Sari Schorr A Force Of Nature
Mark: It’s an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with Sari, who is launching her new album, A Force of Nature, a 12 track album released on the Manhattan label on the 2nd of September. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule and sharing your story.
Sari :Thanks for having me.
Mark:. Can you give us a little background on yourself and how you started out in music and what your own musical influences were?
Sari: Oh, my goodness. I started when I well, I remember the first house concert I ever gave was when I was seven in the living room of my parents’ small apartment. We lived in Queens, New York, and I had the clever idea of dragging the couch into the centre of the room, spinning it around and using it as a stage.
And I was hooked from that moment on, a child star in my own little mind. And I actually thought people wanted to hear me sing. My poor parents were probably begging and pleading people to go.I can’t imagine the favours they had to do, all the neighbours especially.
But it was you know, I always identified myself as a singer. There was never any doubt in my mind who I was. The question was, how do you get there? (ROOM SERVICE) Thank you, can you believe Innes Sibun and has just brought me an English tea. I mean, how lucky does a girl possibly get? he’s managed to get a New Yorker hooked on being a stout coffee drinker. And I’m getting into lagers, too now. Oh, there. But I’m off track. So you know, I always knew what I wanted to do.
I had no idea how long and how hard a struggle it would be. I’m glad I didn’t know. Looking back, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to keep going had I had I’ve known. But, you know, I had a really deep love of music from a very early age. My mother said I was singing before I could even walk. It was just just something about my brain chemistry just lit up to music from a very early age.
Mark: And how would you describe yourself in, say, three words for someone who’s never heard your music before?
Sari: Well, that’s a good question. I would say honest, passionate and. Storyteller, I mean, I really think of myself as a storyteller and I tell stories, songs about the human experience.
Mark: Excellent. I believe you trained as an opera singer earlier on. And then how did you make the move into singing the blues?
Sari: Well, you know, it was really lucky that I had this formal training because it’s allowed me to do a lot with my voice and a healthy, sustainable way. But I was always a songwriter and it was the blues that allowed me to really unlock my voice. My earliest influence was from jazz, but I could never really master becoming a great jazz singer.
I was always told, could you tone it down when we know you have five octaves? Do we have to hear all of it right now?
I was always trying to be less trying to be something I really wasn’t. And when I wanted to discover who my influences were, like Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald and I ended up discovering the classic female blues singers, I finally could identify with these singers. And it was just with this incredible sense of freedom. As soon as I found the blues, it was just, as I said, a key that unlocked the full potential of my voice.
Mark: Can you remember what was the first song you played live with? And I’m not thinking about the seven year old in the city either.
Sari: It was actually a song that I wrote called People. It was a very, it wasn’t even a finished song, but I was so anxious. It was a sweet 16. And that was the first song. The band didn’t even know it, but it was like my first paid gig and I just had to play the song People. And I have never finished that song. In fact, you remind me I really need to go back that one up.
Mark: Just turning to the album, A Force of Nature, this was produced by Mike Vernon and features Innes Sibun, (chief tea, I believe) and Walter Trout on it. Did you have a concept for the album or did you write it song by song or just go with the flow?
Sari: Yeah, great question. I had a very vast catalogue of music going into this album, but I was so inspired to have the once in a lifetime opportunity to work with Mike, Vernon said. I was really inspired to write new songs specifically for this record, and I had decided, you know, I wanted to tackle some, you know, relevant and uncomfortable subjects. I felt if I have this opportunity, I want it to be a platform to speak out about some things that might provide comfort and relief for people who have a chance to hear the record. And I just wanted it to be relevant.
Mark: How did you arrive at the name for the album?
Sari: Well, thanks to Mike Vernon, he read a review that was written about a show I gave in New York City and the critic had said. Sari is a force of nature and the sentence actually goes on and is just the most beautiful quote, and I know I was just absolutely, you know, so, so honoured. And Mike had seen this and immediately picked up on the fact that that would be a great album. And I left it to Mike in the label. I’m not good at these decisions. For me, there would have been a picture of a tree on the cover and something very abstract.
Mark: Ok, you write the songs about the beauty and tragedy of human nature, and I know that the tracks have deep meanings, you sing about drugs on Aunt Hazel, for example. Domestic violence on Damn the reason greed and Ain’t got no money, and the sex trade On Demolition Man. Do you find it difficult to write about these subjects? And where do you draw your inspiration for these from now?
Sari: It’s much easier for me because they’re the things that are constantly on my mind. And one of my life’s other great passions next to music is humanitarian work. And that’s where I draw my inspiration. I travel. I go to places like India and Haiti, and I experience the reality of a very different kind of life that I know.
But it’s so important to be informed about what the real world looks like. I mean, we all have our own perspective, so aAnd yeah.
Mark: Ok, so you’re you’re actually drawing on your experiences while you’ve been doing work for, like, amnesty
Sari; completely, completely
Mark;Have you ever experienced writer’s block and if so, how did you work through it. Sorry.
Sari: Well, it’s a funny thing. I never have writer’s block when it comes to the music, the ideas for melodies and chords. They’re just bombarding me all the time. But I always have writer’s block when it comes to lyrics. It is always a challenge for me. And it’s painful. And it’s almost like I can say, you know, the only thing that I’ve ever done that is almost as difficult is running a marathon. But for me, my lyrics hurt more than that 19th mile.
Mark: Yeah, exactly. When you hit the wall. Do you have a favourite venue and what’s your best moment on stage so far?
Sari: Oh wow. You know. One, the first thing that comes to mind as far as great moment we did, there’s two things now competing for my attention. What I was originally going to tell you was a show that I actually did for deaf people, if you can believe this. But it was a holiday party for all of the staff and all of the patients were there as well. And they could feel the vibration. They could that that’s that’s how they connected to the music. But I happen to know a little bit of sign language and singing and signing to them.
We were all crying and they were just just so full of joy, even though they could only feel the vibration of the music. I will never, ever forget that. And as far as we had a really fun show the other night, it was just we really felt like we were with a lot of friends. It was more intimate. We’ve been doing a lot of bigger shows lately and this was a chance. We were with just a couple hundred people and it felt so relaxed. The drummer gave me a drumstick and I played some drums with him and then went and played some keyboards with the keyboard player. And yeah. So we had a lot of fun.
Mark: Work no more that was written by Walter Trout, how did it come about to get involved with Walter on that.
Sari: Well he’s always been so supportive. We met in Oklahoma years ago when we were both out there on tour and we reconnected when we were both asked to perform at the Carnegie Hall Leadbelly Festival. And he said, oh, I’ve been I heard you’re making an album and I want to contribute. And I had had this conversation with Mike Vernon and I asked him, you know, I really want Walter on the record, but I don’t know exactly how to ask him. You know, I don’t want to abuse our friendship and put him on the spot. But, Walter, solved the problem by asking. And then I decided, you know, the best way to honour Walter would be to do one of his songs. And we talked about, you know, he’s got such an incredible catalogue, wonderful material. And when he touched on Work no more and explained to me that it was about a woman who actually raised him, who he loved, and she was a little rough around the edges, but she had this big heart and she had passed away and he wrote this song for her. And it was also Johnny Winters’ favourite song. It was a clear, clear choice for me.
Mark: Let me just change the subject slightly What do you think of online sharing, you know, Spotify, etc.?
Sari: It’s a challenge. On one hand, you want people to discover your music. You want to expose your music to as many people as possible. And Spotify does that. The problem is that it is not monetising the value of music for the artists and the record companies. And it really hurts. It puts a tremendous financial burden, especially on the labels, to be able to promote their artists correctly and keep a label going. Now, they are like every business, they have expenses and they can’t be met when artists and labels are getting less than a cent on airplay. So we just have to restructure it and then it could work for everybody.
Mark: That’s generally the opinion I’ve got when I’ve spoken to other people about it as well. It’s a good idea in that it gets your name out there, but it’s a bad idea in terms of revenue basically.
Sari: For me I could say, yeah, I love it because it’s, it’s giving me exposure. But I’m very aware of, you know, the financial pressure put on my label. And if it’s not good for my label, then it’s ultimately not good for me either.
Mark: Is there one thing you’d like to achieve in your musical career?
Sari: just to continue to travel around the world, go to places we’ve never been to, meet people we’ve never met and continue to do this with Joy and gratitude, and if we’re able to continue to write great music that touches people, then I pray we’ll be able to continue doing this for as long as possible.
Mark: Speaking of touching people Letting go, it’s a song about Mike’s (Vernon) late wife, Natalie
I imagine that was a really challenging song for you to write and for Mike to produce.
Sari: Well, it was a very challenging song to record, but one of the easiest songs I’ve ever written. As I said earlier, writing lyrics is always a challenge. But this song was the exception. It came to me fully formed as I was looking at a picture of Natalie, it was beautiful. And I really feel like I need to give Natalie credit for the song because I think it just came from her through me and I thank her every time I perform it.
Mark: When you write new songs do the words, come first. Or is there a riff it’s built around a melody or something?
Sari: Always the melody, always the melody comes first. And what I’ll do is I record all the ideas of the melody so I can go back and dissect and see what’s working and what could be better. And there are always somehow these words that drop in from my subconscious, as in Demolition Man. There were a lot, lots of nonsensical lyrics. And all of a sudden in the end, Demolition Man, which was there from go and then I, the song, honestly, the song tells me what it wants to be. If you give me a blank piece of paper and a pen, I will sit there endlessly and not be able to come up with anything great. But when I have the music as my guide, I follow. I follow the lead.
Mark: Ok, originally the notes that came through that you’re very much into refining the songs, you get an idea or whatever and then go back and fiddle with it and so on and so forth.
Sari: I do. I tweak lyrics to death. I really do. I have been known to overcook many liver, but I’m always I’m looking for words that. It could be more meaningful words that maybe aren’t necessary that I can drop. I don’t like extra words, no extra baggage, and try to streamline and focus. And then when I and with the melodies, even when I’ve got a great melody that I think is the chorus, I test myself and I make that the verse and then challenge myself to make an even better chorus. And yeah, so but I love the challenge.
Mark: Sure. Speaking of challenges, if there’s one song you could have written, what would it be and why let it be that it be.
Sari: Let It Be, because I think the message is so powerful and timeless. And, you know, I would like to think that a song like that will help inspire the world to become a better place for sure.
Mark: So just turning back to the album again, there’s two covers on the album. Stop in the Name of Love, The Supremes hit from ’65 and Black Betty Leadbelly. But Latterly for the Ram Jam version, can you tell us why you chose those?
Sari: Well, in both cases they were chosen for me. Mike Vernon came up with the idea of Stop in the name of love, and I. I cringed. I thought I’ll never be able to do this song justice there. And I thought, you know, how do I tell Mike, you know, I’m really afraid to take this one on because I didn’t want to disappoint him. And then on the other hand, you know, I snapped myself out of it and I said, you know, don’t be ridiculous. You’re working with Mike because he’s going to bring ideas into this record that you would never come up with. And he’s a legendary producer for a reason to trust him. And he was so great about it.
He said, look, you know, just give it a try. And if it doesn’t work, you know, we’ll move on. So because I felt I had nothing to lose when I went to the vocal booth, I just went for it. I mean, I really just went for it without any fear. And when I came into the control room, Mike and the other guys were jumping up and down and I had no idea, honestly. I was like, was it OK? And they said, OK, you just you just nailed the cut for the record, that was in one day.
And then Black Betty was chosen for me by the producers of the Leadbelly fest. They asked me if I would feel comfortable doing it. And initially I was not, to be honest. But once again, I thought, you know what? Let me get out of my own way and let me dig into this song a bit. Let me let me really try and go as deep into this lyric as I can understand where Leadbelly was really coming from. So I read a lot about Leadbelly’s life, the times in which he lived. And once I felt I could see the world through his lens, I felt I could connect with the lyric. And then I had the interpretation. And then from that, once I had the interpretation, I knew what the arrangement had to sound like.
Mark: So it’s a very unique interpretation of it. I actually quite like it, but it’s another matter altogether.
Mark: So what do you listen to on the tour bus?
Sari; I’m being schooled in the whole series of Father Ted.
Mark: Ok, so not what I was expecting.
Sari: I know, but the guys really feel this is an important bonding experience, you know, bonding issue. But I think yesterday we watched the entire Muscle Shoals documentary, which was fantastic. But we listened to a lot of different things. Our tour manager liked Soul and R&D. So that’s great. We enjoy watching, watching her bop back and forth as she’s driving and we’re all singing along in the back.
Sari: It’s great.
Mark: Ok, so what’s next for Sari Schorr?
Sari: Well, we’re going to be heading to Amsterdam and then we have our record launch on Friday and our big record release party on Monday at the Half and Pudney. So, I’m looking forward to that. And then we’ll be touring all through the fall, all through the UK and will be in France and Germany and then we’re just going to keep keep trying to. We get to see as many people as possible. It’s really the reward for all the hard work that we’ve done.
Mark: So you’re going to see a bit of Europe and promote the album while you’re out and about.