I bumped into this girl! I bump into a lot of people but this girl had me at guitar solo!! She is a local performer here in Toronto and to be honest I hadn’t heard her play until I decided to take a chance and have her come entertain at my local Winerack. I love having live entertainment at my shop. It’s amazing the response from guests and well it’s just fabulous isn’t it?
So Sara Wilkinson came to play for us. What can I say? She blew me away. Her voice was stunning and her original material is smart, moving, haunting in fact in the most beautiful way. I was transfix on her and could hardly do my day job as I worked around her performance. This one is going straight to number one and I’m thrilled I got to sit down with her and chat with her about her rising star.
Me: Sara!!!! You blew me away with your music and your ease as you performed. Tell me about that ease.
Sara: Music has always been a part of my life. You could say it’s my first language. I grew up crawling on sheet music before I could speak. My mom was a pianist and organist for church, and my dad a violinist. Both of them music teachers. They asked me if I wanted to sing when I was seven years old, and I thought, “why not? I’ll give it a try”. I’ve been singing ever since. Honestly, it was the first thing I remember being good at, so I latched on to it pretty quick.
Me: It’s obvious you are right at home singing and sharing your music. You brought me to tears in a couple of cases silly girl!!! I was working! You were working it! LOL! How would you describe your original material?
Sara: Everyone always asks me, “what kind of music do you write?” or “what style do you sing?”
Bruce: Well you better get used to that question!!! :o)
Sara: I always find this difficult to answer, because I’m influenced by so many different styles. I never thought for a second that I was going to limit myself to one type of music! I’ve always wanted to use my instrument in any way possible.
My mom constantly had jazz playing at home, such as Oscar Peterson, Diana Crawl and Ella Fitzgerald. My Dad was more into classical music. If you ask him, he’ll tell you he knows a lot about old, dead, white guys (that being Beethoven, Mozart, Bach etc.). Having these influences in my life definitely affects the kind of music I write.
Bruce: I love that answer and I love how you avoided answering it! I’m sure it’s a scary thing to be pinned down to one style when you are so diverse in the way you approach your art! What is a moment in your life in music that really stands out for you? Anything you can think of?
Sara: When I was 10, I played the role of “Annie” in Annie. At that moment I decided I would sing, dance and act on stage for the rest of my life. I tend to be a pretty indecisive human being, but this I have always been sure of. It’s been tricky having two loves, musical theatre and composing. I’m always looking for ways to combine the two as I don’t feel I can do one without the other. Being a songwriter makes me a better actress and being able to dive into characters makes me a better song writer. Some of the people who I’ve admired throughout my life are Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Melanie Safka, Judy Garland, the Beatles, and most recently, Carol King. I based my most recent album off her record “Tapestry”. After seeing the Broadway show “Beautiful” based off her life, I fell in love with her music. The sheer honesty whether it be utter joy or utter heart break, she had a way of touching your soul.
Bruce: I love many if not all those artists! Joni being one of my very favourite artists. You started singing pretty young and was brought up with a wide range of music to live by. When did you take your first leap of writing your own music? And can you elaborate on it’s inspiration?
Sara: I wrote my first song when I was 13 years old titled “On My Way to Life. It’s probably the most cheesy thing I’ve ever written, but we’ve all got to start somewhere! I released my first album when I was 19 years old. Paid a guy 50 bucks at a studio and recorded 10 songs in a couple hours, just me and my guitar. When I was 21 I went through a fairly big break up, probably the biggest at that point in my life, and wrote an entire album about it called “Bryan Brown.” It was a pretty painful experience but I sure got some good songs out of it. I move back to Toronto at age 21 after getting a job at a dinner theatre company in Moncton New Brunswick and I decided it was time to record another album. I was teaching music at the time at Long McQuade, so one day after work I grabbed a recording device, grabbed my guitar and recorded a seven track album. I had a cute little CD release party in Kensington market in Toronto at a little café called “Moonbean”. Fifty people packed in a little backyard with a cute little stage, I’ll never forget it. After that I focussed a lot on my theatre work and began auditioning at the Lower Ossington theatre company. At that point I was so itching to do theatre again (having not done it since graduating Music Theatre School at St. Lawrence College) so I auditioned for every show they put on and landed a lead role in almost each one. I got to play so many awesome roles such as “Joanne” in Rent, Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical The Musical, Sheila in Hair and Heather in American idiot. After doing almost a year and a half straight of musical theatre I felt it was time to produce an album that was more up-to-date and something I would be truly proud of. I had never taken more than a day to record an album which I began to think was pretty silly. So I teamed up with my writing partner Robert Wilkinson (no relation). He was my musical director at the Lot (Lower Ossington Theatre) and we soon became best friends. He started being my vocal coach and challenged my voice in ways no one had before. We were hired as co-musical directors and co-composers for a children’s theatre company in North Toronto. That was the first time I ever wrote with someone else and it was quite the experience. Now, after a couple years of writing together, we tend to know what the other one is thinking before they play it, which I have to say is a cool experience! Writing music has always been extremely personal for me, but there’s something truly magical about creating a piece of music with another soul. I got Robert to help me on this upcoming album. He assisted me in arranging my songs for the instrumentalists and coached me on which direction to go. I then teamed up with my producer Jason Cabanaw, who began to assist me in creating the vision I had in mind. I wanted to really show the world the woman I’d become since that little girl writing “break up songs” on her guitar. I felt I had matured in a certain way I wanted to share with people. This album really shows sides of me I don’t think I’ve ever shown people. It has the grit and heart of Janis, the soaring melodies of Joni, and that soulful heartbreak like the lovely Carol King (or at least that’s what I’m going for). The album is pretty versatile and I think it caters to a wide audience. I have songs all the way from gospel tunes to reggae tunes to a pop number to a bluesy one. After going through my last relationship almost 2 years ago, I ran away to the East Coast of Canada where my mom is from. I hid out in my cottage for a month and wrote this album. After completing the majority of the material, I moved to New York City with my friend and mentor Robert Wilkinson, and that’s when we begin to make my vision a reality.
Bruce: That is so fascinating to me. I love to hear about the journey one takes to become who they are as an artist! After hitting New York I’m shocked you came back!!! LOL! People who go to New York never leave!!! So I’ve been told. Although when I went a few years back I to had to come home. I have no doubt my dear you will find yourself back there in no time showcasing your new album and soaring to new heights! It’s exiting!
Sara: I honestly can’t believe it’s all coming together! It’s been such a long process lol. We’re having a CD release party October 2 at the Cameron house. I’m excited to share the stage with such awesome Musicians. My guitarist and long time friend Alex Purcell is creative on the guitar in ways I didn’t think you could be. My drummer, Alex’s brother Robert Purcell, keeps my heart beat better than I can! My bassist, Duncan Stan, has such extensive training that makes his melodies pop out underneath all the madness. I am super excited to show this product to the world FINALLY!!
Bruce: I hope I get an invite to that party!!! If it’s cool with you I’d love to have you back this Wednesday to my shop to play one more time before you become the next big Canadian artist!
Sara: For sure!
Bruce: Wonderful! So for any readers close by, stop by Wednesday, September 28th, Winerack 3324 Yonge St north of Lawrence @ Yonge and Fairlawn between 2-4pm!!! Love it! Where else have you played by the way?
Sara: I’ve played in Toronto at The Central, The Smiling Buddha, Free Times Café, Clinton’s, Einstein’s, Wayla and many more.
Bruce: Well I can’t wait to hear you once again on Wednesday! Super generous of you!! And thanks so much for taking the time to chit chat with me about you! Below is some more info for everyone to check Sarah Wilkinson!!! You don’t really know what you’re missing so please have a listen and fall head over heals for Sarah!
Release date Oct. 2nd
Album: “Willing” Sara Wilkinson
Songs include “Eve”, “Hearts Break”, “Twisted” & “Unguarded
After the interview
Sara: I moved home a few months ago to complete this album and apply for my American passport. I just received my passport in the mail a couple days ago, so I am now officially a dual citizen! This is something I’ve wanted for a while now and opens up huge doors for me. I plan on moving back to New York in the new year, and in the meantime, I’m going to head to Europe for a couple months to explore and promote the album. I really want to go out and share my story with the world. All I ever write about are my experiences and I feel the more I do so, the more people can relate.
Bruce: I wish you all the best!
Edited by Mary Ellen Monk