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QRD #39 - April 2009
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interviews with:
Nicholas Slaton of slicnaton
Sarah June
Northern Valentine
Hotel Hotel
Brian John Mitchell of Silber
Melissa Spence Gardner of XO
Lisa Uber of WRSU
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Interview with Sarah June
January 2009

Sarah June is an amazing artist.  Just her voice & her guitar sounding like it would be fresh & cutting edge at any time in the past two hundred years.

QRD – I assume you get a lot of “you sound like a ten year-old girl” comments.  Is that your natural singing voice or one you’ve worked towards?

Sarah June – Yes - I am often told I sound “like a little girl.”  But this is indeed my natural singing voice.  I have had extensive music training, & some of that training was in voice, but I pretty much rejected most of the “proper” singing techniques, because they never felt natural to me.  My natural & comfortable range of singing is very breathy & delicate.

QRD – The maraca sound you have on the album is a little unique sounding & I assume not an actual maraca, what is it?

Sarah June – I used a synthesizer to create all of the percussion.  Even though I do indeed have various real percussion instruments, I liked using my keyboard instead.  For that sound specifically, I used one of the shaker sounds on the synthesizer, & added echo & some other effects to create a sound the mimics a maraca.

QRD – Have you been in or are you currently in other bands or has solo always been your main thing?

Sarah June – Solo work has pretty much always been my main thing, but I was briefly in a band in 2007.  I have sporadically worked with other artists, but I prefer being the sole creator & performer of my music.  At least for now.

QRD – You record yourself at home, what do you use to record?

Sarah June – I use my Mac computer, with a nice recording interface by Apogee Electronics which I plug my instruments & mic into.  Many times I record my guitar & voice at the same time, just on one mic, so it has more of a “live” sound.  I have quite a few music editing programs, but I don’t do much editing.  I never splice tracks together - my songs are all recorded from beginning to end without looping or stopping.

QRD – How important is it to you that you record & engineer your own music rather than going to a studio?

Sarah June – I love recording at home because I can record whenever I want, in the privacy of my own home, & have complete artistic control over the recording process.  I like editing my own music as well because I prefer not to scrub out the background noise picked up by the mic, or sounds of my fingers on the guitar strings, etc.  I like things to sound real, not overly produced.  I have been told before that I should try to “clean up” certain recordings.  & I absolutely could - if I wanted to.  But for me those eccentricities & “flaws” are part of what makes it art.  Like seeing the brushstrokes in a painting.

QRD – Do you record your songs as you write them or do you wait & record in sessions?

Sarah June – I always record as I write.  Usually I get a burst of inspiration & write a song in a day, & record it right away.  I never really do sessions.  That seems to be too organized for me.

QRD – Do you record your vocals & guitar at the same time or lay the guitar down first?

Sarah June – Most of the time I record vocals & guitar at the same time.  It is more natural to me to sing while I play the guitar, instead of separating the two.  I feel like they are connected - it feels odd to sing without my guitar in my hands.  There are some songs on my record where I tried to record guitar & vocals separately, but I admit it was more difficult.  My favorite recordings were recorded all at once, in one take.

QRD – Do you have reverb on while you’re recording or do you add it in post-production?

Sarah June – I use reverb while recording.  I do not do very much post-production.  What is on my album is pretty much exactly what I heard in the headphones while I recorded.

QRD – Do you try & keep the same reverb on everything throughout the mix of a song & even an entire album?

Sarah June – No.  I never save any settings.  That may go against what many music producers believe in, because using the same recording settings on every song may add a certain continuity on a record.  I do think that my album has continuity though - because the ideas & moods of the music bleed into each other.  When I record, I treat each song as its own piece.  I did not mix my entire album together.  I just made each song sound how it felt “right” to me.

QRD – If you were recording your album again now, what would you do differently?

Sarah June – Probably just doing more harmony & more layers, & exploring a bit more into the blues & jazz genres.  I like my DIY recording style though - as homespun as it may seem.  That to me is the true art behind it, & I wouldn’t want anyone to try to mold my sound into something that sounds very generic & overly produced.

QRD – How are your songs changed in live performances from the album versions?

Sarah June – Not very much, actually, aside from the obvious fact that I cannot do the harmony or percussion live unless I hired someone to perform with me.  So it is more sparse live, because it is just me any my guitar.  I am told though, over & over again, that when I perform live I sound just like I do on my album.  I may use reverb to add an eerie mood, but I do not alter my voice.  What you hear on my record is very very much true to how I sound when I play live.

QRD – Do you plan to tour at all?

Sarah June – Absolutely!  I am hoping to join up with some other artists to do a limited tour - hopefully this year.  I have no concrete dates yet, but I am definitely planning.

QRD – Do you consider yourself best as a singer, songwriter, or guitar player?

Sarah June – That is a hard one to answer.  I suppose I would say songwriter.  Writing songs is a very natural form of expression for me.  My guitar playing & singing are making the ideas in my mind come to life so I can share them.  I can sing well & I can play guitar well, but I don’t feel that anything compares to singing & playing guitar on my own songs.  If I was singing or playing in a band on other people’s songs it would not be the same intensity.

QRD – How did you get hooked up with Hand/Eye?

Sarah June – They found my via my MySpace site, actually.  I feel quite lucky that they found me.  Timothy Renner & his wife Alison, who run the label, are wonderful.  They have been incredibly supportive & great to work with.  I also admire Timothy’s own music very much.  Namely his band Crow Tongue.

QRD – Why did you decide to put the covers you did on the album?

Sarah June – I wanted to do cover songs that were unexpected.  Songs that, originally, were completely different than my style.  Elvis & Prince songs are about as far from my style as you can get.  I used to cover “When Doves Cry” when I was very young & was performing in bars in Detroit & Chicago.  I’ve always liked singing it.  The Elvis cover was spontaneous.  I thought it sounded very different & a bit creepy when I sang it, so I thought it went well with my album.

QRD – There’s a certain similarity in a lot of the songs (even the covers) that makes things really cohesive as an album.  What’s the secret to that?

Sarah June – I think it is just that I allow myself to show quite transparently in all of my songs.  I don’t try to be someone else.  The way I tell stories to my family when sitting in my living room is very similar to how my songs come across, if that makes sense.  I think that being true to myself, & my own visions, creates a natural cohesiveness.

QRD – I know you’ve moved around a bit in your life, does location have much effect on your music?

Sarah June – Well, I take myself with me wherever I go, so I would say that my music is not hugely effected by location.  However, growing up around the bleak urban landscape of Detroit definitely made an indelible imprint on my heart.  It is a very haunting place, with all of the abandoned buildings - very much like a ghost town in a lot of neighborhoods.  I suppose that I have missed Detroit when I moved away.  I miss that haunting familiar feeling it gives me to be there.  So I suppose that Detroit has had the biggest influence in my music, even though I have lived many other places.

QRD – What are you working on right now & when can we expect more material released?

Sarah June – I am working on some more blues & jazz inspired music.  It still has very much the same feel & mood, but perhaps some more varied influences.  I hope to have a whole new album together this year.  I am also working on a compilation CD, & I have some more potential irons in the fire with other artists.  You can expect me to be releasing more material in 2009.

QRD – Anything else?

Sarah June – Thank you for the thought-provoking questions!  For updates on my music feel free to visit my website. www.myspace.com/sarahjunesound, & my record label at: www.somedarkholler.com.

Sarah June on MySpace
Sarah June's label Some Dark Holler