The super talented musician and visual artist writes songs to make you feel less alone
Rachael Sage is a true individual. Her incredible music combines elements of pop, folk, rock and classical with a little jazz thrown in for good measure. We can’t get enough of her joyous new single, Alive. A must on any feelgood playlist, it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
Fab, right? Rachael’s on tour in the UK this July, so we jumped at the chance for a catch up.
DIVA: For people who aren’t familiar with your music, can you introduce yourself?
I’m a New York-based pop-folk musician and visual artist, but I also consider the UK to be my “home away from home”, as I tour here so frequently and love it so much! I absolutely love arranging strings on my albums and in my live band, The Sequins (which features a cellist and violinist). Lyrically, my writing is very poetic, and I try my best to write songs that are empowering either personally and/or politically, even if it’s just to say: “You are not the only one feeling this way!”
What are the biggest life lessons you’ve learned since you started out in music?
1. There is a cliché that artists are “selfish”, because of the time and energy it requires to refine one’s craft, often at the expense of a normal social life, relationship or whatever else may be the case. But expressing oneself authentically through music can absolutely uplift and inspire others to pursue their own respective goals and dreams; a life in the arts is naturally one that is of service to others.
2. To be creative is to necessarily be in a state of “yes”. When I encounter a musician or music professional who is genuinely dedicated and hardworking, while also maintaining a sense of joy and grace, I feel humbled and spiritually realigned. When I am around people who are constantly complaining, anxious or overly competitive, I find my energy to be depleted. I have learned to protect myself from too much negativity, for the sake of both my artistry and my mental health.
3. Mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of or to regret. They are what give a performance character, and what encourage you to evolve and improve, as an artist. It really is how you “bounce back” from them that defines your character.
4. Love is not all you need, as much as I idolise The Beatles. And the wrong kind of love – love without mutual respect, or love that is violent, obsessive or codependent – is downright unhealthy.
Have you ever faced any challenges or discrimination in your career because of your gender or sexuality?
I absolutely have, yes. I find that in general though, the more I dwell on those experiences, the less helpful it is toward me simply moving forward productively. Did sleazy male producers hit on me at an inappropriately young age, as I was starting out in my career? Of course – it was the norm, and happened so frequently that it didn’t even seem like something I needed to confide to anyone until years later. That doesn’t make it any less awful, but I have moved well beyond those incidents, and will never make certain mistakes again, thankfully.
In terms of my bisexuality, I would say my challenges have been so minor compared to those in our community whose livelihoods or lives have been threatened (or worse), that I can only feel grateful. I live in a city that is more diverse than most, and work in an industry where it is becoming less and less of an issue to be anything but one’s authentic self. I think my greater challenge is to do my best to spread that kind of acceptance and self-confidence as far and wide as I possibly can, through my music!
Do you believe music has the power to change the world? Why?
I know it does! It has changed my life more times than I can count, and I have also had the experience of individuals confiding to me very bluntly, through the years, that a song I’d written had profoundly affected them in some way. Songs have sparked and continued to fuel political movements throughout history. It can unify us, or alternately it can contribute to our unique identities, as individuals.
What can we expect from your new album, PseudoMyopia?
PseudoMyopia is a collection of songs centered around the concept of vision. There are songs on the album about environmental and political narrow mindedness (This Darkness, Tomorrow), about seeing past the limitations of labels, even within our own LGBTQI+ community (Sistersong), and about shattering expectations of what “normalcy” looks like (Maybe She’ll Have Cats). There is also a song that takes a good hard look at an abusive relationship, triggered by a partner’s post-war PTSD, and a song, literally, about being watched by the NSA (Snowed In). My current single Alive is an exuberant pop song that recognises the sheer miraculousness of being alive in this moment, and the title song, Myopia, is a celebratory anthem about realising that your relationship with yourself is the biggest cue for how others in your life will treat you.
What is your personal favourite track and why?
My favourite song is Myopia, because it’s very optimistic, while also being very realistic. I am very proud of the line, “When you’ve stopped seeking answers / from outside yourself / you’ll have more than you need to survive”. Essentially, it’s about gratitude for being exactly who we are. Why do we judge ourselves so harshly, when we have so much more to gain from being grateful, and accepting our “flaws” as merely part of being beautifully, miraculously human? I like to think it’s a new “big picture” musical mantra for me, and it always pumps me up when I play it live.
Why was it important to you to partner with Vision Aid Overseas?
I am so honoured to partner with Vision Aid Overseas because as someone who is legally blind without my glasses, I can absolutely appreciate how vital the work is that they’re doing Vision Aid Overseas provide much-needed assistance to those who need it most, so they can navigate their lives more fully with the immeasurable benefits of vision-correction! In addition to being a musician, I am also a visual artist, so collaborating with this organisation is incredibly meaningful and reminds me never to take my (corrected) vision for granted.
We’re so excited about your upcoming UK tour. What can we look forward to at your shows?
I’m so happy to be returning to the UK as a duo with my violinist, Kelly Halloran! While we’ll be emphasising material from PseudoMyopia, we’ll be performing various material from all 13 of my albums, as well as a few of my EP’s. If anyone has any specific song requests, we encourage folks to submit them on my Facebook page! And of course, you can expect some colourful, glittery outfits onstage… especially since it’s Pride season!
Happy Pride! What was it like for you figuring out your own sexuality?
I actually just wrote a very thorough account of my journey, figuring it all out, as well as a letter to my younger self… so I’m going to happily share a link to the piece I write for the organisation Free 2 Luv, for whom I recently became an advocate. Enjoy! free2luv.org/love-is-love-is-love
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