Sarah Blacker, an acclaimed singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose third musical offering, In Waves came out May 19, is a Berklee College of Music graduate, a qualified Music Therapist, and Boston local.
In Waves is a departure from Sarah’s previous projects, both sonically and lyrically. The album is a mix of influences from Americana to soulful pop, and the lyrics are incredibly honest and personal. In her own words about the album, she said, “I feel a stronger sense of self, and freedom in songwriting. I am unafraid to come right out and say things I’ve always wanted to. I think musicians ought to take risks and leaps and prove to themselves that it’s possible to fulfill their dreams as an artist and as a person through songwriting and exploring themselves in all avenues artistically.”
As part of her album release Sarah took time out to talk to I AM THAT GIRL about her new album, the recording process, and why “songs save lives.”
What are your inspirations both musically and non-musically?
I am inspired by human emotion, human condition and process, and largely by nature and the intangible. There is so much magic that can’t be captured without interpretation and perspective – so I feel that it’s my responsibility as an artist to capture the best version of what I see, fee, hear, taste, smell and experience, and then put into a song so that people can be a part of that magic.
Which artist has had the biggest impact on your playing and/or songwriting?
Right now, I would say it’s Ryan Adams. He is just so damn stunning in his lyrics, melodies, honesty, and versatility. I just recently delved deeply into his catalog, and I can’t get enough.
You have said that, “songs saves lives.” What song has saved your life and why?
For me, it’s really been writing songs. The ability to write in order to gain perspective is the biggest gift and blessing I know. I also work a few hours a week as a Music Therapist when I’m not on tour. Music is the most powerful entity that I know and helps us to remember that we aren’t alone.
What’s your favorite song on your new album In Waves?
It definitely varies from week to week. I think right now it’s a toss up between “Hotel Hall’s” and “These Here Wheels.” It’s been a very cool experience to let these songs come to life in live settings, and to watch them evolve and breathe into their own natural rhythm. I love getting to live in them.
Could you talk me through the recording process of the album? Was it recorded live or was the instrumentation built around the vocals?
We recorded most of the songs piece by piece, with vocals as the focus. I demoed all of the songs live to a click track on acoustic guitar, ukulele and piano, and then we added drums, bass, a guitarmy, keyboards, percussion, strings, and guest backing vocals to one song. I wanted to sing once the lusciousness of the songs was present so that my vocals could react to it all. Singing harmonies is also my favorite, so stacking them up was one of the best parts. The one song we did live was “It Shows” with ukulele and vocals at the same time, and “Ease the Burn” has the piano from the demo.
Was the writing for this album different than your previous projects?
I think it was more fearless. I really said the things I wanted to say, and let all of the emotions I was feeling go free to be in the songs. I was writing more rock-n-roll songs naturally, so I just went with it. With this album, I had about 20 songs to pick from, and the first album, about 200. So in a way I already knew which songs I wanted to present, but of course some got cut.
Is there a story or theme behind the album? Did a specific event precipitate the album or was it more of an unconscious thing where you as your were recording a theme revealed itself?
The album is really about living. It’s about loving and how emotions come in waves, and you have to allow yourself to feel them all in order to move forward in life and grow as a person. You can’t skip over any emotions, because they only get bigger and louder. You have to feel them all, and let them flow. My heart was deeply broken when we were done recording the album, so the mix reflects that.
Your sound has definitely changed for this album. There’s Americana, folk, pop/rock, soul and ‘70s singer-songwriter influences all over the album. Was this was a conscious decision, or rather that the songs called for a different sound?
I don’t think I’ve ever tried to conform to a “sound,” just let the songs be, as they are. The keepers usually write themselves in 10-40 minutes, and they show up stylistically as they are meant to be. I got to play electric on this album for most of the songs, because that’s what fit best with the vibe of each.
“Ease the Burn” is my favorite song off the album. Can I ask what the story or inspiration was behind the song?
This song was written after I was in a total car-wreck a little over a year ago. I took some time off the road, and was quite traumatized initially. The experience gave me great perspective on what’s important in this life, and to slow my pace a bit when I can. I went through a period of trauma, anxiety and stress, re-living the accident each time I re-told the story, or got in my car, so this song was about letting go, and doing my best to live through the fear and let it subside.
What do you hope listeners will take away from the album?
Hopefully they will feel its honesty, authenticity and soul. One of my main goals in this life is to inspire people to feel empowered, happy, and self-confident. Our voices matter, our stories matter, and our impact on the world can be whatever we want it to be. I hope people learn to love themselves, warts and all, and to know that it’s ok to feel all of the things.
What’s on your bucket list?
I would love to play Red Rocks. I would love to adopt a child someday. I want to write a book. I would like to meet Tom Petty, Ryan Adams, and Joni Mitchell. I want to fall in love and live in it, and feel all of the feelings. I also want to go to Hawaii. I’m about to drive cross-country so many of the places I want to see in the USA will be crossed off that list shortly. I also really want to inspire as many people as possible to seek happiness, and to go on adventures. We can decide our own realities even in the most trying of times.
Download Sarah’s new song “Break Out” HERE!