Sarah Potenza // Interview

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SARAH POTENZA // INTERVIEW

INTERVIEW BY: Emily May

Nashville singer-songwriter Sarah Potenza caught most people’s attention in 2015 during her appearance on Season 8 of The Voice where she made it to the Top 20. Prior to her solo career, she spent 7 years in Chicago fronting the band Sarah and the Tall Boys, releasing several albums with the band before deciding she was ready to change course musically and embark on a solo career. After leaving The Voice, she and her husband (and writing partner) Ian Crossman headed to Nashville, a city they now call home. She became an integral part of the local music scene, performing regularly at the iconic Bluebird Cafe and the Music City Roots Program. In 2016 Potenza released her debut album Monster, which quickly climbed the Americana Radio chart and received rave reviews from NPR and Rolling Stone Magazine. A roots/rock/soul artist with powerhouse vocals, Potenza has drawn comparisons to artists such as Adele, with it being said that “Potenza is the the blues what Adele is to Pop: a colossal-voiced singer who merges her old-school influences with a modernistic sound”. Potenza will be releasing her latest album, Road To Rome on March 8th, which happens to be International Women’s Day. Potenza co-wrote the album with Justin Wiseman, a piano player from Austin, TX, as well as with Crossman, and worked with producer Jordan Brooke Hamiln (Indigo Girls/Lucy Wainwright Roche) and a strong female cast of collaborators. It seems fitting that Potenza would be releasing her new album on International Women’s Day, as the album is filled with empowering messages of self-worth, determination and drive-her own declaration of independence in a sense! With plenty of R&B, swaggering soul and contemporary blues, the album shows Potenza’s growth as an artist and songwriter over the years. She recently released the first single from the album, “I Work For Me”, which you can hear below. You can follow Sarah Potenza and stay up-to-date with all album news and upcoming tour dates via the following links.

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify | SoundCloud | iTunes/Apple Music | YouTube | Deezer

Prior to your solo career, you spent 7 years fronting your band Sarah and The Tall Boys. What led to the decision by you and your husband Ian to move to Nashville? Being a city that is so rich in music history and that has a vibrant music scene, do you find it easy to find inspiration? What led you to pursue a solo career?

Chicago was great, and Sarah & the Tall Boys was an amazing chapter in my life, but it was just done for me. I wasn’t inspired by that type of music anymore and it was time to move on. I choose Nashville cause at the time it was affordable, and there was a lot of rad music coming out of east Nashville. As far as going solo, I wanted to be the boss. I don’t think that compromise is the best thing when it comes to art. I had a desire to follow my own vision without asking anyone else what they think.


You received a phone call in 2015 from The Voice to appear on the show and decided to take the challenge. In what ways do you feel that the show helped your career as an artist?

The Voice helped me to grow in many ways. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and showed me what I can achieve if I practice. I took a lot of my talent for granted, and when I was on The Voice, I had to work harder than I ever had, and it showed me that there’s more to singing then just showing up and winging it. I also got a lot of new fans and friends. To this day I perform with one of my fellow voice contestants, Tonya Boyd-Cannon. In fact she did all the vocal harmonies on my album. I never would have met her if I wasn’t on that show.


You already had a plan in place for your music career after The Voice. You had an album that you had written that you wanted to get out into the world! What kind-of advantage do you feel that this gave you, having a post-show plan in place, rather then being left to wonder what to do next?

Huge advantage. I was able to hit the ground running, and that matters when you have your 15 mins of fame. Gotta make hay while the sun shines.


You have said that, with regards to moving to Chicago in your 20s, you thought you could wait tables in blues clubs and be like Bonnie Raitt and sneak onstage and then become famous. How did you adjust to the fact that that wasn’t the reality of how things worked? What have learned about being an artist over the years?

Well nothing is ever exactly what you think it’s gonna be. And I was young and foolish. Looking back I lacked focus. But I did have a good time rocking those clubs. Being an artist is not about imitation, or giving people what you think they want. Sure I can sing blues. But being an artist is about having something to say.


You are known for your reflective, original songwriting. What inspires your lyrics? What do you feel goes into writing a good song?

Aww thanks. I am inspired by my own experiences, and by helping others to love themselves. At least that’s what I am into right now. To write a good song, you can’t think about the audience, because you will be tempted to make your song into something you think they want to hear or something they will buy and when you do that you underestimate them. Just tell the truth, and fuck the rules.


You have said that you often feel like an outsider in the Americana community because you have such a big personality and enjoy wearing fun costumes, whereas many of the artists in the genre are more serious. Have you ever felt pressure to compromise your natural tendencies as an artist in order to “fit in”?

I have never felt any pressure to fit in, but have just felt that I didn’t fit in. I used to think it was because I was not good enough, but now I see that I was just barking up the wrong tree. I don’t make that kind of music. Americana is great, it’s just not what I do, and that’s fine. I love so many of those artists. I just don’t belong in that arena. Because that scene is so much more manageable then other genres, it’s a bummer, cause if it was what I did, I think I would have an easier time, but it’s just not, and that’s that.


You’ve mentioned that it took you a while to figure out how to use your voice to tell your story and to use your damaged vocal chords as a strength rather than a weakness. What has that journey been like for you?

Well they are not damaged. I have a thyroid nodule and it makes my voice sound horse when it’s not. So it’s sort of a gift. People love that husky sound. It took me a while to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. There’s a push/pull to dynamics and you can’t be on 11 all the time. And also, it’s harder to learn the song, learn the melody and you have to do that before you can improv on it. I think that’s a huge part of vocal maturity.


Your sophomore album ‘Road To Rome’ will be released on March 8th, which is International Woman’s Day! With the album being written for all artists, especially women who remain the minority within the male dominated industry, did you specifically set out to make the release coincide with this day? What kind of progress do you feel women in the industry have made throughout the years that you have been a part of the industry?

I plan to release Road to Rome on International Women’s Day! I think it’s the perfect day for this album to make its debut. At the center of the album’s theme is womanhood. Women are not given the same opportunities that men are. I cannot tell you how many of the same white boy band I have seen playing festival after festival, and there seems to be just be an endless amount of space for them on the roster, as well as an endless amount of space for their music on playlists, and so they have more fans. Women don’t sell the same amount of albums as men. period. and we don’t get the same amount of advertising dollars. those are facts. So I want to encourage the fans who are saying we want to hear more women to buy our merch, call and request us.


How do you feel the writing and recording of ‘Road To Rome’ compares to your first album ‘Monster’. Do you feel that who you are now as an artist changed the way you approached this album?

Huge difference between these two albums. Huge. First of all, Monster was sort of a compilation of songs I had written over the years. There was no central theme. And at that time in my life I thought that the answers were within someone else’s hands. I didn’t know that I had the power to make the choices I wanted, and that just because I didn’t know how to play the drums doesn’t mean I didn’t know what I wanted to hear, and that I wasn’t worthy of getting what I really wanted. I thought that others knew better. I was wrong. Road to Rome is mine, I made all the choices, and I didn’t listen to what anyone else said. I finally got exactly what I wanted. Working with Jordan was a huge part of that. She respected me as an artist, not just a singer. She protected me from others opinions and my own self-doubt. She changed the game for me. She changed my life.


For your new album, you were involved in writing sessions and began writing songs with Justin Wiseman, a piano player from Austin, TX. In the past your husband Ian has been your sole writing partner. What was it like to write with someone different and how did his writing style compare to yours? What was it about the piano that allowed you to re-discover your voice and make a soul album that was entirely your own?

Writing with Justin was so freeing. I was able to tell him what I wanted and he would create it for me. He’s a wiz with garage band. And I think that he respects my vision in a way that Ian couldn’t at the time. The music I was making with Justin was so over the top diva. Ian doesn’t love that kind of music. He loves Bill Frisell, Wilco, Nels Cline, Father John Misty. I love Lady Ga Ga, Pink, Aretha, Etta James… I love big huge voices. Ian is also very subtle, I am not. So for me this was a huge revelation. I was able to do what I wanted and be the boss and not ask for permission to be over the top. because I was not sharing the driver’s seat. Ian contributed a great deal to the album, but I was the one who chose what ideas of his we took and what we left. And he respected that. Which meant more to me then you can ever imagine. I hope that Ian makes an album of his own, because his such a wacked out creative guitar player.


Your song “I Work For Me” has been released as a preview of the new album and is an anthem about self-love and self-sufficiency and is dedicated to those who told you that you weren’t good enough. What inspired you to keep going despite the criticisms? How do you feel that your music has helped you to build up your confidence over the years?

I thrive on adversity. Nothing inspires me quite like being the underdog.


You will be heading out on tour soon and, in addition to venue shows, will be playing some house shows. What inspired that decision? What do you like about playing more intimate hour shows versus regular venue shows? 

I like to play for a listening room, and house shows give me the chance to tell the people where my songs come from, who I am, and they really listen.


You will also be performing on the Melissa Ethridge Cruise on March 31st-April 7th and have performed on other cruises in the past. What do you enjoy about performing on cruises and what are you looking forward to the most with the upcoming cruise? What else do you have coming up this year?

I love Melissa!!!! So I am pretty excited to be a part of this one. Working on the cruises has been one of the greatest blessings of my career. They are all sort of these pop up mini cites where everyone’s family. And the fans really support. Every place I play I see someone from one of the ships. It’s really amazing. I am looking forward to playing more full band shows this year. We really rock out and it’s so amazing to have a full band supporting this album.

Giliard Lopes // Interview

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GILIARD LOPES // INTERVIEW

INTERVIEW BY: Emily May

Jazz musician Giliard Lopes has been impressing fans and critics alike with Caminhos, his debut album as a band leader. The album combines many different sounds, ranging from Brazilian, folk, world and jazz. Lopes was born in Brazil and was surrounded by music from an early age. Surrounded by the sounds of local music, bossa nova, samba and rock and roll, Lopes developed an eclectic musical palette, finding great joy at an early age in making music and sharing with others all across the world. He moved to Europe in 2001 and it was there that he really developed an appreciation of jazz. In 2009 he studied jazz at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and then moved to Berlin to study composition and arrangement at the Jazz Institute Berlin. Both experiences helped him to deepen his knowledge of jazz, as well as well as his native Brazilian influences. He has performed on some of the most prestigious stages in Europe and in far away locales like Qatar and has worked extensively with major artists all over the world. Lopes has since moved to France and will go on his first European tour this year in support of the new album. You can follow Lopes and stay up-to-date with his music and upcoming tour dates via the following links. Check out his video for “Caminhos” below.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | YOUTUBE | ITUNES/APPLE MUSIC |

You were born in Brazil and I read that you grew up listening to a wide variety of styles and were introduced to music through Brazilian Folklore. What were some of your favorite songs and stories growing up and who were the artists that influenced you? How do you feel that all of these influences shaped your music, as well as the musician you are today?

I remember at a very young age, standing on a stool to watch over the counter, musicians that would come and play all night at my grandmothers “boteco” (Brazilian version of a bar/tapas place). Their music was rural, festive and very inclusive, and they would bring portable instruments that would get passed around the room so everyone could sing their story. They played milongas, tangos, valses and other styles from across the border with Uruguay and Argentina.

Although I was born in a small town of the southernmost state, I feel that the plurality of the Brazilian culture was always present. For instance, I could hear from the neighbours house across the street, the rhythms and the canticles used for the invocation of orixás by the afro-religion Batuque (as we call it in the south). I always found fascinating the sense of mystery in the way they approached music and how their collective identity was deeply associated with those melodies. The radio played samba, bossa nova and rock and roll, and artists such as Radames Gnattali, Milton Nascimento, Vinicius de Moraes and Led Zeppelin were also a big influence on me back then.

At times, we would see parades where all of those different styles and cultures would blend together making a very powerful event. I think that I search for that in my music, the meeting point between different tribes. It was very beneficial as a musician, to be exposed to that environment, for its cultural variety, but above all, for its sense of community.

Were you raised in a musical family? I read that you really developed an appreciation for jazz later in Europe, but did you develop an interest in jazz at all while growing up in Brazil? Did you know then that you wanted to focus your musical interest on jazz?

I had no musicians in my family as I was growing up. My grand father, who passed away before I was born, was a saxophonist and had played his whole life with his dance band which was still around when I started playing. All musicians in that band had changed but the name was still the same and once they were playing in the town I was in and I got up on stage and sat in with them. It was a remarkable moment.

I had no connection with Jazz at that time. I was self taught and I was learning the music that was accessible to me, back in those days we would exchange records with friends and no one around me was into jazz. However, I always liked improvising music, I would take songs and reshape their structure and instinctively reharmonize the chords and lines.

You’ve been in Europe since 2001. What led you to move to Europe? What is the jazz scene like in Brazil and how do you feel that the scene in Europe is different? You have since worked with many inspiring artists from all over the world. Who have been some of your favourite artists to work with over the years?

I first went traveling to Europe on a gap year. I still had in my mind the idea of studying psychology in Brazil and the trip was supposed to be a backpacking adventure around several countries for a year or so. Then the course of everything changed and after a month in the old continent, I found myself playing a regular gig with a great band.

The Jazz scene in Brazil has developed tremendously over the years. There are festivals all over the country and the crowd seems to be growing more every time. The scene in Europe seems to me more stablished and it can be much easier for musicians to organise tours because its geography and lack of borders. One of my favourite artists that I have played with was the legendary Marcos Valle, one of the creators of Bossa Nova in Brazil and a great innovator in music to this day.

In 2009, you were invited to enhance your study of jazz at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, then moving to Berlin to study composition and arrangement at the Jazz Institute Berlin.  How did your interest in composing begin? What was it like to learn from these great institutions and how do you feel that your studies helped you as a musician and composer?

My interest in composition started soon after I got the bug for music. I would work out some chords on guitar, then record them on a K7 recorder and experiment bass lines and melodies over the tracks to see the different effects I could get.

Studying music through institutions was very helpful to structure my practice routines and work schedules. I believe that the academic world doesn't substitute the learning that takes places on the band stand but on the other hand, it allows the musician to be surrounded by very talented and experienced people as well as having lots of time to work on ones craft. I had great teachers and colleagues who became friends for life and I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to be part of those great institutions.

You have performed on prestigious stages across Europe, as well as far away locales such as Qatar. What do you love most about being on stage and performing for others? Do you travel often for music? What have been some of your most memorable travels and favorite stages to play?

What I love the most about live performances is the energy exchange that takes place between the public and the band. How all of the sudden the music takes the whole room and everyone is connected through the same frequencies.

Traveling is my second passion after music, therefore I try to travel as much as possible for music and combine my two passions together. Probably the most epic travel I did, was when I went to play in the heart of the Brazilian Rain Forest. It was a very overwhelming feeling to combine the sounds of my music with the vast sounds of nature present there.

What are your thoughts on the current jazz scene/movement? It feels like jazz has had a bit of a resurgence in recent year and is drawing a younger crowd! With so many different styles of jazz being played, what is your favorite style? What do you think the future holds for jazz?

The way I see it is that there is a new cycle that has started. Jazz is played acoustic again in many places just as it used to be back in the old days, but with all the influences of what came in between. I like straight ahead jazz and I see indeed loads of young musicians all across Europe interested in the tradition. I think that experimenting is a big part of it too but it's important to connect with the basic elements of the style to understand where it comes from. As music is an ever changing art form, I believe that the future of Jazz will reflect all the reshaping we are seeing throughout the world into the sounds we hear.

You have recently settled in France. What led you to move to France and what do you find most inspiring about living there and about the jazz scene? Having been born in Brazil and lived and studied in Europe, what kinds of influences and inspirations did you bring with you? How do you feel your music has evolved over the years?

I moved to France because I love croissants. And also because I always felt at home every time I went there whether for gigs or vacation. France has a multitude of amazing musicians and has a dense musical culture that fascinates me. I think we are always searching to evolve as musicians and every place and culture that we get exposed to, adds some colours to the sounds we make.

You recently released your debut solo album Caminhos! Having been in many different bands/ensembles over the years, what led you to want to branch out on your own with this release? What was the inspiration and songwriting process behind the songs? How did writing songs for a solo release differ for you from writing music as part of a group?

Writing as part of a group requires a good amount of flexibility and some detachment from ones ideas, which is very important. I think writing for a solo release made me connect deeper with the message I wanted to bring out with my music. Caminhos was inspired in putting together an intimate blend of sounds that represented all walks of life. It was a personal feeling and I thought it would be better documented in a form of a solo album.

What’s next for you? What are your goals and plans for 2019?

So for this new year, I am in the process of organising a tour in Europe that will cover several cities in around 8 countries. It will be a quintet with Trombone and Tenor and we will be playing the music from my debut album as well as some new compositions I have been working on recently.

King Princess // Live in Philadelphia

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KING PRINCESS // LIVE AT THEATRE OF LIVING ARTS

PHOTOS COURTESY OF: Carolyn Lederach

Incase you’ve been out of touch with music in 2019 thus far, King Princess is starting to take over the world. I’m sure you’ve heard “1950” making it’s rounds, so much so it’s lead to a slew of sold out shows on the ‘Pussy Is God’ Tour. Can’t wait for the world to hear the new tracks she debut tonight…