“I find it exciting to be alive and be a working musician, and all these things just keep opening up for me..."
~Sarah Slean (from National Post interview)
Sarah Slean is no stranger to the Canadian music scene. She's been doing the music thing for 15 years...which is hard to believe because she still doesn't look a day over 22 years old (she's blessed with some amazing fountain of youth genes...)
Sarah's voice is one of those, "hear it once and you never forget it" kind of voices. Hers is so distinctive and so unique from so many of the manufactured pop offerings of today. I remember the first time I saw her play live...it was a radio program director conference in Toronto. The set up was simple, it was just Sarah Slean, her keyboard and a microphone. But you would have thought she had a full orchestra backing her...her performance was that mesmerizing, captivating, energetic and personal. All of her songs and albums seem to unfold seamlessly like another chapter in the musical journey that is Sarah Slean.
In September, Sarah Slean released a double album entitled, Land & Sea and is currently spending the next month on the road promoting the new release.
If you want to learn more about the making-of behind recordings of her album, Sarah has posted nine video vignettes.
Here is the first single from Sarah Slean's new double called Set It Free
I had a chance to chat with Sarah Slean about taking on the challenge of writing and recording a double album, her husband, Canadian singer, Royal Wood and her must-have-can't-live-without beauty products...you know all that girl stuff...
For most artists releasing a double album is really ambitious...what made you decide that you were going to take on that huge task?
After the tours for my last album "The Baroness" were winding down, I experienced a significant sense of closure. Something big felt finished and I felt myself moving into a new stage. So in 2009, with that album behind me, this awakening new perspective resulted in an avalanche of great experiences - I fell in love and got married, I finished university at long last, I left Warner, I was invited to Rwanda, Africa, I toured with a classical/jazz fusion project called "Art of Time"... it was such a liberating, invigorating year.
I let go of things I had been clinging to, old narratives that didn't serve me, and consequently had a hell of a ride! Music gushed out of me. And I noticed that the songs were dividing themselves into two very distinctly different camps: ecstatic, infectious, liberated pop, and philosophical, interior, contemplative hymns...
These strains have been present in my music since the beginning, but in the past I would have put them on the same album, or tried to mix those aesthetics into the same song. But in this case, the two voices seemed so clear and fully ripened, that I thought mixing them would diminish both.
I want to sing the poignant ballad that pierces your heart AND the epic rocker that makes you feel like you can fly! Why can't I sing BOTH?
Why not give them each their own audio landscape? Why not create two different, fully-realized experiences for the listener - instead of jolting them in and out of these two worlds or dressing up one song in the clothes of the other? So the idea of "Land & Sea" as a double album was born - and after that, there was no turning back.
I didn't even think of releasing them separately. Side by side, I feel they enrich and deepen each other - not just musically but from the lyrical point of view as well.
"Land" is the voice of a finite being in a finite world, and "Sea" is the voice of that eternal-ness which animates us - the mysterious, ever-present force of life itself.
These concepts only make sense in relation to each other - the contrast gives them their meaning. I think that's what the human experience is all about - the play between those two ways of seeing. The more I thought about it, the more it gathered a momentum of its own and not even my doubting/fearing could get in its way.
Your husband, Royal Wood produced one of the songs on the new release - any plans for future musical collaborations?
Not just yet.... we're both busy, which is wonderful, but sometimes tough. We have been tossing around the idea of a double bill tour - just so we can actually see each other!
The title of the new release - Land & Sea....what were your inspirations when writing music about those two elements?
I didn't begin Land & Sea with a plan really, it just unfolded. I think that's the way art is born in us, we just provide the channel and the patience and a finely-tuned musculature!
As the songs were coming out and coalescing around these two poles, I came up with the double disc idea - and as the lyrical focus of each side became clearer, I understood the conceptual contrast between them. "Land" was talking about being in the world - a person, with a name, a body, a history, a list of statistics... so there are songs about the dramas we get entangled in (Girls Hating Girls), the curious state of our media culture (Everybody's On TV) and the sheer wonder of having a body that does miraculous things on a daily basis (I Am A Light)... it's about being here, in this time and place. "Sea" is about those brief glimpses of timelessness we all experience - a window that looks out of our temporal reality and into the eternity that is our endless cosmos... a cosmos powered by something infinitely vast and mysterious. So there are songs about awe (The Cosmic Ballet), sensing the Presence (You're Not Alone) being guided by this presence (The Right Words, Attention Archers) and those moments in our lives that take us out of time as we know it (My Eyes & Your Eyes).
To finish writing the string scores for "Sea", I lived in Pouch Cove NL for a while... as I composed in my little cabin by the ocean, pods of whales would come into the bay and spout and play...and at twilight the sea would pitch and loll like a living thing. It was magical.
Since you've just launched your Canadian tour...what are your must have beauty products - the stuff you can't live without when out on the road?
One word: HYDRATION! My mini-steamer is my best friend on the road. Especially in those dry prairies. With a lot of shows back to back, and a lot of big, challenging songs on the set list, I have to take really good care of my voice. I drink a LOT of water, and I also have my favourite hydrating skin care products - I love Dermalogica's microfoliant and Pure+ Simple's facial oils. I carry around a little purse-sized jar of coconut oil too - great all-purpose moisturizer. I've been trying to gradually phase out all of my regular cosmetics for all-natural versions, and there are some great new lines out there. It's heartening to see this kind of shift in the marketplace. When you think of how many chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis, it's frightening, which is also why I try to keep it simple. We don't need the majority of products out there. Most of 'em are 'temporary solutions for imaginary problems'!
What makes you happiest in your life right now?
That I am still making music after fifteen years in the record-making world, that I get up every morning eager to create, that my dreams haven't waned, they've broadened and multiplied, the love of (and loving) my man, my family and friends, the smell of coffee, the change of seasons, the simple perfection of a piano, scoring for strings, delicious food, trees glorious trees, Ted Talks, the TVO Big Ideas Podcast, all things CBC, learning French, the green movement and what passionate, engaged citizens are in the process of creating, the idea of having a child one day, running, laughing unbearably hard with my band mates, sunshine, imagining the musical I'm writing, painting for hours and hours.... I could go on...
If you'd like to score a pair of tickets to see Sarah Slean in concert this Saturday (November 5th) at The Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto, all you have to do is answer this question in the comment field below...
If you had to chose one or other....would you choose land or sea (and why)?
Yummy Rules and Regs: You must be a Yummy Mummy Club member to win. Click to sign up! It's free and filled with perks. One comment per member. Entries accepted until end of day November 4, 2011. Contest open to Canadian residents. Winners will be picked using www.random.org."