we know that for every situation that we are going through, millions of others have been through the exact same thing, and more than likely a country song has been written about it.
Joe: Who are some people that have had the biggest impact on your music/content and why?
Spencer: Our parents and families have always been so supportive. They have believed in us since we were young, and now that we are a duo here in Nashville their support has been incredible. We are so thankful. We grew up listening to a lot of different music. I was influenced at a young age by The Eagles, B.B. King, Dave Matthews, Alan Jackson, and so many more. Sidnye grew up on a lot of different music- Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, Martina McBride, 80s, lots of pop, and more. More recent influences for us are Lady Antebellum, Sara Bareilles, Dave Matthews (still!), Carrie Underwood, Eric Church, etc. We just love music!
Joe: What are the most challenging and rewarding things you’ve gone through as Sugar & Steel, especially being that you’re married?
Sidnye: Being married and working together is one of the neatest things we have ever done! It’s so amazing getting to share the stage with each other. When we sing lyrics to each other, we really mean them! It’s just the best thing in the world to do life with your best friend. It can be challenging to separate business and marriage sometimes. We have to set aside date nights and times to just focus on each other and not music. We’re getting the hang of it.
Joe: What are you currently working on for the upcoming year?
Spencer: This year is already an amazingly busy one! We have many co-writes on the books, shows set and lots of new recording to do. So many opportunities have unfolded just in the last seven months that we have been a duo. We are so excited to see what happens in 2016. Stay tuned for new music, new shows and more!
Joe: As we haven’t even scratched the surface yet when it comes to your potential, what are you hoping to achieve and what’s the legacy you’d like to leave behind once your career is over?
Sidnye: Our career is just beginning. We have been so blessed to do what we do in the short time we’ve been together. We hope that we can continue to cultivate relationships with many fans and friends in music, and keep writing songs that people can relate to. We hope people can see the love we have for one another, and be able to find that love in their own lives.