Zac Brown Band influenced my music career before the idea of having a music career was even born.
The song “Free”, off of his very first album, solidified in my mind that traveling was going to be the only way I’d ever really begin to understand myself and the world around me. It was the influence of his music that nudged me to quit that corporate job, buy that one way ticket, and later, make my way to the islands, where it all really began for me. Once I’d taken the leap, it was his music that comforted me in the middle of the night when I was freezing in a tent high up in the Andes mountains. His music that kept me company on every bus, plane and taxi ride throughout South America. And it was his songs I shared with a diverse range of travelers on stages around Peru and Colombia that made me proud to call this country my home. Zac Brown has felt like a best friend to me for a long time, and I’d never even met him.
That changed this week.
By a stroke a fate from the heavens, I won an Eat and Greet ticket, which is the opportunity to meet ZBB over a gourmet dinner served by his personal chef. Sure, I’d have to fly to New Mexico to do it, but there was never a question I wouldn’t spend every last penny I had to meet the man who’s inspired so much of my life.
And so, on October 6th, 2015, I set out for Albuquerque, New Mexico, unsure of what exactly lay ahead, and excited as FUCK.
When I arrived at the Isleta Amphitheater in my bright orange tiger onesie, the anticipation increased 100-fold. I was lucky enough to meet a couple super fans, who gave me the inside scoop on the event and acted as my guides throughout the evening. They had been to 38 ZBB concerts. I was jealous AF.
We were led to a tent with long tables, all facing a buffet line with 8-9 different pans of food. Moments later, the band emerged, and Zac introduced us to his chef, Rusty, who’d prepared the meal. We’d get the chance to talk to each band member as we passed through the buffet line.
When I got to Zac, who had acknowledged me earlier because of my crazy outfit, I thanked him for his musical influence, and handed him my cd and and personalized thank you note as a token of my gratitude for everything he’d unknowingly done for me. He was so gracious and real, as were the rest of his band mates, and I was thoroughly impressed with their attitudes and demeanors. They were all so down to earth, welcoming and friendly, qualities that many stars lose. It was a true inspiration, and reminded me of the importance of humility in this industry.
After the Eat and Greet, I took my seat in the 5th row back from the pit (thanks to the fan club director, the amazingly lovely unicorn TBird), and enjoyed ZBB for the second time this summer. Once again, I was hit with a mixture tears and awe for the majority of the show, I was in a completely different plane of existence in that moment. One where the beauty, passion and healing of music envelops your soul and reminds you that love is all there is.
After the concert, I waited around till everyone had left to get a final photo with a few of the band members (and hand out download cards of course!), then headed home to contemplate the monumental event that had just occurred. Sharing space with Zac Brown Band is one of the most inspirational and motivational things that has happened to me this year, and I know that one day I WILL be sharing his stage!
Tiger times with Danny de los Reyes, Coy Bowles and John Driskell Hopkins of the Zac Brown Band
Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending the ArtistMAX Conference in Los Angeles, an artist development conference put on by none other than Ken and Colbie Caillat. As Colbie is one of my influences, this seemed like an amazing opportunity, and it did not disappoint!
Upon arrival on Friday, we got to mingle with the other attendees, listened to a keynote by Grammy Awards Executive Director, Kelley Purcell, and got one on one sessions with producer Ken Caillat and other coaches from his label, Sleeping Giant Music. I got great advice and hit it off with a few new friends right off the bat, setting the tone for an incredibly memorable evening.
Saturday was jam packed. The morning kicked off with a songwriting panel with Colbie Caillat, Justin Young, and GooGoo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik, followed by an intimate performance by Colbie and Justin, and a group photo of course! Later, we got to hear from Beyonce’s performance coach and Colbie’s makeup artist on creating your image, and saw a makeup application demonstration. Later, we got to test out some cool equipment and participate in a songwriting workshop with producer Eric Berdon.
Sunday was my favorite day. We attended panels on social media presence and the music business that were so helpful and informative. We also got group coaching with Aisha Francis, Beyonce’s performance coach, and small group coaching with Adriana McPhee, both of which were highlights of my weekend. The day ended with a series of performances by the attendees and performance critiques from Aisha, Adriana, and vocal coaches Michelle Gruska and Peisha McPhee. I did an exhilarating performance of “Young Love”, followed by wonderful reviews from all four judges.
Performing Young Love on the ArtistMAX stage
To cap the weekend off, the Sleeping Giant crew handed out awards for songwriting, and I was awarded 2nd Place for “Young Love.” I was overjoyed, and so excited for there other girls who won as well, although I personally thought everyone in that room deserved an award. The talent of every single one of the women in attendance was incredible.
Myself and the other winners of the Songwriting Award, Niccole Fentress and Kelley Kyme!
For more information about ArtistMAX, please visit their website: http://www.artistmax.org/welcome/
Last Friday, Colin and I were invited to be a part of KPSU’s “Live Fridays” segment, where they feature in-studio performances by local artists followed by an interview. The lovely DJ Rachelle Schmidt hosted, and our new friends at PSU TV filmed a YouTube livecast during the set.
We had an absolute blast.
Whenever Colin and I get in a room together, we find a way to make it fun. I’ve been told I could have fun in a paper bag. But get me in front of a camera, and I’m completely in my element.
Our performance went off without a hitch. We kicked it off with “Young Love”, followed by “Wild Heart, Gypsy Soul”, “A Date With Jack” and “Trouble”, which we dedicated to my studio drummer, Mathieu Lewis-Rolland, for his birthday. Because we had extra time, and we kill whenever we play it, we ended the set with an emotionally-charged “Just For Tonight”, finishing the performance on a high note…literally.
Then came the interview. As a former aspiring broadcast journalist, this stuff used to be my bread and butter, and it didn’t change being on the receiving end. But more than anything, it was a chance to expand on the story that my music tells; a chance to explain where I came from and where I’m going. I got to give listeners a taste of the vision I have for my songwriting and my music career.
We wrapped it up an hour later and got to hang with Rachelle and the rest of the crew. They were all so welcoming and appreciative, I can’t wait to work with them again!
A few highlights from the interview:
Rachelle: Tell me about your creative process, what all goes into that?
Sarah: Absolutely. It’s interesting because, how this all started, I’ve played guitar since I was 7 and I started singing when I could talk […] but I never really took it to this level of performance because I felt like without the writing I wasn’t really legitimate and I didn’t want to be a cover singer. It’s interesting because I was always a writer but never put the two together. Then when I was traveling, I started writing a song at yoga school. It’s on the album it’s called “Sorry I Couldn’t Stay” and it’s about leaving my corporate job and comfortable life back home to discover myself in South America, and I kind of was writing it just to get it out of my system, as a tribute to the people I left behind. I remember playing it for my friend in the Bahamas two months later and she was just blown away; I think I just needed that little bit of confidence and from there on it was pouring out of me. I was writing three songs a day for two weeks straight. Now, I get a lot of inspiration when I’m running, or out in nature. I’m a very spiritual minded person so getting into that centered place is important, and exercise always jostles the words out.
Rachelle: [Band chemistry is a big deal but certainly doesn’t always happen, what has your experience been like?]
Sarah: I got really lucky. My studio band became my family, as cheesy as that sounds. I look to these guys as brothers and they are some of my best friends, I mean we spent so much time together. So much that this album is now representative of that for me, it’s those memories that we made just being in the studio. Even though the songs are about completely different stuff, this album will always remind me of the last nine months of my life and the start of really living a dream. And ultimately, that’s what I want to inspire in other people through my music; to live authentically, to get outside the box and to have the courage to go against the status quo. This has been that for me, I’ve lived it and now I really want to share that message and this music with people.
Rachelle: You mentioned leaving your corporate job; with all that shifting, what advice would you give yourself back then knowing what you know now?
Sarah: I would just tell myself to have as much fun as possible. Up until I actually bought the ticket in April of 2013, I knew in my heart I wanted to travel, I’d even had a massive breakup over it, I’d been telling people forever that this is what I wanted to do and it took a while to actually take that step. But when I bought that ticket and I saw that light at the end of the tunnel, I started to live completely differently. I started focusing more on what I wanted out of life and what made me happy. If I had any regret it would be that I was so stressed out while I was traveling, it’s a really hard thing to do and I was a little naive. I wouldn’t say traveling was fun all the time, but it was transformative. I knew going into it that it would probably be the biggest transformation of my life to date, and that was true, because it did lead me to having the confidence to write my own music and to go for a dream that people tell you is crazy. I have a lot of belief in that we write our own story in life and we can create what we want.
Colin: The long and short of it is, Sarah and I are both pragmatic people, but you have to take risks and you have to put yourself out there from time to time, and if you do that, it’s worth it’s weight in gold.
Sarah: It’s where the real learning comes from.
Colin: It’s going to be full of trepidation before it even starts, but you have to really strike out and challenge yourself. If you do it, do it with a sense of authenticity and come back and impart that wisdom on other people.
Sarah: And fear is realistic but not being held back by your fears is I think what I’ve been working through and it’s a terrifying thing but you know what? It’s great songwriting material, the challenges of life that we create to learn and grow, it really is great songwriting material
Rachelle: So what’s propelling things going forward now?
Sarah: I have a very specific and detailed vision for what I want out of this and that’s helped propel me in the right direction thus far. Especially since traveling, music lifts me up. It raises my personal vibration, it makes me feel better, I love performing, I love writing; those things are thing I truly don’t think I could be happy and thrive without. So my personal goal is to find every way that I can to enjoy this process and enjoy life. I’m a person who gets really caught up in the end goal, I see where I want to go and then I get stressed out about where I am. I really want to be better about living in the moment and enjoying this journey because everyone who’s been on this path is always like “I wish I would have spent more time just enjoying where I was.” The larger vision I have for this is, well my music is very mainstream, it’s certainly not hipster fodder, it’s got a lot of elements of the way that hit songs are written and I did that on purpose because I really think that a big platform like mainstream media is a great place to spread this message of freedom. We don’t really get a lot of that in pop music. There’s some negativity and there’s not a lot of soul to it, there’s not a lot of depth. When there is, people are baring their soul and their emotions and that’s such a beautiful thing and I kind of want to promote more of that, promote inspiration. I especially ultimately want to inspire and empower women, because I think that we are the key to the changes that are happening on this planet. And just bringing more compassion, more love, more joy; if I can bring people those things, I’ve done my job and that’s really my goal. So wherever all this takes me is kind of up to the divine at this point. I believe this is my way of being able to serve humanity while I’m here in this short lifetime.
Rachelle: When you perform, what is your hope for the audience?
Sarah: I go into it with a meditation before and I just say “Whoever in the audience needs to hear this tonight, that’s who I’m performing for.” Instead of trying to get everyone to like me or trying not to mess up I just imagine that the people there are there for a reason, they’re there to hear my stuff and it’s going to trigger something in them or plant a seed, so I imagine I’m singing directly to those people. It definitely works really well, I don’t really get nervous anymore but that takes away all the extra pressure, just coming from a place of service. I’m certainly no angel, I can be very self-centered and narcissistic but it’s always a reminder for me of where I’m trying to go and who I’m trying to be.
Colin: You always remind yourself that people paid money, they could have been somewhere else.
Sarah: Yeah, just giving every single person my all and being as present as I can possibly be in those performances and just show them what I’ve got. And we have fun doing it! I think it’s part of our charm that we are sometimes a little bit awkward and goofy, I mean, I think so, maybe other people don’t…
Colin: The whole “Beauty and the Beast” thing, it fits.
You can check out the full interview by downloading the podcast or watching the recorded video stream, below. FYI that our part of the programming begins at minute 9.
A HUGE thank you to Rachelle, KPSU and PSU TV for making this happen, and for everyone who tuned in!
My debut album is officially available for purchase on iTunes and CDBaby!
“Wild Heart, Gypsy Soul” tells my story, allowing the listener a peek into my own wild heart. Each song offers a unique puzzle piece that fits into the album’s big picture, from Latin-inspired “Trouble” to the heart-wrenching ballad “Just For Tonight;” the whiskey-soaked “A Date With Jack,” and of course, the puppy love radio single “Young Love.” The album is ultimately designed to inspire and uplift; to merge popular music and living outside the box in a way that has seldom been done.
I am offering signed hard copies beginning today for $10 + shipping. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve yours.
The album is also available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and ReverbNation.
Travel has always been a key ingredient in my music career.
So it only makes sense that, a week ahead of the launch of my debut album, “Wild Heart, Gypsy Soul,” I was on a plane, guitar in hand, new opportunities ahead.
Although this time, my plane wasn’t headed for South America. Nope, this time I traded in the exotic for the All-American. Omaha, Nebraska.
I’d never been to Omaha before, but thanks to a distant cousin who believes wholeheartedly in my music, I was given the opportunity to play at a number of different venues and promote my album before it’s official release.
Omaha was not what I expected. The music scene there is blossoming, and it’s quite the metropolitan city. Conor Oberst, an Omaha native, even opened his record label, Saddle Creek Records, in the heart of downtown. Overall, not a bad destination for my first tour.
The week began with back-to-back open mic performances at 402 Collective and Barley Street Tavern to get the lay of the land and check out the scene. 402 is an artists collective where you can take music lessons and perform at their coffee shop (and the sound system was incredible, I might add); Barley Street is a local dive owned by a former LA musician who is committed to showcasing local talent.
Open Mic at 402 Collective
Barley Street Tavern Open Mic with Glenn Thomas
The next night, I joined my new friends, The Omaha Guitar Trio, for a gig at the Ozone Lounge, located inside Anthony’s Steakhouse. We rocked out for three hours and performed a few songs together, including Angel from Montgomery and my original song “Young Love.”
With OGT at the Ozone Lounge
Wednesday night was back to Barley Street for a solo gig. I played some of my favorite covers and originals and we had an absolute blast. I followed it up with an impromptu appearance at The Hive’s open mic, where I met tons of cool people and saw some really fun acts. And, of course, drank really nice whiskey by a local distillery called Dark Horse.
Thursday was the real treat: a night off to spend with my new Omaha buds. My cousin Kyle hosted a barbeque where we feasted on beer can chicken, pork loin and Nutella brownies. The fellows of the Omaha Guitar Trio and the very talented Glenn Thomas were present, and we spent the night jamming, followed by a pretty impressive display of karaoke. The night ended with Glenn and I staging an impromptu parking lot concert, which drew patrons out of the bar to come check us out.
Jamming with Glenn at Casa Branecki
Friday night, we packed up and hit the road for Bennington, a small one horse town outside Omaha’s city limits. The venue, called the Stumble Inn, had the look and feel of an old school roller rink and featured a massive stage and dance floor. Glenn Thomas opened with a number of comedic and classic rock jams, and I followed. We closed the night out coming down off the stage and playing Uptown Funk together acoustically in the middle of the dance floor.
“Uptown Funk” With Glenn Thomas at Stumble Inn Bennington, NE
Saturday night was the last gig of the trip, at Stories Coffeehouse. This was by far my favorite venue. I kicked off the night with my set, followed by Omaha Guitar Trio. We surprised and delighted the audience with a joint performance of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.”
It was an absolute pleasure visiting Omaha and meeting so many incredible folks! If you like the above video, stay tuned; Omaha Guitar Trio will be visiting Portland for a short tour in October, and we are hoping to get into the studio to record a few of my tracks.
Watch for OGT & I this October!!
A HUGE thank you to Doug and Rena Branecki, who made this tour possible and have been some of my biggest supporters!