RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW NEW YORK ARTIST SARAH ANNE FERNANDEZ
What made you decide that music was the thing for you?
Simply because I’ve never been able to live without it. I’ve known from a very young age that I’m happiest when I’m making music, listening to music, performing music, talking about music… I think you get what I’m going for here. I’ve always loved to sing, and that love has carried me down many different career paths that I adore.
Introduce us to you and your musical history.
Working in recorded music is a relatively new thing for me, as I’m primarily a musical theatre actress. I have a degree in Musical Theatre from NYU Tisch and was most recently seen on the North American tour of the Broadway musical Wicked, understudying the lead role of Elphaba. Once the pandemic hit and Broadway shut down, I knew I had to get creative as to how I could keep music in my life while my job was paused. Being that I’d always been a kind of a closet songwriter, I thought recorded music might actually be a really great outlet for me.
I spent the pandemic writing tons of songs and finding my sound as an artist – learning to sing and cultivate my own words instead of someone else’s, like I’ve always had to do on stage. And then earlier this year, along with my producer and mix engineer whom I adore dearly, I decided it was time to finally start releasing that music into the world. I decided to start with ‘Drowning’ as my debut single, since it’s the song I feel is the most authentic one I’ve ever written. Breakup anthems and love songs are fun, but this song is purely me – and while that’s a little scary it’s also exactly the kind of work I want to be creating. Vulnerable, relatable, and authentic. I’m looking forward to continuing my career as a musician with all of this in mind.
If you had to describe your music, how would you describe it?
What’s exciting is that I’m at the very start of my career as a musician, so it’s all ahead of me and I have the space to let my music grow and change as I do. As of now, I’d describe the upcoming single as shimmer pop. I’m interested in exploring that genre a bit more with upcoming singles, but I’m also very interested in exploring a lot of other musical sounds like pop punk & rock. I’m very influenced by artists such as Taylor Swift, Paramore, Lady Gaga, and Phoebe Bridgers, and they’ve all explored multiple sounds and musical genres over their careers. I’m excited to play with new things and let my music grow with me over time.
What makes you stand out as an artist?
I think what makes me stand out is that I’m committed to making music that sounds like me. I’m not interested in trying to be someone else, instead really passionate about writing my own words that reflect my feelings and creating original sounds to back them up. You can certainly hear my theatrical influence and my commitment to telling the story in all of my music because it’s what I know. And while it would certainly be easier to create music that fits a current pop culture template, as of right now I’m really happy writing songs that are ultimately a culmination of all my inspirations and life lessons and likes and dislikes and so much more.
What’s your favorite song to play live and why?
When it comes to music I’ve written, I’m just entering the realm of performing all of that stuff live. I’ve had a few performances in the past here and there where I’ve shared my work, but I’m really pumped to continue writing and releasing music, and hopefully putting together a concert of sorts to perform it all live. I’m no stranger to live performance, being that I primarily work in theatre, but I think there’s something so intimate about sharing your own words with an audience and I can’t wait to do that sometime soon.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it?
My debut single is releasing on September 30th, 2022, and it’s called ‘Drowning.’ I’m very excited to have this be the kick-off to my career because, as I’ve said before, I’m proud of how honest it is. As an artist – in all that I do, theatre, music, etc – I believe in creating work that has the power to enact change. Whether it’s something as important as the changing of minds or something as simple as the changing of mood, I constantly strive to create dynamic, honest work that has the ability to move and inspire.
I think ‘Drowning’ is the perfect encapsulation of that. Written as a quintessential “sad girl fall anthem,” ‘Drowning’ illuminates what it feels like to live with insecurity – to quite literally feel drowned by it. On this track, I wanted to juxtapose powerful vocals with vulnerable lyrics so that I could create a song that is relatable, anthemic, and uniquely me. I believe ‘Drowning’ serves as a musical balm to anyone who often feels overwhelming feelings of insecurity and sadness. I’m counting down the days until its release and hope that everyone enjoys it as much as I enjoyed creating it.
Talk me through the thought process of creating the single.
I wrote this song, as I write most of my songs, by asking Siri to begin recording a Voice Memo as inspiration struck me whilst driving down the highway on a rainy day. The melody came first (a jumbled, hummed Voice Memo recording that features the click of my blinker in the background) and the words spilled out of me the second I parked the car. I’m no stranger to feeling completely overwhelmed 24/7, and yet I’d never allowed myself to really write about it and go there in my music. Before this song I’d always kept it a little bit surface level, but I knew immediately that this one had to dig deep. I then brought it to my sister, Mary Fernandez, for advice and she added a few additional lyrics that helped tie the whole thing together.
She’s the kind of person who is brilliant at literally everything she does and I’m glad she got to put a few handprints on my first single, as I literally drown without her in everyday life. I soon after recorded a demo and sent it over to my mix engineer, Carl Bahner, who introduced me to my producer, George Holliday, and we began work on the track. Nicholas Di Lorenzo added the finishing touches with the master, and we were ready to go. To put it plainly – I’m absolutely in love with the team of people I’ve surrounded myself with on this project. They’re all the best of the best at what they do and on top of that, they’re kind, hilarious, easy-to-work with people whom I adore. We spent a lot of time making sure all the details were just right and created a track I truly love. I am so excited to give it over to the world in just a few short days.
What was the recording process like?
Recording the single was such a fun learning experience for me because it’s actually where a lot of my favorite parts of the song were discovered and created. I’m such a planner, so I went into recording thinking I knew exactly what the song would sound like, and as we kept recording melodies and harmonies and new ideas would pop up in my head, and my incredible team just went with it in the best way. We really created something I’m proud of and I enjoyed every moment of it.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the single?
I think the biggest learning curve for me was learning to let go. I’m a super huge perfectionist, so if it were up to me, I’d be writing and re-writing this song until the end of time trying to perfect it. During this process, I had to learn when to let it go and realize that it was ready – that of course we can always grow and improve, but at this moment in time this is what the song is meant to be, and I have to let it go to allow it to be that.
Would you change anything now that it’s finished?
Honestly, this answer shocks me, but no. Maybe I’ll find a nit-picky note in a few months that I’d want to change, but as of right now I’m just really proud of how it turned out. I never thought I could truly do this – I always wanted to write music and release it and do this kind of work, but I never thought it could truly be a reality for me. If I showed 15-year-old Sarah ‘Drowning,’ I think she’d die. This is exactly the kind of song she always wanted to write, and I’m really just honored that I’ve had the chance to make that dream of mine come true.
What’s one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
I don’t think I’m sick of anything yet! That sounds like such a cliché answer, but it really is true. I’m really grateful to be where I am in all facets of my career and interviews come with that. I enjoy talking about my work and my process and hope I never lose that outlook.
What was the most fun you’ve ever had on stage?
I did my first solo concert in December of 2021 at Feinstein’s/54 Below in NYC – which is actually where I premiered ‘Drowning’ – and it was a blast. I loved getting to create my own show and work with the best band ever and perform for an awesome audience. Hoping to put together a new show sometime soon and do it all over again.
What was the worst experience on stage?
When I was in Wicked there was a costume malfunction and I tripped and fell flat on my face in front of an audience of 5,000. Center stage, spotlight on me… just awful. Hilarious now, but so embarrassing then.
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about.
Alongside my theatrical and musical endeavors, I’m also a self-taught professional baker! Over the pandemic, I opened an online bakery and created custom cakes, cookies, and cupcakes for special events. I do it less now that my industry has made its way back to work, but I do still love to do it and can make a mean chocolate chip cookie.
Did you buy anything you don’t need in the pandemic?
Oh absolutely. I’ve done way too much online shopping since the pandemic began. I started a vinyl record collection, which I absolutely don’t need but I do love. I’ve spent the past two years attempting to collect all the records that have changed my life or have influenced me as a person/artist. So far, I’ve got Taylor Swift’s entire discography, Riot! by Paramore, SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo, Born This Way by Lady Gaga & Thriller by Michael Jackson. Currently searching for vinyl copies of The Fame Monster by Lady Gaga or Dreamboat Annie by Heart that isn’t like 4 million dollars, so the hunt continues!!
What useless party trick do you have?
This is so dorky, but I can name pretty much every musical that has won the award for Best Musical at the Tony Awards and the year that they won it. I don’t think most people do this at parties, but if I ever go to one and they do, I am ready.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
More music! Currently already working on my second single with the team and it’s completely different from ‘Drowning’ and I’m already in love with what they’re doing with it. Excited for the future of my music and for it to grow and change and evolve.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Pre-save and stream ‘Drowning!’ And thank you for supporting my work. It means truly the entire world to me.