Force Of Nature Sari Schorr Talks to Bluesdoodles
BD: Big thank you for taking time out of your tour schedule to chat with Bluesdoodles. Thank you so much for letting Bluesdoodles have a copy of your debut album A Force Of Nature, your forthcoming album before its release. More of that later I am sure.
We built a rapport talking about my hair colour, album covers, dogs and more this is what Sari said about the album cover and more.
Sari: For example, I had a beautiful picture of a tree I tried to convince everyone would be a perfect album cover, but I lost that argument. Yea I am learning to pick and choose my arguments, try and argue those that I am going to win. The good thing about the album cover is that it was a last-minute photo shoot. I had no idea I was going to do it so I didn’t have to think about it. I didn’t plan for it I just thought it was a few extra publicity shots so there was no pressure as we already had the album cover it is now the picture inside of me dancing taken by a friend of mine Amy Kirwin we thought that was going to be the cover. So that is why that shoot was one of the most pleasant photo shoots I had ever been on with Rob Blackman.
I am a hobbyist photographer I am working on a book about my three Pitbulls. I turn my tiny Brooklyn Apartment into a studio and when my husband came home it was like something out of Lucille Ball “Whatever have you done” Sari laughs. The ridiculous costumes the dogs were in, lights everywhere, blue screen it was ridiculous. We chatted about walking dogs great to find another common point including walking the dog first thing in the morning. Sari has five flights of stairs and three walks, lots of exercise, they love Brooklyn Park, Prospect Park and into Manhattan they love Central Park where there are a couple of lakes they can swim in.
Let me thank you for scheduling it a bit earlier, I suppose everyone wants to speak to you now I am so busy yea overnight success after a life time of work. But it makes you a lot more grateful. Yes, we all have hiccups in life and sometimes is too easy at the beginning they can be a real shock to the system. I think without these hiccups, I like the way you put that these opportunities for growth have given me lots of opportunities for some great song writing material. We will be talking about your amazing songs later but let’s start at the beginning.
BD: What were your early musical influences were they classical through your Opera singing training?
Sari: My earliest was jazz Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan Nat King Cole and then from there I started digging backwards. Who were their influences that I discovered the great classic female blues singers, Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, Big Mama Thornton etc. then it was this realization these women just completely connected with me. Their voices resonated in a way I could identify with because as a Jazz singer I was always overpowering the band. I was always told “Could you try and tone it down a little?” “You have a five-octave range but do you have to use it”. Laughing, you have a loud voice do you have to use it. I was always trying to be less, be demure and finally when I discovered these women who lead me into the blues just this felt like the key that really opened me up to realise who I was. Yes, you do have a big voice. Yea, nothing petite. You have a big voice tuneful but keeps its shaping of the tone Yes, absolutely right about that I think Studying with an Opera teacher really early was a good thing made me conscious of tone and pitch the quality and placement of voice its technique has so much to do with it. Then you have to find a way to get past the technique forget it and become the storyteller the singer. Just the singer you can’t do both thinking about technique and trying to deliver a message. Yes, that is like all art forms it is about being instinctive. It has to become instinctive, that is the artistry when technique becomes invisible to you and it’s rooted in your subconscious. Everything else in your conscious mind becomes the artistry and that is when you really connect with the audience and goes straight to the heart. Easy to connect to negativity human brain right away goes to negativity in order to be an artist and inspired you have to be open and positive be an individual and understand who you are. That was also part of my journey finding my real voice, early on you are influenced by artists you admire. You want to emulate and emulation is the first step to achieving artistry. But you have to move beyond that to find out who you are and that is a very, very hard journey and is what separates out the great artist from everybody else. It’s that extra thing that uniqueness, that some great artists are able to achieve as they have great awareness of themselves and that means the good and the bad. You have to embrace all those things about yourself take it all on use all that stuff, it all has something to say. All those life experiences, personality’s flaws and those opportunities for growth all lead you towards being able to communicate in a much more honest way. They all add up to artistic integrity, you have to have all those resources. You can’t be self-conscious, you can’t be yourself the singer singing the song you have to be the song itself. It sounds I know a little bit odd, but you have to dissolve into just being the vehicle for the song and you are communicating with the audience. It is not about you, that is the other thing that is so hard, because there is so much attention in the artist, the truth is I am the least important part of it; it’s the emotion the message I am sharing I am just a vehicle for all of those things for the benefit of an audience who wants to hear it.
BD: Your set at Blues On the Farm was excellent
Sari: Thank you so much, we were hoping for sunshine, but it turned out that the rain added a great feeling to the whole thig. I still have mud on my boots, I love it. It was a wet weekend
BD: Currently on tour with your new band The Engine Room. It was really obvious when I saw you live that you have a real connection on stage with Innes Sibun on guitar
Sari: Innes is an unbelievably good guitarist, I never in a million years thought I would have the good fortune to be in a band with him and feel he is my brother. He is my brother from another mother, we joke about it all the time but we are so connected with each other spiritually, musically, and artistically. We often say it’s amazing he hears me sing and if his guitar could sing it he says would sound like my voice. The same is true if my voice could play guitar it is what his guitar does would represent my voice. We anticipate each other’s moves, no show is ever the same we are completely in the moment. That takes a lot of courage as this can go terribly wrong in a moment but laughing we like to live dangerously. We are on the edge all the time.
BD: How did you and the band hook up.
Sari: For the album the band hadn’t hooked up. On the record, Nani Conde played bass he is one of the greatest bass players in Spain, the band hadn’t been formed yet. Because Mike Vernon lives in Spain his beautiful villa outside Malaga we had recorded a couple of demo’s in Spain pre-album and I fell in love with the studio. I fell in love with the people who worked there, it is a more intimate studio it felt very personal not like the big corporate studios I am accustomed to recording in. I said to Mike I would really love to record the album here where everyone can go for lunch around the corner a two-hour break that costs $5 for a four-course meal I can live with this I thought. So when Mike asked me who would you like featured on your album, create a short A list. Innes was on top of the list because I knew Mike had done couple of albums with him, I knew we had this mutual connection and I was living in Paris at the time working on an Amnesty International project. I was asked to sing on a project sort of We Are The World with lots of international artists. I also had to go back to New York to produce Carly Simon’s session, it really didn’t need any producing I hit the record button
“Carly go!” and she did it in one take and that was the extent of it. While I happened to be back in New York there was a Rory Gallagher Tribute at the Iridium and I was asked to perform I agreed to it and Innes Sibun was a guest so we met for the first time at that Rory Gallagher tribute. We met backstage we probably said two words to each other, I was intimidated and everyone wanted to talk to him and I didn’t want to get in the way. Two years later when Mike asked who did I want? on the record I said Innes. He called, Innes was on tour in Germany and he said he would love to I couldn’t believe it he said he’d be back the next week which was perfect. After the recording Mike and I were so depressed it was so perfect. Now how are we going to produce this live, Innes it’s a one-off what are we going to do. How are we going to put a band together that sounds as good as the record. Innes came in our words were still hanging in the air. He said “I love this project so much, I believe that this project is going to be so great and important I would love to be the guitar player” Mike and I looked at each other, our mouths just dropped and then we said Yes. Soon as we had Innes on board everything else would fall in place. And it did. We got Kevin Jeffries on bass, Kevin O’Rourke on drums, and Anders Olinder on keyboards. We have The Engine Room. <em>Will they be touring in America and beyond? </em>Yes, they will be with a bigger tour of America in 2017 planned. This is the band I will tour all over the world with.
BD: I have always been interested in the lyrics of songs. Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting it is not just personal, lots of politics and other themes, there is a real narrative to it.
Sari: Thank you for recognising that, I struggle with the lyrics, it hurts. When I have to sit down and start working on a lyric it feels like diving into an ice-cold bucket of water. It stings my whole body, I procrastinate because it scares me to death writing lyrics. I really work on lyric melodies, music comes easily to me it is the lyrics that provides the challenge. It is important to me to find relevant subjects something that I can bring to the subject through my own perspective and life experience and to be able to sing with weighty lyrics makes me feel I am contributing something of value that is it I want to contribute something of value and I can only do that if I am singing about relevant subjects that have meaning to people that are inspiring and also painful, that is life. I really believe we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. When I sit down to write, the first thing I do is clear my mind okay we are spiritual beings what is the connection between all of us what is resonating and I just tap into something that’s definitely bigger than me. Even with Letting Go one of the songs I wrote with Mike Vernon. That is one example of a lyric I wrote very quickly, well honestly I didn’t write it – it came to me. Mike Vernon lost his wife about a year ago, we were sitting in his dining room and there was a picture of his beautiful wife Natalie on the shelf and I kept looking at this picture. I was thinking how hard it must be for Mike being without her now. I came up with a melody, I was thinking about Natalie and those lyrics were completely formed I honestly feel she sent those lyrics to me as a gift and every time I sing that song I always thank her for that song. Some of the great lyrics I write, that sounds arrogant, but I saying that because I don’t think I wrote them, chuckling, I look as those lyrics and think Oh My God! I am not smart enough to write this that didn’t come from me laughing. I think we are all capable of doing things well beyond our means when we tap into the some kind of creative energy that surrounds all of us. As Artists we just spend more of our lives trying to harness that creative energy, we catch onto it a little bit more often because we dedicate ourselves to doing that, we dedicate ourselves to the pain and suffering to be creative. Art is a living breathing thing, we are always developing, always changing. I never sing a song the same way, never. I was talking about this to my bass player and he said he never plays a bass line the same way there are subtle differences we are not the person we were a moment ago. We are not the better version of ourselves that’s coming two minutes ahead so we have a lot to look forward to laughing that is why we are allowed to make mistakes now because it is us and the past in two seconds it will be that was when I was very immature then. <strong>Laughing I am still immature at sixty too late for me to reach maturity. </strong>Good trick is never grow-up! Every day is the first day of the rest of your life I honestly believe that. I have reinvented myself many, many times. Finally, figured out who I am and I can make a contribution.
BD: The title A Force Of Nature reflects your personality and musical signature, rather than taking a track as a title. Tell us a bit about making the album and the importance of Mike Vernon as Producer in shaping the finished product.
Sari: He is so talented. It is no wonder that he is a living legend an iconic producer because I have never worked with someone with his deep sense of awareness of music. He hears everything. And then he has a vision like he can see what it is supposed to sound like before it happens, he sees the picture painted while the canvas is still blank because he knows so clearly what the end result should be he can guide the musicians and artists to get there without putting his own imprint on it. He doesn’t force his own sound, he brings out the best of the people he has in the studio which is incredible. Somehow he knows what we are capable of, what we don’t even know. He pushes you in such an inspiring way, I have worked with producers that brings you to tears, frustrate the hell out of you it is all negative. I have seen musicians storm out of sessions but with Mike everyone is hanging on to his every word, they want more feedback from him because he does it in such a loving and inspiring way. The truth is you have to be like a psychotherapist to work with a bunch of musicians in a recording studio, basically telling them that’s good but not good enough, musicians are very sensitive. He does it in a way that brings out the best in everybody, as soon as you tell someone they’re not good or you criticize, the brain shuts down and creativity can’t happen under a negative influence, it is just not possible, the human brain really does not function under negativity. That is the thing that so many producers just don’t understand, they do not understand human nature but Mike is a genius, he has got an incredible intuition, he has confidence to trust his intuition he is opinionated when he knows he is right and for the benefit of the project and believe me when you are in the studio with him, everybody trusts him. You put your life in his hands gladly and it was his idea to call the album Force Of Nature, it was a line from a review he had remembered that particular sentence from the review and it was his idea. Alan at record label (Manhaton Records) agreed, and I was still thinking we can have a nice picture of a tree on the cover. It would have been ridiculous laughing, it is a beautiful tree, I took the picture in Germany it’s a magical tree I was wrong about that. Sometimes I have to step out of the way and let them make marketing decisions, they always run everything by me, but I am not one of those artists that would ever say I make all the decisions that the album is all about me. It is not! It is about all the people I am so fortunate to work with. I give them all the room they need to succeed. I am working with Mike because I trust him completely, even with Stop In The Name of Love, when he suggested doing that I thought there is no way I can do justice to that song, I can’t do this. Mike said listen to me, if you do not feel comfortable with this song we won’t do it but I said I am working with you because I trust that you can see things I can’t I am relying on you to see where my blind spots are, everyone has a blind spot. If you think it’s a good idea I will try it and we did and we basically got the song in the first take. Just because I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it, so I had nothing to lose I just went in and went for it thinking they would say you are right this isn’t working. Ended up being basically the final take.
BD: That leads on to the next question. The album is predominately your self-penned numbers, you told us how Stop In The Name Of Love got included. So how did the other two covers get included Leadbelly’s classic Black Betty performed in a completely different way and the Walter Trout Number, Work No More?
Sari: I was so honoured when I was asked to sing at Carnegie Hall, on the Leadbelly Fest, they chose the Black Betty for me. When I was studying Ram Jam version, I thought if I am going to do this I’ve got to find a way to make it my own sort of meditated on what the song meant to me. It became very clear where I wanted to go with the Song. Then I met Walter Trout, when I was on tour Joe Louis Walker, we re-connected at the Leadbelly Fest in Carnegie Hall heard I was making an album and he said I would love to part of it. So I said we would love you to be part of it. I wanted to honour him by doing one of his songs, we talked about a bunch of different ideas. He said there is one song that is important to me it is about a woman who practically raised me and I really loved her name was Irene and it was Johnny Winter’s favourite song so I said let’s do that one so that is how we ended up going with Work No More.
BD: That is lovely, so often covers included in an album feel like fillers, but these have deep stories attached to them why they are in the mix and they fit so well. Sari: We had to leave of some originals, we had too many songs for the first album and that was the hardest thing choosing which songs would have to be put on the side. There will be another album, Innes and I are already starting to work on material for the second album even though we have material already the songs that had to wait from the first one. You know, you have your whole life to make the first one but only very short amount of time to make your second one so already working on it so we don’t disappoint anyone.
BD: The album includes some special guests including guitarists Oli Brown, Walter Trout and keyboardist John Baggot. What extra dimensions did they add to the tracks they appear on?
Sari: Mike worked with Oli Brown when playing the blues, he is an incredible guitarist, what a nice guy I enjoyed working with him in the studio. Soon as he stepped in we had a connection right away it was fun we ended up doing a couple of extra songs with him. Initially only coming into to do one song but we were having too much fun. I think everybody comes from their perspective. All the artists we have on the record bring their own special qualities. We have a couple of incredible pianists on the record from Spain, incredibly accomplished players. Jesus Lavillas who is playing on Ordinary Life comes from a beautiful jazz background and having a little bit of jazz infused on the record. John Baggott, playing I don’t even know how to describe him, he is a multi-instrumentalist he can do everything, Jazz, rock, Blues, Soul and he just puts so much sparkle yes he adds beautiful sparkle to the tracks. Walter – the beautiful solo that he did. He did the solo in one take, he was so inspired it was so emotional he did it and the engineer said we’re done, he listened back and said yep, we’re done.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing?
Sari: What a great question. I have to say I really do live in the moment so would have the exact band I have at the moment they are a tremendous gift that I recognise because I am so honoured to be working with these musicians, that is why I gave them a name. I wanted them to have the attention they deserve, the recognition and not just be my name. The Engine Room represents the band of my dreams.
BD: Excellent, You have the band but if you could time travel back into the past and listen to in the moment?
Sari: Jimi Hendrix, I never got to see him play love to hear Jimi Hendrix play his guitar and also to be able to sit in a small New York jazz club in Harlem and hear Billie Holiday that would be my dream
BD: Thank you so much for you time the laughter and sharing making the album like you said the conversation could have gone on a lot longer. With a goodbye, Sari went off for her next demand on her time a radio interview.
Black Betty (Radio Edit: 3:23) Single released Monday 8th August 2016
Taken From the Debut Album
A Force of Nature
Produced by Mike Vernon
Released Friday 2nd September 2016 on Manhaton Records
SARI SCHORR AND THE ENGINE ROOM
2016 UK AND EUROPEAN TOUR DATES
BOOK TICKETS VIA BANDS IN TOWN:
August 4-5 Notodden Blues Festival Norway
August 26 Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Altwood Rd, Maidenhead, UK
August 27 Varenwinkel Festival, Herselt, Belgium
August 28 Seacroft Double Festival, Norfolk, UK
August 29 Great British RnB Festival, Colne, Lancashire, UK
August 28 Seacroft Double Festival, Norfolk
Sept 9 Darlington RnB Club, The Forum Music Centre, Darlington, UK
Sept 5 Half Moon Putney, London, UK (Album Launch)
Sept 10 Blues Club, Devizes, Wiltshire, UK
Sept 11 Winchester Discovery Centre, Winchester, UK
Sept 14 The Tunnels, Bristol, UK
Sept 15 Southern Pavilion, Worthing Pier, West Sussex, UK
Sept 16 New Crawdaddy, Billericay Town FC Billericay, UK
Sept 17 Old Town Hall, High Street, Hemel Hempstead, UK
Sept 23 Selby Town Hall Yorkshire, UK
Sept 24 The Iron Road, Evesham, Worcestershire, UK
Sept 25 Hope Tavern, Caistor Rd, Holton-le-Moor, Market Rasen, Lincs, UK
Sept 28 Vonnies Blues Club, Cheltenham
Sept 29 Cranleigh Arts Centre, High Street, Cranleigh, Surrey
Sept 30 B.A.R Festival, France
October 1 Hereford Blues Club, Booth Hall, Hereford, UK
October 6 Bar Brunel Bridgewater, UK
October 7 Deux Rivieres Blues Festival, Brittany, France