Sara acts an an ambassador & advisor for Jazzlines Women In Jazz programme
When and how did you come to start playing music?
I started playing the piano when I was 6. My brother Matthew had started lessons and I think I used to copy what he played, so my parents took me for lessons too.
The piano we had back then was an old pianola. We had loads of old piano rolls. Mat and I would spend hours pedalling away, pretending to play all of these fantastically difficult pieces.
Tell us a bit about the path of your musical development.
From about 10 yrs old I went to this wonderful and scary teacher called Ivy Wilcox. She had a very long waiting list and quite an unorthodox method which mainly involved a lot of waiting for your lesson as she was always running late. However, whilst you were waiting you ended up either doing theory papers, accompanying someone who was having a singing lesson as she taught both, playing duets or just watching the lesson. Consequently I did a lot of theory and sight reading! All her students did lots of local Eisteddfods year upon year my poor parents would sit through hour after hour of endless categories of competitions-apparently I would often cheerfully stroll off stage having played my piano piece quite well but with some choice mistakes, saying to my mum, 'that was quite good, wasn't it Mum!' Ever optimistic and never really going to be a classical pianist!
How did you get into jazz and why did you choose to focus on studying/playing jazz?
My dad was is a big jazz fan and so I'd been listening to the classic singers from being really young. I'm not sure I always knew that it would be jazz but I did know that I was definitely going to sing and write. A fellow student at the Conservatoire (I studied classical piano there) ran a swing orchestra and I got my first really taste of singing jazz with them.
When you are composing, what are the key elements you aim to incorporate in your music?
Lyrics that communicate, melodies that are lovely to sing, rhythmically compelling.Interesting harmony built within a classic songwriting style with lots of room for improvisation.
Which musicians have had a key influence on you and your music?
Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Prince, Sarah Vaughan, Steely Dan,
James Taylor,Al Jarreau, Lizz Wright,Foy Vance ......
If you were introducing a friend to jazz music for the first time, what 3 artists or albums would you recommend to them?
Tough question!!!....... Herbie Hancock River: The Joni Letters; Chet Baker Sings: It Could Happen to You;Lizz Wright, Salt.
Please tell us a bit about an upcoming/future project.
I'm writing and recording for a new album coming out on Stoney Lane Records early next year. It's been quite a few years since my last album Ready and I've just been into a studio and we've done a bit of pre-production work on a couple of the songs. I've become a bit obsessed with this project - it feels old and new at the same time and it's making me feel nervous and excited! I'm working with some new friends including the wonderful pianist Rebecca Nash. I'm really looking forward to gigging these new songs this year feeling them work in different shapes, different ensembles.
What key advice would you give to young female musicians planning to build a career as professional musician?
Do things your own way; trust your instinct; don't make do - keep your integrity; play with musicians who inspire you and know that music you play and compose is valuable to the world.