Can you talk to us more about your latest single “This Kiss!”?
It’s an up-tempo happy tune about loving a list of things about someone, but it’s their ‘kiss’ that tops the list! While the piano part is a pretty challenging Ragtime inspired piece, the melody and message are fun, simple and, I hope, makes you want to sing along!
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Haha, I wrote it while I was taking a shower! I remember kind of outlining the list numbers on the shower walls with my finger. I can’t remember exactly the mindset, but I was certainly in a happy mood, and I remember just being open to writing something simple and ‘feel-good’. Oh, and then I was extremely happy when I got out of the shower and had this complete tune in my head that I couldn’t forget – I was hoping that was a good sign!
How was the film experience?
Shooting the music video for “This Kiss” was just allot of fun! We did the shoot in Baltimore and several of my friends came out to join – to dance, play music, be bystanders. We did it kind of guerilla style, so, while the story and the basic locations were planned out, much of it was also very quick, impromptu, and in the moment. I like doing it that way because it’s real – catches the genuine emotion of the experience and the carefree bliss of the song!
The single comes off your new album Whimsical Romance – what’s the story behind the title?
I always knew that this album would be a collection of love stories – a selection of pieces that I had written about my own personal experiences in romance. I was playing nightly gigs in piano bars and I remembered being told that I was ‘whimsical’ on several occasions. I loved the word and took it as a compliment, but I honestly didn’t really know exactly what it meant, so I looked it up. I remember the day that I looked up the definition and instantly “Whimsical Romance” was so obviously the perfect description of the playful and colorful metaphors that I used to describe my love life!
How was the recording and writing process?
The writing process was really pretty different for each of the songs. Some of them I wrote a while ago, and some of them more recently. For example, one song “Next Time” came to me on a trip to Paris while dealing with the complexities of a relationship, yet another “Locomotion” came to me while not being able to sleep late one night in Maryland and being inspired by the train that I heard pass by. However, they were all fine-tuned while playing in the piano bars, so, for the most part, they all received the influence of what it’s like to perform in a live, boisterous, and interactive atmosphere of that intimate, yet chaotic, setting.
I really wanted the recording to reflect that live performance, so I recorded my vocals and piano in my own ‘pop-up’ studio pretty much in just the same way that I would perform them. And then I worked with a studio in Baltimore to add the other instruments and elements around my piano/vocal foundation. I didn’t want the option to take the piano out or change any of that foundation – even with it’s imperfections and somewhat chaotic sounds – because I thought it was the essence of my personal storytelling. Basically, just adding instruments, sounds, and effects was like adding creatures and colors to a world growing around me, while I just sat in the middle of it at the piano.
How does the Appalachia and West Africa influence your writing?
I kind of grew up country in the mountains of Virginia! So, I think that influence comes out in a variety of ways like my personality, the way I tell stories, and in some of the words, phrases, or inflections I use. “Ferris Wheel” is a good example of this. On the other hand, I do think that travelling and having these unforgettable and unique experiences have definitely colored my imagination and impacted my music. One of the songs, “Diamonds” I actually wrote on a trip to West Africa. I remember the hot tropical setting, and the song would forever have a rhythm and sounds that would paint that picture.
What aspect of romance and your life did you get to explore on this record?
The really eye-opening part was how much I grew and learned through this writing experience. I got a chance to analyze my own experiences in love and romance through reflection, but also surprisingly, through hearing other peoples’ stories. I heard so many personal stories and I realized that we are all experiencing the same things. I realized that the emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, loss,..they are not unique to any of us but they connect us all and contribute to the adventure of life. And I think that’s why I was able to dive in, unafraid, and then take that ‘whimsical’ approach to have fun with the story collection as a whole.
Any plans to hit the road?
I will be doing several Northeast performances this fall and currently working on plans for next year!
What else is happening next in Sarah Ragsdale’s world?
It’s hard to see too far beyond Whimsical Romance as it has been my complete life focus for a little while now, BUT, while I was in the process of this album, and even since finishing up the WR recordings, I have written and recorded a few pieces that I think are well on their way to being the next album. I kept these apart from Whimsical Romance because they tell a different story, I think from a different part of me. The next album might be a little more serious, slightly darker, feel a bit more reflective,… I look forward to having the chance to see where those thoughts take me… but for the next little while, I’m just going to focus on being whimsical!