Sarah is like a honey badger. She is fearless, no-nonsense and doesn’t give a….well, you know. She is unapologetic. I find her fierce confidence startling and even unsettling at times. Why do I have this gut reaction? I think it comes from a lifetime of learning influenced by many constricting pressures: societal expectations, outdated gender roles, uncomfortable family dynamics, stoic traditions and exploitative media, just to name a few. I've learned to be coy, passive and apologetic, and I often use humor or deflection instead of holding myself accountable for my uniqueness, power and awesomeness. Sarah inspires me to be better than that. She inspires me to be more bold, mindful and confident in myself. Listen to her music here. Check out her work space below and interview that follows:
You have a strong philosophy, which I feel is incredibly empowering, behind your music making and everything that goes with it (performing, recording, getting out the albums, touring, etc.) What are some of the ideas and inspirations behind your approach to music?
As far back as I can remember (and even before I can remember, according to stories told by my family), I have had a deeply-engrained desire to do things my own way, by my own means, creating my own systems, and without asking for help. I’m not necessarily saying this is a good thing, haha. I’ve always had issues with authority figures and rules, and have had trouble working in groups or in situations where I’m being micro-managed or expected to do things someone else’s way. I’ve often been called “stubborn” and “independent” – but honestly, sometimes I think I just have crossed wires in my brain that make it impossible for me to understand how something works unless I figure out how to do it completely by myself.
It’s not surprising to me that I had such a strong reaction to the DIY/punk philosophy when I first discovered it at age 19. This was an entire movement dedicated to thinking and acting outside the box, being an individual, and forging your own path – in music, art, politics, community, fashion, work ethic, etc. You didn’t have to do it the way it had always been done, and you didn’t have to wait for anyone to make it happen for you, either. You could just do it yourself. This was revolutionary to me.
The moral philosophy behind the DIY/punk movement is still at the core of my approach to music, but I have since gone on to study and apply many different philosophies to my music and my life. For me, the way that I approach creating music and my reasons for sharing it with the world must be rooted in my personal philosophy – so it is important that I am always in touch with what my personal philosophy is. I must always be questioning, seeking, doubting, trying, failing, and growing. My creative expression represents who I am and what I believe to be true, but these things are ever-changing. As I get older and more in touch with my true self, my opinions soften and expand. I’m learning to ask for help these days; I’m not so hard on myself; and I care less about what other people think and more about how I feel. My answer to the question: “Why am I doing this?” changes on a near-daily basis. Ultimately, it’s all about discovering my true self, and finding joy and meaning in my life.
What are some of the ideas and inspirations behind your music?
I mostly write about my own life experiences, especially relationships of all kinds (not just romantic), and my thoughts about the world – but I try to make the lyrics poetic and abstract enough that anyone can relate to them. Musically, I have always been drawn to simple melodies stacked on top of each other, and straight-forward, driving beats. I’ve been told that my music is cinematic and “soundtracky,” and I agree. I often “see” the songs in my head as scenes, lighting, or visuals that convey the emotion I’m trying to get to with the melodies. I started writing songs when I was 12 years old, and even then, it was always about getting out my emotions and thoughts about whatever I was going through at the time. I really love the writing part of it, too. I’ve always fantasized about being a writer – especially poetry. Writing lyrics is very therapeutic for me.
You moved to Nashville not too long ago…about two years? Share a little bit about your life journey and what brought you to where you are now.
Oh boy, that’s tough. I could easily talk about that journey for hours. It fascinates me that we are each on such unique, incredible journeys on this planet.
The story of my physical journey to Nashville is the easiest to tell: I was born in Florida, grew up in Wisconsin, moved to Oregon at 19, back to Wisconsin at 20, to California at 23, into a storage space and onto the road at 29, to Seattle at 30, to Florida at 31, and to Nashville at 32.
The story of my emotional, mental, and spiritual journey is a bit more complicated: I was born to two Baby Boomers in their late 20s, who both played music and dabbled in the arts, while struggling to find jobs that made them happy. They were both brilliant, creative, sensitive people who did really interesting things in their lives -- lived in different cities, traveled, studied philosophy and religion, and even achieved some impressive things with their artistic endeavors. Neither of them ended up having a career, in music or otherwise, but they both inspired me to seek my own path. My parents divorced when I was five. My mother remarried soon-after and moved me and my brother to Wisconsin to start a new life. My step-father was more traditional, born at the tail end of the Silent Generation. He was an English literature professor and provided a lot of stability for our family. My biological father struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction his whole life, until the disease killed him in 2008. I never really formed a relationship with my father, and I haven't had a relationship with my mother for nearly five years. It has not been an easy journey. But I am who I am because of it. I live in the same city as my brother, who is a talented musician; I have an amazing step-sister in Richmond, a younger half-brother who is finishing college, and incredible relatives and friends who are family to me.
I struggled my whole life with low self-esteem, intimacy issues, and a dependence on sources outside of myself for comfort, love, my sense of self-worth, and fulfillment. My inability to truly connect with people, to make healthy life decisions, or even to know myself got me lost in the world, trying to find my value and sense of worth in people, places, and things. This desperate search for external validation and fulfillment drove me to hit my “rock bottom,” which lasted nearly all of 2012 and was the catalyst for my seeking professional help at the end of that painful year. I had gone to therapy off and on for years, but this time I had broken through some denial about my patterns and my family history that helped me see things with new eyes. I found a therapist who changed my life. She helped me get onto a path of healing and recovery – and now, two years later, I can say with certainty that I am a completely different person. My life has changed in so many ways. I have serenity.
Share about a time when you had to take a leap of faith and just jump over the cliff. (You may have already shared about this in the previous question)
I’ve experienced that leap of faith many times in my life! It used to be more impulsive, and I jumped a lot of times without looking or even thinking – my faith was in my own ability to grow wings or sprout roots before I hit the ground. The only problem was that I put a whole lot of pressure on myself, and I never asked for help. I didn’t trust anyone and I often felt very alone – I wasn’t asking anyone to jump with me. Those leaps worked for me for a while, and I did get good at growing wings or sprouting roots in order to survive, but it was scary as hell and even more exhausting. Nowadays, the leaps I take are carefully planned. Am I protecting myself? Am I meeting my own needs? Could I be more patient and wait for a better time to leap? Could I ask for help? Could I reach the same goals by building a bridge instead of jumping? If jumping is the only way, am I willing to admit that I don’t really have control over how it will all turn out? Am I okay with that?
What is your favorite space/environment like?
Currently the only space I have to myself is my bedroom (I live with two roommates), although I’m about to sign a lease on a new studio / rehearsal space, which I’m really excited about.
I’m quite the “nester” – setting up a new space and finding a place for all of my stuff is my first priority. I do this everywhere: in hotel rooms, on tour in cars and vans, in my bunks when I toured in buses, in a rental car for a road trip, even on people’s couches when I would crash at their house for the night on tour. I immediately have to get settled and arrange my stuff so that I know where it is and feel like the space is “mine” – no matter how much space I have or how long I’ll be in it. I also like to make the most of the space I have, so in my bedroom there is not a corner, nook, or wall space that is not being used to its full potential. I can fit a lot of stuff into a small space without making it feel messy. It’s my own version of Feng Shui. Beyond the flow and organization, my live/work spaces need to be pleasing to all the senses, starting with lighting. Lighting is so important! Natural lighting, low-wattage light bulbs, candles, or string lights are my favorite. Then color: I tend to have a lot of color in my blankets, rugs, wall art, and furniture. Then nature: I prefer natural wood furniture and flooring, and I like to have pieces of the outside world in the space. Right now in my bedroom I have four green plants on my windowsill, some pine cones, a giant stick I found once on a walk with my dog, seashells, crystals, stones, and some dried flowers. Then smell: Nag Champa is my favorite kind of incense, and I’m way into beeswax candles these days, preferably scented with essential oils. Fabrics need to be colorful and comfortable. Soft seat cushions, rugs, and bedding, and fluffy pillows that you can sink into. Must have lots of natural light! Preferably windows with trees right outside.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
I’m such a book hoarder. I have probably five unfinished books that I am slowly making my way through, and a bookshelf full of books that I will randomly grab and flip through for inspiration. I’m mostly into philosophy, psychology, and poetry. I also have some daily readers that I use as part of my meditation practice in the morning. The collection of Vincent van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo is one of my favorite books of all time, and I am always re-reading it. Also within arm’s length and full of earmarks are: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing by Soren Kierkegaard, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden, Velocities by Stephen Dobyns, and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
Your go to musical selection?
Jazz -- especially Chet Baker, Louis Armstrong, and Stan Getz.
Crooners – especially Bing Crosby, especially around the holidays.
And, of course, Radiohead.
You ooze coolness like Mick Jagger. Any beauty or style secrets?
Ha! That’s funny. I don’t think I’m cool at all. Most of the time I feel awkward and dorky – but I love that about myself, these days. I only get brave enough to try a couple new fashion-y things per year, and then I just do that same thing for the next five years. So my style doesn’t really change very much, and I tend to wear the same ten or so outfits on rotation. Very utilitarian. And, as I get older, my inner hippie gets more and more prominent in the way that I present myself to the world – i.e., less make-up, more patchouli. I’m also noticing that as I learn to love and accept myself and get to know myself – what I like and don’t like – it gets easier to try new things. I’ve gotten more compliments on my fashion sense in the past couple of years than ever before, which is funny because I used to try so much harder than I do now.
Do you have any mottos or mantras?
So many! Most of which have been borrowed or stolen. To name a few:
“Keep it simple.”
“Assume the best.”
“One day at a time.”
The Serenity Prayer is also a favorite of mine.
Mermaid or Forest Fairy?
Forest fairy – fewer sharks!
Spoons and bowls or forks and plates?
Great question. Can I choose forks and bowls?