Our Celebrity Editor Angela Sara West @angela_sara_west catches up with creative US singer, artist, activist, producer and President & Label Owner of MPress Records Rachael Sage, who was among her VIP guests at last weekend’s event.
She chats with the musical star about her latest projects, fashion and wearing her own artwork, touring with Imelda May and what she loved most about our star-studded Tennis Party!
Hey Rachael, we last spoke just before Christmas… and you’ve had a very busy few months since! You’re just back in NYC from Barcelona, which you took in as part of your tour – and now you’re back in London for gigs and our Tennis Party!
“I had so much fun meeting all kinds of interesting people at the party, including a TV host, a town mayor, a performance artist and a jazz singer from Turkey! It was such a lively event with so many creative elements… from beautiful acoustic music to fabulously well-dressed guests all in white – plus I got to play tennis for the first time since I was 12! We’re so often in our ‘tour bubble’ and seldom just hang out! I love the Lady Wimbledon publication, so it was fun to celebrate Lady Wimbledon and tennis in combination with food, music – and the rare chance to wear white!
And I understand you’re a huge tennis fan… Who are your favourite players?
I AM a tennis fan! When I was a little kid, I apparently went to tennis camp for a couple weeks (although the memory is dim), and my family and I have always enjoyed watching tennis together, even attending The US Open a few times in the past. My new favourite players are Carlito Alcaraz of Spain – and not only because I just toured there! – as well as Iga Świątek of Poland. But I’ll never stop rooting for, and admiring, Rafael Nadal.
Will you be attending any matches at Wimbledon?
We are planning to go to Wimbledon Stadium for general admission and get day passes on our off-day, yes! Before I play The Troubadour in London. There are so many games that aren’t in the main stadium, but I’ve been told we should get there early, and my band and I are not morning people, so we’ll be setting our alarms! I’m so looking forward to visiting Wimbledon village, too! My parents have been there a few times, but I haven’t yet… I love that attending the tennis every summer in Wimbledon makes my Dad so happy!! It is literally his favourite thing to do, and he’s been doing so for many years. He has taken my sister a few times, but usually I’m on tour… Last year, with the pandemic, he wasn’t able to travel, so we watched it all together on TV.
You have a very unique signature fashion style – where do you get your fashion inspo from?
New York City and London, as well as graffiti art and various visual artists! I love people watching and enjoy how diverse big cities are with so many bold fashion statements all around… and I also just happen to have always been a colourful, sparkly dresser since I was a kid. Before JoJo was born – lol – I was making big colourful bows and beaded barrettes and selling them to my peers in grad school. It became quite a little business and eventually I also sold jewellery, painted jeans and wearable art jackets. Years later, I lived near Patricia Field’s original 8th Street store and felt like everything in there was my spirit animal! If I hadn’t pursued music professionally by then I would have definitely tried to sell my painted clothing and other accessories to places like that; but I needed to clone myself and music always demanded the most energy. I enjoy wearing my designs on stage though, and occasionally do wearable art commissions.
You’ve released music with Judy Collins and recently toured with Howard Jones and Imelda May!!
Touring with Imelda May has literally been a dream… So many nights, I’ve literally had to pinch myself and been in such a state of gratitude and appreciation of this wonderful opportunity! Firstly, she is one of my favourite singers and a consummate performer whose respect and love for her audiences is inherently inspiring. But foremost, she has been a delight to get to know and is just a very encouraging, empowered person. It is all too rare in this biz for strong, musically-diverse women to be on live bills together, and I haven’t really done so since Lilith Fair, which was many years ago. I give her enormous credit for not only having me on her tour, but for being as kind and generous as she has been. I’ve been doing this now for a while and she is the first artist to invite a support act to come up and take a bow with her and her band. It’s kind of over-the-top how lovely and open she has been to myself and my violinist, Kelly Halloran. We truly relished every minute being of a part of her tour!
What was your favourite place on the road?
We just played Barcelona with her and it was pretty over-the-top exciting! The venue was very rock’n’roll and the audience was wildly eager. They sang along and clapped to my songs, even though they’d never even heard me before. I’ll definitely be going back!! Of course, Brighton and London are among my favourite cities, and it was exciting to debut at The London Palladium and The Brighton Dome.
Any exciting tales from the tour?
Sure! In Madrid, we had a day off, so we decided to make a video for a song from my next record. It was boiling hot, in the 90’s, so we woke up at dawn and walked around various locations that had ‘Old-World charm, or just looked colourful and interesting dynamically, and got whatever eclectic footage we could – while also trying not to get arrested! One rather prickly woman came out and yelled in Spanish that she was going to call the police when she saw us shooting below her building…but we had already gotten the shot, so we just apologised and kept it moving. “Nothing to see here!” Another fun night was after our last show in Dublin, when there was an impromptu jam session in our green room. Members of The Waterboys and The Dubliners ended up improvising beautiful songs and Imelda did a poetic recitation, while everyone drank wine and were generally high on the sheer exuberance of being together and enjoying music after so long in isolation. It was an absolutely perfect night that I’ll never forget!
Your fave song to perform on the tour?
Definitely ‘Spark’ from my album ‘Myopia’, because the audiences would always end up singing along and it just felt like it connected very easily wherever we were because of the groove, the sentiment – about the magic of love at first sight – and the melody. I also really loved performing ‘Revelation Ground’ and it gave listeners a window into my folkier, more reflective side, along with allowing me to have a very intimate moment dynamically, in the middle of the show.
So, you recently released ‘Revelation Ground’…
That’s right. I founded and released my side project ‘Poetica’ during lockdown – I spent most of lockdown recording this spoken-word/music project and self-engineered and produced it, which was a very intense experience during such a difficult time. So, it was a bit of a relief to share new music akin to what I’d been doing before the pandemic, after so long. It felt like an exhale, and a chance to hit the reset button, in a way. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a few people close to me from Covid since I recorded the song, so it also feels like a kind of tribute to them, and an acknowledgement that even as we mourn losses, we can continue to cherish the beauty and hope in this complicated, miraculous world…
What is the meaning behind ‘Revelation Ground’?
I was inspired to write this song as a reaction to everything we were going through early in the pandemic: enormous loss of life, social strife, the world being turned on its head and everything we thought we knew and had taken for granted being questioned. Essentially, it’s a reflection on the seasonal nature of loss vs. recovery, of sadness vs. hope. It’s also a meditation on the struggle against social injustice and I briefly toyed with the idea of the lyric as ‘Revolution Ground’ for that reason; but ultimately, I decided on ‘Revelation Ground’ because I wanted to encompass the issue of climate change into a metaphor of renewal and hope. Our various national and global human crises coming to a head, in a sense, can only be healed by planting seeds of justice, compassion and renewal. I don’t say all of that explicitly…but I hope that via the poetry of the lyrics, listeners can find that sense of hope I always strive for in my work.
Up next for Rachael Sage?
I have begun work on my next album, tentatively titled ‘The Other Side’. So far, we have tracked 14 songs, but I’ll probably whittle it down to 11 or 12. I’ve recorded most of the music but still have to sing all the vocals so there’s a lot of work to do, but it’ll have to wait until after my summer shows in the UK in July and August! It feels oddly good to have my Fall all laid out for me, as I’ll be finishing the record, mixing and then doing artwork.
My new favourite song is by an artist on my label, A Fragile Tomorrow. The track is called ‘Lost In Art’ and is musically ambitious, uber creative, and has a retro vibe that reminds me of so much of my favourite music, from Elvis Costello to Crowded House. I’m super proud of AFT and hope folks will take time to check them out! I also have one last video to complete and share from my spoken-word project ‘Poetica’, so look out for that late this summer or early autumn! For further info, visit rachaelsage.com
Follow Rachel: @rachael_sage
© Angela Sara West 2022 @angela_sara_west