ST. PETERSBURG — The moment the door opened to the Sea Hags Bar and Grill on St. Pete Beach Tuesday night, I heard a soulful voice singing Motown. Was the voice coming from a song played by the deejay, or was it from 17-year-old Sierra Davis that I came to interview?
I walked into the room just to the left after the entrance and saw Sierra leading the group “Act 3” as she sang and danced from center stage with support from the backup singers/ dancers. The regulars gathered on the dance floor and danced to well-known songs by the “Four Tops,” “Diana Ross and the Supremes,” “Smokey Robinson and the Miracles” performed by Sierra and “Act 3.” Occasionally someone yelled, Sierra! Woo, go girl.”
During intermission, Sierra and her mother, Edyth Adams, sat outside with me and shared her musical journey from falling in love with singing at age five during road trips to Miami with her family, to performing three times at the Apollo Theater in New York City.
A senior in Gibbs High School’s Pinellas County Center for the Arts program, she has trained in classical voice and jazz. She gives credit to the jazz training crossover that has helped develop her R&B sound.
During the summer she submitted an online audition to perform at the Apollo, and her wish came true when she was notified that she’d been selected to perform in August. She sang “Home” from “The Wiz,” and was advanced to round two where she performed “I am Changing” in October from the hit Broadway musical “Dreamgirls.”
Harlem couldn’t get enough of Sierra; she advanced on to round three last month where she once again performed “I Am Changing.”
She admits her confidence was tested during one performance onstage at the Apollo. Known for being one of the toughest crowds to please, James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, once threw his tie out in the audience and to his surprise the tie was thrown back on stage at him. So when people started to boo Sierra, she gathered strength, walked up to them and sung in their face. Their boos turned into cheers.
“The experience is nerve racking but you get a whole boost of confidence like, ‘I’m at the Apollo,’ so you can’t be afraid,” she said. “When you go out there you have to give your best because if you don’t give your best you have to go home.”
Sierra placed second during the first and second rounds but didn’t place during the third round. Looking back, she realizes the difference between her second and third performance of “I Am Changing.” She feels that she didn’t put as much genuine feeling into it in round three.
Learning from her Apollo experience and progressing in her music and as a person, Sierra has a new single out entitled “Better,” which is based on a personal experience of hurt and betrayal.
“I had a person in my life and they called themselves a friend, and they turned their back on me and I went through a tough time coping without them being in my life,” she said in regards to what motivated the song. “Then after a while I started to feel better, so that’s where the inspiration for “Better” comes from. Even though people come and go, you’re always progressing.”
Sierra plans to double major in music and business at University of South Florida so that she can continue to advance as an artist but also learn the business side of music and money management.
As Sierra made her way back to the stage to continue her set, she glided on air with the sophistication and elegance of Tammi Terrell. It was at that time I realized that I had just interviewed the next big thing.
There are several ways to support Sierra through social media and upcoming performances. Log onto her official website www.sierraamora.com to hear her new single, see her performances at the Apollo and for upcoming dates in the Tampa Bay area.