After a decade in the post-grunge trenches with the band Barcelona and a solo viral streaming hit for his track, “Where’s My Love,” courtesy of the MTV show “Teen Wolf,” Brian Fennell created SYML. Brian focuses on the things that matter and that’s how he writes and records under his alias, SYML.
Simplicity is what moves SYML — pronounced “sihmul,” it means “simple” in Welsh.
A child of a closed adoption, Brian discovered his Welsh roots as an adult shortly before naming the project. Recorded in his basement studio, 20 miles outside of grunge music mecca Seattle, Washington, with his children in their playroom next door, his forthcoming debut album was mostly self-produced. Read his story below.
Q&A with musician SYML
This interview has been gently edited for length and clarity.
GoDaddy: Tell us about your business. What do you do?
SYML: I am a musician. I studied music education in college but never ended up using my degree. I started writing and producing songs in college and have used these skills to create music for film and TV, release albums, tour the world, and work with a handful of some amazing artists.
GoDaddy: How did your current project start?
SYML: SYML was born on a rainy day here in Seattle. I wrote the first song for the project, “Where’s My Love,” which went on to be featured in MTV’s “Teen Wolf.”
That was the initial spark that created momentum behind SYML and gave me a good reason to create more songs under my new moniker.
GoDaddy: Tell us about your early days and how you got started in the industry.
SYML: I had worked in a studio for years as an assistant, which taught me the basics of recording. Luckily, I was able to gain enough knowledge to be able to record my own music at almost no cost since I could use the studio after hours.
In college, I started my first band which toured the U.S. extensively for eight years. I learned a lot about the music industry during these years. Mostly what NOT to do.
GoDaddy: What external pressures do you face?
SYML: I have two young kids and an amazing wife. I remember being younger and thinking that having a family would be the end of pursuing a career in music, at least the artist side of things.
I surprised myself when our first kid was born because having a growing family has been the most positive external pressure imaginable.
Not only is it a source of inspiration, but it’s a constant reminder to keep my business flexible, lean and also fun.
GoDaddy: How do your kids inspire your music?
SYML: They show me a more accurate version of who I am.
They are these beautiful and curious creatures who feel everything at volume 11.
They remind me to be more like them.
GoDaddy: What resources have helped you on your musical journey?
SYML: Having creative friends and access to a creative space have been the biggest assets in building my career.
Like many industries, music is an uphill battle when it comes to making a living.
I feel insanely lucky to have had mentors and peers continuously show up when I need them most. Physical assets and tools can be important to the process, but the people around you matter more.
GoDaddy: What challenges have you overcome so far?
SYML: Since my business and creative life are so closely tied to me personally, it can be a challenge to keep one from negatively affecting the other. My daughter underwent an intense surgical procedure last year and, thankfully, endured it like a warrior. During that time, I wrote a song called “Girl” inspired by her young journey.
The challenge was to turn this difficult time into one that made us stronger and grow across the board.
Also, it’s hard on my family when I’m gone on tour, so we are always trying to adjust our lives to be together more.
GoDaddy: What kind of adjustments do you and your family make? What recommendations do you have for busy parents?
SYML: It’s not news that we live in an insanely busy time. As trite as it sounds, my wife and I are trying to put down our phones when we are home, especially around the kids. Being present is easier said than done, but that’s the goal since everything is moving so fast. I don’t want to miss anything because I am just moving on to the next thing while also checking Instagram.
GoDaddy: What are you focusing on these days?
SYML: Things are good! My debut album came out May 3rd. It’s always a strange feeling before music is released because for me, the album has been done for awhile, and now I finally get to share it.
The rest of the year is filled with shows and festivals around North America and Europe, which is both daunting and exciting.
GoDaddy: What's your day-to-day routine like? How do you work?
SYML: My day-to-day varies depending on if I’m on the road or at home. So much of my day and business exists online. I’m lucky enough to have a studio at home, which is convenient with a young family.
If I’m off the road, I’m in the studio.
GoDaddy: What tools do you use to grow and run your business?
SYML: My team uses a wide range of tools, like email marketing, to reach my fanbase around the world every day.
Having the tools to target and message fans effectively is valuable.
I consider my business to be very data driven, which is a funny thing to say as an artist. In the end, I have more time to create music because the backend is so efficient and lean.
GoDaddy: Where do you see your music career in five years?
SYML: I’m not sure exactly where this current journey will take me, but I hope that it can continue in a way where I will always know when enough is enough.
Being driven is a good thing, but having people around you who reflect honesty, kindness and respect is more important.
That’s the only way you’ll know when it’s enough. I’m happy with my business and I hope that the next five years bring more adventure and joy than I’m expecting!
GoDaddy: Any advice or recommendations for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
SYML: The biggest hurdle, no matter who you are or what you’re attempting, is the beginning. You need to start. Don’t wait for anyone or anything to hold your hand. Project and dream all you want, but none of that matters unless you move an inch.
Don’t be afraid to suck either, because you probably will at first.
The only hope your dream has of standing on its own is the work you put it on setting that foundation. Even when you have some success, it’s never guaranteed, and you should never be above checking on the state of the foundation you’ve built.
A huge thanks to SYML for sharing his story. Be sure to check out his new album!