INTERVIEW BY DANA BRENKLIN
Canadian musician Sarah Smith is as sweet as she sounds. A born musician, performing is a full-time gig, with Smith finding herself onstage 200 times some years. Our own Dana Brenklin caught up with her to talk touring, going solo and letting the universe just flow.
Tell us a little about what you’re up to these days!
I have been playing all over Canada this summer, with stints from the West Coast to the East Coast and everywhere in between. I am excited to be heading to Germany to finish my new CD and to play a few shows in September.
Other than playing shows and recording CDs, I like to enjoy time at home with my wife, Janene and our two dogs, Daisy and Dallas. We planted a beautiful garden this year and have enjoyed watching it grow.
You were the lead singer for “The Joys.” How do you feel you’re different when touring as “Sarah Smith” versus as the frontwoman for a band?
I have always loved being a front woman. The Joys had been my life for over a decade so it was very hard for me to make the transition to being a solo artist.
I really don’t enjoy playing solo as much as with a band. I believe that music is about bouncing energies off people in your same space. That’s why I do a lot of shows as a solo artist with a band. It’s a ton of fun for me and I am so grateful to the talented people I get to work with… But there are some special situations where I go into a different headspace and enjoy letting the music flow through me. That’s why I am so looking forward to the Mexican shows with Sweet. But you better believe that if there are other aspiring singers in the audience, I’ll probably pick them out and bring them on stage to sing with me!
Has it been a challenge to go solo?
Actually…I have never had more doors open for me in my career than are opening right now. It feels “right” to be doing what I’m doing.
When was the first time you recall being compared to Melissa Etheridge or Bonnie Raitt and how did it make you feel?
I was a sheltered child — I grew up in the country on a farm and was surrounded by family, friends and church. Popular music didn’t enter my ears until my late teens. I didn’t even know who Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Raitt were the first time I was compared to them. I had to go online and listen and figure it out!
Let’s just say it’s an absolute honor to be compared to them…Wonderfully raspy, passionate voices.
If there was something you could change about the music and/or the entertainment industry, what would it be?
Aww…You know something? I just enjoy what I do. I try to stay positive and count my blessings rather than look at the negatives. I’m so grateful to be able to make a living playing music!
What else are you passionate about besides music?
I love athletics: biking, walking, breathing in fresh air, the outdoors, reading books about how I can become the best person I can be, driving across this beautiful earth and taking in the silence, doing chores around the house — normal things like laundry, cooking clean food, cuddling with my dogs and wife and watching documentaries.
Let’s talk queerness. When did you first realize you were queer — and is that how you identify? Do you like being mentioned as an “out musician”?
I never wanted my sexuality to be a part of my music. I didn’t want people to think of me as that GAY singer. I didn’t want people to think that I was using some sort of following to help or hinder my career.
But, recently, my views changed on this whole thing.
I am so proud to be married to my sweet wife. And I would shout it from a mountaintop to tell the world I am in love. And yes, being married to a lady makes me gay. So be it. That is who I am and I am very happy to be able to admit that out loud — finally!
You’ll be playing on a Sweet vacation this fall. Stoked?
So very stoked! This is my first time with Sweet…I’m excited to see what’s in store for us!!
You’re a constant performer, said to be topping 200 shows a year. It sounds like you’ve really earned the title “hardest working musician in Canada.” Where would you like to play that you haven’t played yet?
I do work a lot. I play a ton of shows: all over Canada, some shows in the US and also in Europe. I love playing music — this is definitely the right life for me!
I would love to play in New Zealand. I lived there for a year when I was 18. It would be so amazing to travel back there and catch up with my friends who I haven’t seen in years… and show Janene the beautiful country that kick-started my life in songwriting.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
I get really nervous before every show I’m doing so I usually find a quiet spot to sit for a few minutes and visualize myself on stage just doing what I do. Then, once I step out onto the stage, I feel that I am strong and confident in my abilities.
“Shine Bright” sounds like a personal story of fame, dreams and experiences shared by many musicians. Does it reflect your story?
Yes, absolutely. I think I was doing music for the wrong reason for a few years. I needed love — and lots of it — and I felt the audience was giving me that.
Now, with age comes a bit more wisdom, and I realize my true reasons for playing music are about letting go, letting the universe flow through me, helping to make someone smile, if only for a few seconds, giving people permission to be exactly who they are with no judgement, allowing us all to shine our brightest.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given yourself as you started making waves musically?
Everything I’ve been through has put me exactly where I need to be in this moment. There really is nothing I would change.
Tell us something about yourself that will totally surprise your fans!
I went to RMC (Royal Military College) for a year of my life…Hoo-AH!
Dana Brenklin is a Los Angeles based radio personality, award-winning poet and musician. Her radio show, “The Dana Brenklin Radio Show,” airs Thursdays at 9am pacific on kclaFM.com. Find out more at DanaBrenklin.com or listen To Dana’s shows on demand.