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Spotlight – Sarah Bernstein

This Spotlight – Sarah Bernstein. We spent a little time chatting with Sarah about her music including early inspirations and the release of Somewhere in Astoria. Check out more from this great time spent with a very talented artist and let us know what you think.

What got you into music early on?

As a young kid, I was really into Broadway and Disney– all the things you’re supposed to be embarrassed to admit. In retrospect, I think it’s had a really strong influence on my work and sense of self, especially the musical theater aspect. I’m not afraid to lean into the kitsch anymore.

Do you remember your first ever album you bought?

My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. It was in a German drugstore that had their music section on the third floor, and I snuck away from my Mom to buy it because I was nervous she’d judge the album by its cover and not let me listen. I can still recite every word by heart.

Who are some of your current musical inspirations?

I love what artists like Holly Humberstone and Julia Wolf are doing right now. Their music and the way they interact with fans at live shows really creates a sense of togetherness. It feels like authenticity is suddenly welcome in pop-culture again, especially for women. That’s a quality I deeply admire and hope to embody through my own music as well.

Can you share the inspiration behind your new single "Somewhere in Astoria"?

Under all those pop-centric harmonies, it’s a song about accepting life as it is instead of how we wanted it to be. Often, we don’t acknowledge that something wasn’t meant for us until years later when we’re looking back in retrospect. But what if we didn’t have to wait to accept that, and found peace and joy in the present?

If I can help one person shake the feeling that they’re supposed to be someone–or someplace–they’re not, then the song achieved its goal.

Could you describe the creative process behind composing and arranging "Somewhere in Astoria"? Were there any challenges or breakthrough moments during its creation?

The process of creating this song was incredibly unique in that, when I first created the Logic track in 2021 it was never intended for anyone to hear. We’re talking pure creative ‘brain dump’ here– with all sorts of abstract synths, textures, and harmonies. That file sat on my computer for at least a year, until one day the demo came on my shuffle right as I was trying to figure out what song to take into the studio with relatively short notice. I played it for my producer Shane who loved it, and considering the blueprint had already been mapped out, from my perspective it seemed like the easy choice (Spoiler… it was not) Because there were some clear cracks in the foundation of my original file it had to be re-created from scratch. If this were HGTV, it was like having to demo the whole house after already painting the walls. After I left Nashville, we spent months on Zoom fine-tuning the project. What was recorded in February 2023 wasn’t released until July, and if it weren’t for the incredible support of my producer Shane Adams and mix-engineer Kenny Varga (who both deserve an award for mixing 10,001 “Astoria”) it never would have been.

Needless to say– we won’t be making this creation process the blueprint, but I also wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I learned more creating this song than any other so far.

How has your music evolved from past releases to today?

The difference in my releases pre and post pandemic is definitely apparent. After “Man in the Moon”, which I recorded in Germany in 2012, I didn’t work with a producer again until 2020. So for a long time, I didn’t have the luxury of envisioning the final creation ahead of time and turning that vision into a reality like I do now.

Back then, I took whatever I could get in terms of accompaniment. Those recordings were a labor of love pulled together at Mid South Audio in Delaware with the collaboration of the amazingly talented musicians who worked there. When someone suggested an amazing local saxophone player and it fits the song, we brought him in. The owner of the studio plays the mandolin. Let’s track it at lunch.

It’s easy to cringe when I hear my older, homegrown material in contrast to what we’re striving to create in Nashville today. But I keep it up on streaming, even if it’s less algorithm-friendly because it’s part of my history (…and Joe Smooth’s impeccable saxophone work on “Spellbound”)

What do you think it takes to stand out in the industry?

Stay true to yourself, and to what you’re doing creatively. You are your niche. There are no rules to this thing.

What do you do to stay grounded outside of music?

Nothing beats genuine time with my family and friends to recharge. Bonus points if that time is unplugged. But daily, I love just going outside and moving my body, watching wrestling with my boyfriend Allan on Wednesdays (which was his thing, not mine, but now it’s also my favorite night of the week), and last but not least… planning our next Disney trip in my head. I’m a nerdy kid at heart.

What role does social media play in your musical journey?

Social media used to be this big scary monster that I was so intimidated by. I think that holds true for artists/performers of all kinds. Unfortunately, these days it’s also nearly impossible to succeed without it. So this past year I let go of any sort of content strategy and just started posting candidly. At first, putting myself ‘out there’ was really uncomfortable, but the amount of genuine feedback I received in return made it easier to open up online. It’s amazing how relatable and ‘real’ social can be if you let it. A fan who discovered me on Instagram even showed up to my gig at The Bitter End– I was honored!

What do you hope fans take away from your music?

I hope they feel a sense of empowerment to speak their own minds, too. I hope they play a song like ‘Nobody’s Fool’ before getting out of the car and breaking up with that person or job that’s totally taking advantage of them. I hope they take it and make it their own.

Who plays you in the movie of your life?

Lindsay Lohan

What's something on your go-to playlist people wouldn't expect you to listen to?

Depending on the day, either Tchaikovsky or Jay-Z

What motivates you to keep working on your music?

Especially this year, getting over the nerves and just getting out there for live shows has had a tremendous effect on me. It feels like yesterday that I wrote those songs alone at a piano looking out the window. Suddenly, I’m performing at Rockwood Hall and hear people in the crowd actually singing the words to my originals.

It’s people’s response to my music that gives it meaning. Whether that’s in the form of friends sharing a song on their Instagram story or my dedicated work family who shows up for every gig, at the end of the hardest days it really is that genuine support that motivates me.

I’ll be sitting here writing songs till I’m old and gray regardless, but the inspiration to keep recording and performing live comes from my fans.

Spotlight – Sarah Bernstein has come to an end and I want to give a big thanks to Sarah for taking the time to chat

Check out Somewhere in Astoria right now

Keep up with Sarah on the go

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