Boca resident Lizzie Sider, who just turned 16, is making a name for herself in country music circles thanks, in large part, to “Butterfly,” an inspirational track based on her childhood struggles with bullying. The song and accompanying video, which has snagged more than 1 million YouTube views, not only led to an appearance on Queen Latifah’s show, it prompted a recent bully-prevention tour that took Sider to 250-plus elementary and middle schools in California, Florida and Texas.
Here’s more from our July/August interview (part of our “Best of Boca feature) with Sider:
Boca isn’t exactly a hotbed of country music. What were the influences that led you to gravitate to that genre of music?
Every summer since I was 2 months old, my parents and I have gone to Jackson Hole, Wyo. Country music just got into my soul in Jackson Hole. … Also, I remember my parents playing older country artists on our stereo, like Patsy Cline. So I’ve grown up around it. … but it’s not just country. I listened to jazz, classical … My mom’s favorite band was The Monkees; and that turned out to be one of my favorites too.
Were you persistent about pursuing a professional career, despite your age?
The first time I sang the national anthem was in front of about 2,000 or 3,000 people at a Jackson Hole rodeo. I was 8. I remember saying to my dad, ‘This is great, but I can play a bigger venue.’ … A year later, I sang the anthem at a Boston Red Sox game in front of 36,000 people.
I’ve always had this dream to be a legendary artist, the kind of artist who inspires people. … But I think that I pushed my parents to push me. When I started talking about trying to do this on a bigger scale, we decided to go for it as a group. …It’s been an amazing journey; it keeps [getting more] exciting as it goes along.
Can you describe the experience and journey that led to “Butterfly?”
I was teased by the other kids in during my elementary school years. There was a lot of exclusion and ridicule. I’ll never know why. Maybe because I was different, because I was musical. On the playground, I’d walk around and sing to myself. … One day, some kids came up to me and asked me to sing a song for them. I thought, “Hey, they’re actually being nice to me; they want to hear me.” When I started to sing, they all laughed at me and ran away and called me names. It was hard ...
I’ve always been able to talk to my parents about anything. I remember my dad saying, “Remember: No one has the power to ruin your day.” It didn’t stick right away, but I finally realized that my parents were right; I had the power to overcome the teasing and the bullying. Without going through that, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be able to do what I am now, which is the anti-bullying tour, and sharing this story and helping others.
Are there moments with students that have stood out during the tour?
There were 800 kids at this one assembly at an elementary school in California. After the assembly, this girl came up to me and offered to give me her beautiful rhinestone bracelet. I didn’t want to accept it at first, but she [insisted]. I spoke to the principal afterward, because she had spoken to the girl. This student had been abandoned as a child. She jumped from foster home to foster home; it had been a struggle for her to find herself. That bracelet was something a foster parent had given her, and it was special to her. But she told the principal, “I want to give Lizzie this bracelet because she taught me to be myself again.” … I can’t even put into words what it means to be able to touch someone like that.
It’s pretty heady stuff to develop such a deep connection with your young fans.
I love that. I’m getting to go out and hug them and talk to them. That experience is so important to me. To meet the students and administrators and parents, it’s gone above and beyond anything that I ever thought would come out of the tour. It’s been the most humbling, the most amazing experience of my life.