06.0710 Questions with Sarah Tracey! Featured Lyrical Venus Artist 6/8!
It’s no surprise to hear that Sarah Tracey claims inspiration in noir films. A few moments of her sultry “modern torch” songs are enough to transport you to a gritty black and white film from back in the day, full of fedoras and elbow gloves, thick with smoke and lipstick.
Chicago born and raised, the classically trained Tracey found her voice when she discovered jazz, soul and blues. The songs on her Cards on the Table EP are gaining attention all over the web, and her live performances are turning heads in popular music rooms in New York City.
Sarah recently took some time to answer 10 questions (plus a few of our favorite bonus ones!). Get to know her below, and don’t forget to tune in to Lyrical Venus Radio to hear her feature set this Tuesday! (more details at the bottom of the post.)
1. Do you remember writing your first song? How does that compare to your songwriting process now?
My very first song ever was called ‘Springtime’ and I wrote it when I was about 5 years old… it was just one of a whole series- a song cycle, if you will- that I did about Spring, which was apparently an endlessly inspiring subject to my 5-year-old self. I had a whole lot to say about trees, flowers, rainbows, and birds singing! I wrote a whole hand-illustrated poetry book about it too…
Considering my recent compositions have been about poker, whiskey, jealousy, temptation, obsession, infidelity, lust and revenge- obviously a lot has shifted in the balance! One thing that hasn’t changed is that I love love love language and I love to play with words. I think that showed itself early when I found a way to express my love of flowers and rainbows a dozen different ways. I still just love writing lyrics, finding the perfect way to tell a story within a certain constraint of cadence, rhythm, and rhyme… when the right phrases fit together it’s like the sun breaking through the clouds. Or like solving a really hard crossword puzzle. I find it really satisfying.
2. Where is your favorite place to sing?
In front of a fireplace, with a guitar and some good friends… hopefully it’s snowing out.
3. What’s the hardest thing about performing? What’s the best thing?
The hardest thing about performing… hmmm that’s a tough question! Performing live is one of my favorite things about being a musician. It’s where I really feel I shine the most. I grew up performing in school plays and doing all the choir solos and directing talent shows in neighbors’ backyards- I’ve always been a natural performer and playing live is something I love. I suppose the only hard thing is that anything can happen in a live situation- anything can go wrong, and unlike in the studio, you can’t rewind and do a dozen different takes. You just have to kind of go with it. To be able to connect directly to an audience is amazing. That feeling where a room is so silent you could hear a pin drop, where the audience is hanging on every word, and I have them in the palm of my hand- that’s the best feeling in the world to me.
4. What things are you passionate about besides music?
Food, wine, entertaining- like music, they’re sensory communal social experiences that drive memory-making. If I weren’t a musician I would probably be a Martha Stewart-style lifestyle guru…
Also I’m pretty passionate about books, and classic cinema.
5. One is one thing (besides your instruments) you can’t leave for tour without?
The perfect red lipstick. I’m convinced it’s all a girl really needs in this world.
6. What was your favorite thing about making the video for This Plum?
Definitely getting to play with fashion and each different look/persona my stylist and I got to experiment with! We did a couple of classic looks, but also one look that was a very edgy, dark, almost vampire-esque vixen… she was the ‘evil’ character, or the bad side of myself. It’s fun to throw on the fishnets and stiletto boots and indulge that bad-alter-ego fantasy. Obviously when I’m writing songs, or working on instruments, or in rehearsal, or in the studio- it’s not all glamor all the time. So when I get to go there, I really love to do it all the way.come to the blog to see the video
7. What are you proud of with your new album?
On my EP that was released last year, Cards On The Table, I was just so proud of how all the components really came together to create this whole other world. Each musician and producer and engineer that worked the album added their own unique contribution- their own interpretation of my vision- and with each layer that was added, the project evolved even more. In the end, the results to me sound just seamlessly sexy and gorgeous. The first time I heard the rough mixes I was sitting by myself in the control room of this beautiful, famous recording studio, with the whole Manhattan skyline outside the window, and it was so overwhelming- a dream being realized. Everything that was in my soul with these songs was made real. I was just struck by that feeling of how far I had come since sitting on my rooftop with a guitar and a notebook and dreaming about that moment, which was so surreal when it actually happened.
8. Any new projects currently or on the horizon?
Yes, we’re about to start recording a full-length LP for release this fall! These new songs are pretty juicy New York stories, with some compelling characters… all inspired by true events… I can’t wait to share! Everyone in this city has secrets and that’s the overarching theme of the new album. There’s also a companion multimedia component that will be hosted on my website that will integrate photography and video projects inspired by the songs. It’s exciting to me that we can use the web to continue and expand upon the content of the album!
I’m partnering with Kickstarter to fund some of these production aspects, so I’d encourage anyone interested to check that out:
You can pledge funds to get involved and support the project and in return get some awesome prizes! It’s exciting that now there are so many options in terms of direct fan-to-artist relationships. Artists can truly be independent and control their own musical output- without the big corporate major labels calling all the shots, and in many cases putting commerce before artistry. I’m all about marketing appeal- but I don’t think it should be the sole factor in determining what music gets to be created and heard.
9. Do you have any pre-gig rituals that help you prepare for a show?
Yes, I always have a glass of Jameson with me on stage. That’s what my grandfather used to drink, and he was really my musical mentor. It makes me think of him and remember why I’m so passionate about music- it also relaxes me and soothes the vocal chords just slightly. I have to limit it to one though— it’s a pretty interesting show if I’ve had more than one! And, that’s happened a couple times… maybe…
10. If you could create a musical super group with any artists, living or dead, who would you choose and what would they play?
I’d have Tom Waits crooning in the corner in a fedora, and Elvis Costello on guitar. Nina Simone on the keys. Willie Bobo on percussion. Astor Piazzola playing accordion.
1. What’s your favorite sandwich?
Egg sandwich with cheddar, avocado, bacon and hot sauce on toasted mutigrain. Or, a turkey reuben.
2. What’s your favorite hot drink?
Coffee. I am a coffee fiend. Just plain old coffee with milk.
3. Do you have pets or a favorite animal?
No pets here in NYC- I’m working and traveling so much that it’s hard to imagine taking care of one right now. There’s a stray cat that sneaks in my window all the time though- I think she really wants to be my pet. I keep hoping she gets home to her real owners— and I do really need to get a screen for my window!
4. Anything else you want to let people know!
I love to hear from listeners and fans, so don’t be shy about reaching out– via myspace or facebook etc, or you can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know how you’re liking the tunes, and if you have any requests, or great venue suggestions near you for tours, or any other artists you think I’d love. Hope to hear from some of you!
Thanks again to Sarah for taking the time to answer all the questions! Find out more about her on her website, follow her on twitter and check out her links in the interview to get to her Kickstarter (which she has really taken to another level, I think you’ll get a kick out of it – pardon the pun!), MySpace and Facebook.
Tune in to the Lyrical Venus Radio Hour from 9-10am Central for your weekly dose of music by female singer-songwriters this Tuesday 6/8. KRUU-LP 100.1 FM in town, kruufm.com online anywhere. Sarah Tracey’s feature set will start around 9:15am Central.