An interview with…Sarah Mac

Singer/songwriter Sarah Mac is considered to be one of Sheffield’s little treasures. Her passion, talent and perfectionism has helped her stand out from the crowd and given her a foothold in a business notoriously hard to break into.

Sarah has always had a passion for music. Quite understandable when her father is Robin MacDonald: rhythm guitarist/bassist in the 1960’s group Billy j Kramer and the Dakotas. Through her father, Sarah’s musical background links her to The Beatles, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and even Elvis Presley.

To nurture her passion for music, Sarah studied music practice at Barnsley College. She honed her talent by continuing to play live in venues around Sheffield, and over the years she has formed a sizable fan base.

While mainly playing jazzy pop songs, Sarah’s first major venture into music recording came in the unlikely form of an album of nursery rhymes. While this was mainly a side project to her other proper musical career writing and performing her own quality songs, it gave her that all important foothold in the music business.

Sarah has recently been in the studio again, this time recording and mixing her amazing upcoming EP. She has been working with the producer Liam O’shea (Mixed in Sheffield). Together they have created several beautiful tracks that show off both Sarah’s irrefutable talents on the piano and her gorgeous vocal versatility.

Also this interview includes an exclusive look at the EP artwork, which has been designed by the people behind the Hantu Collective clothing range.

Sarah’s upcoming EP will be available to buy on Amazon and iTunes in May.

I spoke to Sarah and she was happy to answer some questions:

How did you get into music in the first place?

I got into music at a very early age. It was my mum and dad who inspired me to play. My mum is a great pianist and we’ve always had a piano in the house. She bought me lessons for my 4th birthday and it all carried on from there! It was my dad who got me interested in rock and roll, soul music and blues. He was a professional musician, founding member of Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas (under management of Brian Epstein) in the sixties, and after that went on to back Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and various other artists in Las Vegas. He used to play all his old records to me and that’s what inspired me to write songs.

How do you approach writing songs?

I love writing songs. The reward at the end of it all is immense. I’ve gotta say, though, that it’s just as hard a graft as writing an essay for me! I always start with the music or just a hook, then build the lyrics round that. The music comes easy, but I’m really tough with myself on lyrics. They have to be just perfect.

Who are your major musical influences?

More than anything I’m influenced by people, day to day nonsense and common shenanigans! I’m heavily influenced by classic singer/songwriter/pianists like Carole King and Nina Simone. There’s obviously influences aspects of classical and film music in my album, right from JS Bach to Thomas Newman! I appreciate musical talent across all genres, especially jazz, but my main influences are from the 50’s and 60’s eras like Ray Charles, the Stax lot and Carole King who know exactly how to make great music.

Do you enjoy playing live and how do the audiences react to your music?

I love playing live. More than anything else in this profession. It gives me such a great feeling. I really bounce off the audience. Their expressions, their appreciation and their dance moves hah! It’s always been worthwhile when at least someone comes up to me after the show and can totally understand what I’m singing about. They are all short stories after all.

You’ve been working a lot in the studio, can you tell me about your recording process?

I’ve been in the studio for the past month and I’m really enjoying being creative with my songs. I’m working with a producer called Liam O’shea, and we’re really on the same level with all of this. We both know exactly what the EP needs and how we want it to sound so it’s been inspiring and insanely fun working on the EP together!

Can you tell me all about your new EP?

The EP is out in May (I think!). I’ve put four songs on there, all of them written and arranged by myself. It captures all my influences and mixes them into a collection of short stories about first loves, fascinating manipulation, tributes to great musicians and not wanting to get out of bed! I can’t wait for it to be released and hope all the Sarah Mac fans out there who have listened to my unplugged stuff really love it.

Is the EP going to lead to a full album?

I hope the EP leads to the full album! I certainly don’t intend to stop writing music until I have my very own Jacuzzi and wine cooler.

What has the future got in store for you?

The foreseeable future looks hopeful, I mean I’ve got an EP coming out, a remix of ‘Everyone Knows’ to look forward to by Bare Traina (Andy Nicholson ex Arctic Monkeys) and a great team of people and fans that give me all the support I could ever wish for.

Thanks a lot.

Cheers, Josh.

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