Juggling motherhood with an impressive music career, Sarah Borges has long since established herself as a talented artist. With her new collection, the Good And Dirty EP available now and with tour plans booked for the rest of the year, she kindly agreed to this interview to chat performance plans, dream-show line ups and ultimate ambitions.
PW: Please introduce yourself.
Sarah Borges: My name is Sarah Borges. I'm from Taunton, MA, just outside of Boston, and I'm a lifelong band geek, grateful mom and full time music lover.
PW: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a part of the music industry? Was there a concert you attended or record you bought that made you think 'yeah, I want to do that'?
SB: I remember being in bed when I was 10 or so and telling my mom that I was going to be famous. I didn't feel like she was taking me seriously, so I started to cry. I'm not sure I even knew what I wanted to be famous for. When I was in high school in the '90s, and indie rock was king, that was when I really decided that I wanted to be in a band. It seemed accessible and like a happy home for people like me who felt like social outsiders in school.
PW: You were formerly in the band Broken Singles who broke up in 2011. What did your time in that band teach you about the industry and were there any particular highlights you look back on?
SB: We toured incessantly for seven years or so. I grew up in that band. I guess it taught me about the huge impact that your relationships with your band mates can have on your music. The Broken Singles were my family of choice, and that closeness made the music better. We got signed twice, high were definite high points and got dropped once which was a real low. We played at the Ryman Auditorium which was a dream come true. When I look back on that time, I think about all the overnight drives we did, planning musical world domination, and the feeling every night on-stage when it felt like we were taking on the world.
PW: How would you say the music you created then differs from that which you do now?
SB: The original Broken Singles guys were all about 10 years older than me, so I was busy learning a lot then. I wrote songs without a clear idea of how I wanted them to turn out, or how I thought they should be played live. Now I have a better idea at the outset of song-writing of how I think the finished product should sound, and I have more confidence because I feel like I've earned my stripes finally.
PW: Your 2014 album Radio Sweetheart firmly established you as a confident solo artist - looking back, were you ever at all nervous about going it alone?
SB: Very. That was a transition record. It combined songs that I had written in my early 20's and songs that I wrote to order for the record. I felt like I had to claw my way back into the game after taking time off to have a child, and I still don't know if the record is any good. But it was a stepping stone.
PW: Tell me about your Good and Dirty EP. Is there a story behind the title?
SB: My son is four, and he has a security blanket that he's devoted to. He never wants me to wash it, because he says it smells like home, and mama. When I asked him what those things smell like, he said "good and dirty". The title sounds subversive, but it's really wholesome!
PW: What did producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, who has worked with the likes of Joan Jett, bring to creative process?
SB: He gave me confidence. He played guitar on the record, and he did it with joy. He also guided with a gentle hand, let me make most of the choices, and steered when I didn't know how to.
PW: Could you pick a favourite track from the collection?
SB: Probably "Tendency to Riot". It's a throwback to my indie rock days, but I'm proud of the story in the song. The instruments are loud and proud, and it's both sad and wry I hope.
PW: How would you say the EP showcases your musical development in regards to your previous releases?
SB: The lyrics are more honest, less metaphorical. We weren't afraid to use imperfect takes if the feeling was right, whereas before I was more focused on polish.
PW: How has your song-writing evolved during that time, and has the process of creating a song gotten easier or harder for you?
SB: After having a child and getting divorced I'm less afraid to write honestly. I also made myself sit and write daily for this record, which I hadn't done before. I enjoyed watched the genesis of the songs over several writing sessions. I'd say it's easier now than it's ever been because I really don't care if someone thinks the songs are stupid, so long as I like them.
PW: Who or what most influences your song-writing?
SB: I need to be alone. I need to sort of meditate on the thing I'm writing. I need to be calm. And I need a writing implement that feels like it's going to help me along. Sometimes I go through three or four. It's weird superstition/alchemy.
PW: What, in your opinion, makes a great song?
SB: It depends on the song. I'd say it has to have at least one moment, however brief, where you feel like your heart's going to break or explode because the melody or lyrics are that good.
PW: If you could have written any song, by any artist living or dead, which would it be and why?
SB: "When I Paint My Masterpiece" by Dylan. It captures every artist's secret belief that they're going to change the world with what they make.
PW: How does being a mom impact what you do as an artist? Is it hard juggling motherhood with your music career?
SB: It's hard because I miss my son when I'm on tour. He understands what I do for a living, and I've been doing it his whole life. I try to counter the guilt I feel having to go play with the hope that he'll learn to do whatever he loves full throttle. I also try to be present with him when I'm home, not on the phone or email. As a songwriter, I want him to be proud of me someday, so I try to write more honestly now, in a way that he'll be able to see what I was thinking when I wrote a song.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and would you agree it's a necessary tool for bands and artists today? Do you think you'd have the support and fan-base you do without it?
SB: I'm a latecomer to social media. It's absolutely necessary, and it's a much easier way to let people know about shows than the postcards I used to snail mail. It also humanizes bands for fans, because you get to see behind the scenes crap. That being said, the 24 hour-ness of it is tough. Feeling bad about how many 'likes' you get, or seeing how many 'followers' you have is soul sapping. But it's got to be done.
PW: You're a strong advocate and supporter of live music, so of all the shows you've played so far, could you pick a favourite?
SB: I don't think I could pick just one, but I would characterize any favorite show as one where the band and the audience are on the same page, and it feels like we're all new best friends at an awesome party.
PW: Which three bands or artists who can be living or dead would you most like to share a stage with and why?
SB: Oh boy. Sarah Vaughan. Her singing is my absolute favorite ever. She’s the epitome of class and grace, but with a sense of humor. Doug Sahm. Every time I listen to him I'm happy. The songs are more complicated than you think at first listen, but not at the expense of hip shaking. Finally, NRBQ from the late seventies. I think they might be the best live band ever, even though I've only seen/heard the bootlegs. Funny as hell, and rock solid playing.
PW: What are your touring and performance plans for the EP and for the rest of the year? Can fans across the pond expect to see you on their shores in the near future?
SB: I'll be touring the US for the rest of the year but hopefully I'll be back across the ocean ASAP. It's been a year and a half since I've been there, and I miss you guys!
PW: Finally then, what ambitions are left for you to achieve? At what point would you be happy to sit back and say 'I've achieved all I ever wanted to and more'?
SB: I already have achieved what I wanted to, which is to play music for a living. I hope to die on-stage when I'm 100, wearing a mini-dress, surrounded by people I love.