Rachael Sage

All posts tagged Rachael Sage

In the early summer of this year, I brought you Rachael Sage’s new single, Spark, ahead of the UK release of her thirteenth album, Myopia.  Happily, that album is now being released and I’ve been lucky enough to listen.  Rachael is one of my favourite artists to review as her songs tell stories, sometimes about dark subjects although you might not realise it at first, such is the juxtaposition of the lyrics and the lilting melodies and vocals that are Rachael’s signatures.

The sound of Myopia is a bit of a departure for Rachael, leaning as it does on guitars and strings rather than the more well known piano based songs.  I have to say that it works, Rachael’s song writing style and vocals being easily adapted to all forms of instrumentation.  The guitars lend a softness to the vocals and give the listener a new discovery about Rachael.  It will be interesting to see if this remains a one off or if we will see more guitars on the next album – and I’m sure there will be a next album, given how prolific Rachael’s output to now has been.

The title track is a new kind of anthem for Rachael, who sings passionately about a “screen of judge-
ment / in my face all the time” being lifted. It’s a declaration of self-assurance and vision that perhaps could only be made as disarmingly in the middle of a cultural crisis. Rachael’s own myopia started her thinking about nearsightedness on a much more macro level.   It’s all about perspective; the lens you might be looking through might be totally different to the lens of the person next to you.

The clarity that comes from being comfortable in one’s own skin is a theme that runs through much of the album with Maybe She’ll Have Cats being a stand out for me (“maybe she’ll have children, maybe she’ll have cats” endeared this song to me, having both a child and cats).  The song describes the difficulty of being comfortable in your own skin and also wanting that for your own children perfectly. It also has a great instrumental mid section.

Another stand out track is Olivia which sounds like a love song to Olivia, and my first thought on listening was that Olivia is a lucky woman to have this song written about her.  It turns out that the Olivia in question is Detective Olivia Benson, portrayed by Mariska Hargitay in the TV show Law and Order SVU.

Rachael says that  “I am a bit obsessed with that show, not only because the acting is superb but because it really juxtaposes the creepiest, most disturbed individuals in society against this incredibly fierce, resourceful and empathetic woman who does a hell of a
lot of saving and is basically the closest thing to Wonder Woman on TV.” Olivia Benson engenders the same kind of response in me – not just for the character but for the fact that she is the lead role in a traditionally male dominated TV genre.

Daylight is a song that shines a light (pun intended) on the murky subject of domestic violence, describing the vicious circle that keeps women in abusive relationships – it’s a very powerful song, made all the more so by the gentle lilt of the vocals and guitars.

Finally, we hear Rachael sing in Yiddish for the first time on Umru Mayne – the punk guitars are great and the organ sound a bit like The Doors.  Apparently Rachael channelled Mandy Patinkin when recording!

Myopia is available here:

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One of my favourite musicians to write about and listen to in the last couple of years has been the New York based singer, songwriter and visual artist Rachael Sage.  I love songs that tell a story as well as being beautiful to listen to and Rachael’s songs deliver that in spades.  So, it was with delight that I learned that Rachael’s thirteenth album will be released in the Autumn.  Before that, however, we get a glimpse into the flavour of that album, Myopia, with a single released on 6 July.

Spark is the story about the intimacy of a shared experience with a total stranger: ‘I don’t know your secrets, but I feel you like a spark’, sings Rachael in her velvety tone. It is about the magical moment when a relationship is in its infancy, before anything can go wrong and you can just revel in the lack of familiarity. It is a beautiful depiction of an experience of excitement and exhilaration that is universally felt.

The track starts with a brief piano hook before Rachael’s voice joins the mix, with vocals as delicate as they are powerful. The track is then taken up a notch with the inclusion of a dynamic and vibrant string section, and a subtle but robust drum beat that gives the track a real pulse.

Click here to download Spark.

Listening to Spark, I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to write about it and I’m even more excited for Myopia, later this year – of course I’ll be bringing that to you too.

If you love Rachael’s music then I have two of her previous albums to give away – Blue Roses and Haunted By You.  To win, just answer this question in the form below:

How many albums has Rachael Sage released so far?*

Good luck!

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I have a confession to make – I truly love Christmas songs and Christmas albums so it was with total joy that I heard Rachael Sage had released a holidays EP, aptly named Joy. It’s a holidays album because it also encompasses Hanukkah, also being celebrated at the moment.

It’s a tricky thing to bring something new to Christmas music but that is exactly what Sage does with her cover of the classic Joy To The World.  Weaving together her proven sounds of folk, pop, and jazz,  Sage brings new life to such a joyful song; indeed, my overwhelming emotion when listening (and I can’t stop listening) is joy.  Sage’s vocals are crystal clear and she certainly knows how to arrange a song to suit.

Tchatchkes and Latkes is one of Sage’s own songs and is lively and tongue in cheek, originally being written for Rachael’s Joe’s Pub shows. It’s pure, unadulterated fun, definitely passing the ‘have to get up and dance’ test.  The second Hanukkah song, Hanukkah in the Village, a favourite with Rachael’s many fans is also beautiful:

 

Wonderfully evocative, the song takes you all around New York City in three minutes and makes you feel like you’re actually experiencing the holiday season there.  If I didn’t want to visit New York at this time of year before, I do now!

The most interesting track on the EP is the Yiddish ballad, and Rachael’s first Yiddish recording, Umru Meine, which debuted earlier this year at Skirball Center For The Performing Arts, where she sang it alongside Tovah Feldshuh, David Hyde Pierce and other Broadway performers as part of a National Yiddish Theatre gala event.  This is a cover but again, with Sage’s own arrangement suited to her style and you can feel Sage really connecting to the language.

Joy is available to download here:

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Regular readers will know that I love lots of different kinds of music and I especially like hearing new music from singer song writers, whether they be new or established in the music industry.  I recently had the opportunity to interview New York musician, singer, songwriter, visual artist and the all round super talent that is Rachael Sage about her latest album, Choreographic and her UK tour of the same name.  This is the second time I’ve reviewed and interviewed Rachael and her single Coloring Book is one of my most listened to songs on my iPod.

Coloring Book is what I call a happy tune and has a clear visual theme and Choreographic continues in the same vein.  Rachael says the album was inspired by dance (she has a background in ballet and her music has been extensively featured on the reality show Dance Moms) but also refers to visual art, ie the graphic.  The first track is titled Heaven is a Grocery Clerk and as a lot of the lyrics refer to visual art I assumed she was talking about her own work.  However, the painting and art sung about is by an artist called Riki Chen.  Rachael said of the song “he’s [Chan] kind of a kindred spirit, he went through some really tough times and bounced back but even through the tough times he never stopped creating.  He told me a story that when he was homeless and hungry, heaven to him was once a grocery store clerk.”  The song has a dark undertone but ultimately, the listener feels uplifted.  Another song that has a darker undertone but uplifts the listener is I Don’t Believe It:

On one hand, the lyrics talk to us about someone fighting against the ‘you can’t do it, you’re not good enough’ mentality but the upbeat melody pushes against that, resulting in a song that leaves you feeling on top of the world: I CAN do this, rather than I can’t.  This feeling is reinforced by the beautiful video.  Rachael said of this video “Kaci King, the dancer in this video has such musicality and it was so exciting to see what she could bring to the song”.   Looking at this video you can see how well the music conveys emotion through contemporary ballet as well as jazz and modern dance.

Choreographic also sees Rachael’s first ever song writing collaboration, on Home.  On asked why this is the first co-write of her career, Rachael says “that I have never been one to write collaboratively, it’s not been what I wanted to do.  In this case, a young girl, Fiona Harte, from Dublin was in New York and sad she wanted to write a song with me.  We had lunch, learned about who she was.  She’s passionately into music and we bonded on home being a place where you feel accepted for who you are”.    The resulting track is beautiful, speaking about the joys and difficulties of home and being away from home so much – the life of a touring musician!

I spoke to Rachael at the end of her UK tour – don’t worry, she’s back at the end of October, click here for details – and wondered about differences between US and UK audiences.  Rachael answered “[UK] audiences listen so beautifully, I love playing here.  The main differences are in interaction after the show.  UK audiences treat you like they’ve known you all their lives, they don’t get in your personal space.  The British are great conversationalists”.  This description of a British audience is extended towards what on the face of it might be a tough audience: school children.  Many of Rachael’s shows are in adult only venues and to counter this, Rachael and her band performed and created workshops for young people in schools around the country.  Thee show were conceived as an alternative to multiple radio interviews and, according to Rachael, were ” a lot less crazy than radio.  It was interesting for the teachers to see the students interacting with us, at first they held back but became very exuberant, even the older kids”.  That’s some achievement Rachael!

If you like songs that tell a story then Choreographic is for you.  The album flows effortlessly through a variety of emotions but ultimately leaves the listener feeling upbeat.  It’s also great to move to, whether that be dancing, running or walking!

Choreographic is available now:

rachael-sage-choreo

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No, I haven’t gone mad – the title refers to the title of a new song by American singer songwriter Rachael Sage and features on the deluxe edition of her recent album, Blue Roses.  The song is Coloring Book and is to be released in November – more of that to come later.  Of course, if you’re one of my American readers, this spelling will be completely normal!

I first became aware of Rachael Sage when she was featured on the Angry Baby blog earlier this year and then happened to catch her on BBC Radio 2’s Good Morning Sunday performing another song from Blue Roses.  The song was a cover of Neil Young’s Helpless and features legendary singer songwriter Judy Collins, with whom she is soon to support on Collins’ UK tour.

Ahead of the tour, I recently caught up with Rachael and amongst other things we talked about how the collaboration with Judy originally started.  It turns out that five or six years ago, Sage performed at a music industry conference in France (she also runs her own record label) and was approached by Judy Collins’s manager who had noticed the similarities between the two (at the time, Collins’ was running her own label, Wildflower).  One thing led to another and Sage ended up meeting Collins and performing at her Wildflower Festival.  Of the experience, Sage says that Collins was “very warm and welcoming, she listened to my album and gave me feedback.  We became friends and then she had me open for her at a lot of shows around the country and even in England and Scotland.  Eventually, I felt comfortable enough to ask her to sing with me on my album and amazingly she said yes.”  Endearingly, Sage recounts this with wonder, as if she can’t believe her luck.

The resulting song is a beautiful interpretation of the original, perfectly suiting both voices.  A cover of another artist’s song is a rarity for Sage, her long back catalogue is mostly self penned but this was a great choice.  Sage says that the recording process was “wonderful, Judy was so much fun, she’s hilarious.  People don’t realise but she brings a lot of… almost comedy to the live shows.”

Collins is set to perform a few shows in across the UK in October, starting with Bristol on 20 October and ending a few days later in Cardiff (click here for more dates), with Sage in support.  At present, the two will perform separate sets but when asked if they will collaborate on stage, Sage tantalises with a “maybe – her accompanist is always keen to do something, but she’s so busy it’s difficult to get time to sort anything out”.

Collins may be busy but the same can also be said of Sage – in addition to writing and performing, she runs her own record label.  To the layman, running the business side of a record label at the same time as creating your own music would seem to require two completely different mindsets (hence the comment from Sage that one is “definitely work”).  Sage says not signing to another label was a conscious decision after college, when she was discovering that the music she was creating was something that “I needed to self develop, to do it on my own.  If I signed to a major label based on a particular sound and songwriting ability, I’m going to get hurt as they’ll tell me what to do”.  Showing impressive self awareness at a young age, Sage decided that in order to have creative freedom, the only way was to go it alone, which she did, collaborating with the people who had helped make her first teenage demos.

As an interviewee, Sage was very giving and I had a lot of material so look out for more later in the year.  She was also a lot of fun and loved the fact that our skype interview (a first for both of us) ended with a host of bubbles from my 9yo’s bubble wand floating across the screen – we ended with the quote “every interview should end with bubbles”.

 

Rachael Sage will be supporting Judy Collins in the UK from October 20 – 26.  Click here for details.

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