Exploring a Different Voice: Interview With Sarah Cripps

Sarah Cripps

With this latest release, a self-titled album, singer/songwriter Sarah Cripps is stepping out of the Canadian country scene, choosing a gritty, intense alt rock sound for this dark (but excellent) set of songs.  I can only imagine how challenging it can be to rediscover one’s voice in new ways, but with the help of producer Dean Drouillard Sarah does so confidently and creatively.

The album opens with “Leave Behind,” a somewhat gloomy piece that in spite of (or perhaps because of) its darkness became a veritable earworm in my head after I started listening to the album.  Sarah is fortunate enough to have a voice that is versatile enough to handle not only her earlier country/roots-tinged material but also the intrepid, unblinking songs on this project, and it molds itself on this tune to a wailing plea that sticks in the ear long after the song ends.  “Caroline” is a more up-tempo rocker (it reminds me a bit of some of Pat Benatar’s work – and I mean that as a compliment), while “Heat” leans more toward a slow-burning folk song with just a hint of electronica bubbling under the surface.

“Going Under” is a highlight of the album – an angry delight of a rock anthem that burns with rage.  “Charcoal Heart” provides the other earworm that’s been left in my head for days now; Sarah’s voice is so powerful here, a barely contained missile aimed at the darkness within.  I suspect the more country/roots-minded fans will especially enjoy the album’s closer, “Bones,” a wonderfully melodic tune that features Sarah’s terrific voice intertwined beautifully with hints of pedal steel.

I really hope that Sarah’s long-standing fans will travel this musical road with her, as I think she has a bright future ahead.  This is an excellent album and a great start on her new path.  We are delighted that Sarah took some time to answer a few questions about the project!

This album marks a change in direction for you… what inspired you to craft a more alt rock sound for this particular project? 

It happened pretty organically. The inspiration was a combination of the emotion in the songs, and how I wanted to perform them live. The tension and sentiment behind this collection of music really lent itself to a louder, more chaotic, ‘alternative’ sound. I also feel more at home performing with a full band and getting a bit loud and heavy, so I wanted to make an album that would allow me to express that.

The project also comes more than five years after your first album – what are some of the experiences that have shaped the musician you are now, as opposed to the musician you were then? 

Between my last album at age 21, and this one at 27, I did a lot of growing both personally and musically. I tried to explore different sounds and messages in my writing and with that, the new sound came quite naturally. I learned to listened to myself a little more and this album really feels like a true expression of who I am as an artist.

In the promo materials, there’s a really intriguing mention of the influence of cult cinema and classic film on your new music.  Can you talk a bit about that?  For example, what are some of the films that have most deeply influenced this project?  

I’ve always been a huge horror buff and love the idea of how gore and special effects are pulled off in film. So much so, that it became a hobby to practice gory prosthetics on myself and on friends. The soundtracks to these movies also influenced a lot of the darker sounds and moods on this album. It unconsciously became a theme for the album lyrically as well. Going through a turbulent time while writing and recording this album, I felt like I could relate to the characters in these movies, both victims and monsters. The underlying messages in these films were so on point with the emotions of the songs that I decided to embrace the darkness of it all.

You have a strong roots background, and songs like “Heat” really bring that out, at least for this listener.  How do you see the line between genres – pretty blurry, or are the two (roots and alternative) fairly distinct in your view? 

For me, the line is very blurry. When I wrote these songs, I wasn’t keeping a genre in mind. I wrote songs that came honestly to me with my voice and a guitar. That honesty of a bare bones song is where the ‘roots’ side comes from. The alternative side comes from the production and the choices we made in the studio. We had a lot of fun getting creative and letting the songs get a bit ‘weird’ and ‘chaotic’ rather than ‘clean’ and ‘pretty’ the whole way through.

Dean Drouillard, who has worked with some really great names in Canadian roots and folk music, produced this album for you.  How was the experience of working with him? 

Dean was such a pleasure to work with. Going into it we both agreed that we didn’t want to restrict ourselves to making a typical roots or folk record. We wrote a handful of the songs together and had so much fun taking those songs, and going outside the box and testing the limits of what we considered ‘safe’. He has such brilliant ideas and is so creative that working with an ‘anything goes’ mindset made this record into something very unique and special.

“Charcoal Heart” keeps bringing me back… is there a particular story behind this song? 

This song marks a real turning point in the story of this album. A small and sort of dark idea came to me one day before a writing session with Dean, and I was having a hard time placing where it was coming from or what it meant. Dean helped arrange the song, but I still couldn’t finish the lyrics. Soon after, I went through a sudden and tumultuous transition in my personal life that stemmed from being dishonest with myself, and it was making me feel really dark. It had been weighing me down more than I realized and this song was telling that story before I knew it myself. The rest of the lyrics came so easily after acknowledging that.

You have a couple of shows coming up in the Toronto area – what can audiences expect?  And how will those cinematic/photographic influences show up in your live performances, if at all? 

I try to carry the sounds of the album into the live show as much as possible. Playing these songs live lets the emotion in each song take on a life of its own and everything is intensified. It will be a totally different experience than listening to the album. Maybe even a bit heavier.

~ L

Visit Sarah Cripps’ website.

Listen to “Sarah Cripps” on Spotify.

Upcoming Tour Dates:

FEB 21, WED, The Dakota Tavern, Toronto, Canada – TICKETS RSVP

MAR 6, TUE, The Piston with Zoe Sky Jordan and Dani Nash, Toronto, ON – RSVP

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