Interview: Sara Jackson-Holman (Bend, OR)

After being whisked up by the success of When You Dream Sara Jackson-Holman has just released her sophomore album Cardiology to fantastic reviews. If you haven’t given it a listen yet, then you’re missing out! Fortunately, between playing a slew of shows in the northwest, and preparing to release a new music video for “Come By Fire”, she was able to answer a few questions.

As a child, what was it that initially drew you to piano?

We had my great-grandmother’s little spinet piano sitting in our living room, and I always loved to play it. I’d make up songs, I can remember being fascinated by it– and I remember how excited I was my first day of piano lessons. As I started in classical training, what I began to love, even at such a young age, was how I could express myself through the songs I was learning. 

You were classically trained and obviously have a great love for classical music, where there any other musicians or musical styles that influenced you growing up?

Not a whole lot as I was growing up– When I was young, my mom listened to a lot of REM and Natalie Merchant.  I still love both of them.

What made you decide to transition to pop?

I love pop music. As a listener, it’s my preferred genre, so I think that’s why I gravitated to writing pop songs. I like to see how I can draw upon my classical influences, and use them when I write.

What artists have you been listening to a lot recently?

M83, Poliça, Robyn, and always various pop and hip-hop.

Your songs tend to be very heavy and emotional, would you say that you are an emotional person outside of your music, or does it usually just come out when writing?

I would say I’m definitely an emotional person, but not necessarily outwardly. I’m generally really reserved and shy in expressing how I’m feeling to people, and I think in that way, songs are a good outlet for that. 

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/53432510″ iframe=”true” /]

Where do you find the most inspiration? 

 Outside, in nature. Being surrounded by beauty and without distractions clears my head when I need to be inspired.

A lot of times, inspiration is random, too: I’ll be inspired while driving, after watching a movie, walking down the street, and I’ll grab my phone and leave myself a message so I don’t forget what I’m thinking.

How often do you write music? 

 I go through phases. I will write several songs very quickly, then take a break. It’s not so much how it used to be for me, when I’d kind of wait for a song to come to me (though they do, sometimes). Many times it’s a conscious decision– “I want to write, I want to be creative, I’m going to write a song.” I think the practice of it is important, and I’m working at writing as much as I can.

Do you have a writing process for your lyrics?

It varies. Often, I’m writing a song with a particular idea, theme, or feeling in mind, and will start with the chords or a melody and go from there. Since pop music is so concise, I feel that it’s often a puzzle, fitting the lyrics with the song. It’s another thing I love about song-writing. Like in poetry, you are forced to evaluate the importance of every word you write, using only what is necessary to get to the real meaning of a song.

Your journey to success has been a whirlwind, has it been surreal? How has it changed your life the most? What has been your favorite part?

It’s changed my life in that it’s made it revolve around music. My favorite part? It’s pretty much all my favorite part. I love writing songs, I love recording them, and I love sharing those recordings with people. I love performing too. It’s funny, because over the last year, at each stage (writing, then recording, then getting back into performing) I’ve said, “This is my favorite part.” They are all important.

Do you have a personal favorite off of Cardiology?

My favorite will change from performance to performance. If I had to choose one that’s pretty consistently been my favorite, I’d say To Be Bright. 

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

I’d love to be able to write music and perform full time.

Do you have any advice for aspiring singer-songwriters?

In my own experience, I think one of the most important things I have is a small group of people who I absolutely trust will give me their honest opinion. Those people are hard to come by, and are absolutely indispensable at any and every stage of the recording process. The other thing would be to write as much as you can, and then perform those songs as much as you can. Like I said, I think it’s all important and it all works together.

Thank you Sara!

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