Scary Pockets are an LA funk band that posts cover-song videos on YouTube weekly. The band is based on the core of Ryan Lerman and Jack Conte who are joined by a revolving roster of fine musicians, which has included John Scofield and Joe Bonamassa. Their most popular video – an Etta James Lauryn Hill mash up – has 20.7M YouTube views!
Scary Pockets has previously featured on The Music Man, so in this article, we’re going to feature Maiya Sykes, the sultry-voiced guest singer and star of the Scary Pockets’ mash-up of Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind and Lauryn Hill’s Doo Wop. Interestingly, the song below is Scary Pockets’ most popular song. It was one of a number of collaborations with Sykes, and it was a one-take-wonder.
Explaining the recording of the Etta James/Lauren Hill track, Scary Pockets has written: “We had a few minutes left over. We played the ‘what does everyone know’ game and came up with this! This is the first and only take.” Maiya Sykes grasp of Etta James I’d Rather Go Blind, first released in 1967, might be explained by the private training she had with Nina Simone and Betty Carter. On Yer Bike says “This mash up is SO sweet and funky. Man the woman can sing! I’m sharing this with everyone!”
Maiya Sykes studied at Yale where she completed a triple major (political science, African American studies & music composition). After Yale she carried on her music studies at The Musicians’ Institute. She worked as a backing singer for acts including The Black Eyed Peas, Joss Stone, Michael Buble and Rita Ora. She was Macy Gray’s featured backing singer for 5 years. Sykes’ latest collaboration with Scary Pockets, a funk cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze, was posted on 2 January 2023. Enjoy:
After her stint with Macy Gray, Maiya Sykes entered The Voice USA 2017. In the blind audition, where she sang Sam Smith’s Stay with Me, she had 4 chair turns within 14 seconds. Judge Pharrell Williams said, “Do I get a bit of Aretha? Yes. Do I get a bit of Gladys Knight? Yes. But I am so interested in who you are personally.” Sykes was eliminated in the battle round, but her appearance lead to her working with Post-Modern Jukebox, with whom she performed for 5 years.
Maiya Sykes has music in her blood. Her mother sang with Earth Wind & Fire, Neil Diamond and Meat Loaf. Her father is a saxophonist and a singer. In an interview with Voyage LA, published on 8 March 2023, Sykes tells the story of how her parents met while touring, “specifically an Earth Wind and Fire/Commodores concert. My uncle, the late Bill Whitten, designed costumes for both groups and introduced my parents.” Sykes was raised by her single mother in LA, but spent vacations in Birmingham, Alabama, with her father.
Maiya Sykes was a backing singer in the Oscar award-winning film La La Land. In 2009, under the pseudonym Oceana, Sykes and DJ Manny Lehman released the dance single Body Rock, which made the top spot on the Billboard Dance Charts. Sykes was lead singer of The Endangered big band tribute to Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley released in 2018.
Since the Pandemic she has been writing for a show called Sacrifice (scripting a character and songwriting). Maiya Sykes is in the development stage of a YouTube channel called Ask A Black Girl. If you would like to see more from Maiya Sykes, you can follow her on Instagram. You can also visit their official website for more information.