Sadie Jean on her debut single “WYD Now” and her music ambitions

Hailing from Orange County, California, Sadie Jean talks TikTok fame and launching a musical career in New York City.

Sydney Barragan, UTA Managing Editor

“WYD Now” has gained traction on TikTok, where thousands of users have expressed their anticipation for the song’s release. (Photo by Sofia Ziman)

Sadie Jean and I attended high school just 21 miles from each other, but it took going to a college 2,792 miles away from home for us to finally meet.

Orange County, California is a bubble of suburbia wedged between Los Angeles at its northern border and San Diego at its south. It even has its own reality TV show — “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” Within the bubble is a city called Tustin, the hometown of Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music sophomore Sadie Jean. 

Jean’s first single, “WYD now?” was finally released at midnight on Dec. 10. This single represents the culmination of a life-long passion for music and big dreams that Jean fostered as a child. 

With a population of nearly 3.2 million people, the runoff congestion of L.A. traffic and the inability to walk everywhere, O.C. is full of residents who spend a lot of time in their cars. For a young Sadie, this was an opportunity to create.

“I would do this thing — Sadie’s radio — and I would just make up songs in the car when I was like three,” Jean said. “I would make my sister write them down for me because I couldn’t write yet.”

These made-up songs reflected the struggles of being a young child — friend drama and that first heartbreak in fourth grade. They were Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” for the kindergarten listener. 

Jean began taking piano lessons in first grade and continued on for six years. She learned to play guitar along the way and even joined her high school’s choir.

Clive Davis students Grace Enger and David Alexander Levya cowrote “WYD Now” with Jean during a trip upstate. (Image courtesy of Sadie Jean)

But besides the choir concerts and singing lessons, she kept her musical side a secret from her peers. Jean’s singer-songwriter aspirations were kept private as she went through high school, so much so that Jean felt she was living a double life. 

“I just thought people would not take me seriously if I was like, ‘I want to be like a pop star,’” Jean said. “Where I’m from … it’s very close-minded.”

For a while, Jean considered a degree in business or even in opera singing in order to pursue music in what her hometown would consider a more traditional manner. But Jean’s ambition to create music her way won out. She began school at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute, the catalyst for her budding career. 

“It’s just been really cool to be friends with people that also have the same big dreams,” Jean said. “I feel like in Orange County, dreaming big is not allowed.”

In October, she took a trip upstate with these ambitious friends, fellow Clive Davis students Grace Enger and David Alexander Levya. During this time she wrote “WYD Now,” a heartfelt song about wanting to reconnect with an ex: 

“We said that by now we’d / Paint the walls of our shared apartment / Still everything I’ve want and / I think we could work it out / So what’re you doin’ now?”

The day after the trip, Jean posted a snippet of the new song on her TikTok account where she garnered over 240,000 likes and 1.1 million views. Her later videos received similar attention. The sound now has 14.9k videos under it, with listeners sharing the tales of their own heartbreaks.

Jean and her band performed “WYD Now?” live at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village. (Photo by Grace Enger)

A few weeks later on Nov. 10, Jean performed at the Bitter End, where she sang eight original songs, including “WYD Now.” Here, you can see one of Jean’s fans getting ready to attend the concert using the TikTok audio of her song. 

“I just felt like I was in my element for the first time,” Jean said. “I was just thinking, ‘wow, this is really happening.’”

Tomorrow, on the one-month anniversary of her first solo performance, her first song will be available on all streaming platforms. 

Looking back, Jean can’t imagine having taken a different path. 

“I was so stressed out about following my dreams,” Jean said. “I should have been more stressed out about not following my dreams.”

Contact Sydney Barragan at [email protected].