Call Redialed: NEW Rachael Sage Interview: Another Side

music producer singer songwriter television tv May 17, 2024
Call Me Adam Title Page. Call Me Adam logo is on the left side. Rachael Sage's headshot is on the right side. In the top center of the page is an orange circle with jagged edges that says Featured Interview. Between our photos it says Another Side of Rachael Sage. Below the title and in between our names there is an auburn circle that says

In 2020, during the global pandemic, I had an incredible conversation on my podcast, Baring It All with Call Me Adam, with Alt-Pop, Singer-Songwriter Rachael Sage as she was recovering from cancer and releasing her album Character.

Now, I am so excited to catch up with Rachael as she embarks on her US Tour in support of her new album, Another Side, a reimagined, acoustic version of her album The Other Side, which she released in 2023.

In this NEW interview, Rachael once again answered my call, but this time she reveals:
  • How her reimagined album Another Side came together
  • What excites her about being on tour in support of Another Side
  • What she would "Whistle Blow" in today's world
  • An update of her health
  • So much more

 Connect with Rachael: Website, Facebook, Instagram

1. It is so great to catch up with you! The last time we spoke was in 2020, during the global pandemic. Since the world re-opened, you have been all around the world performing. In fact, you just got back from your recent UK Tour, where you got to open up for Lulu, who I got to interview in 2013. What did you learn from touring with her? That's a great question! I don't always think of exciting and impactful touring and performing experiences as distinctly "educational", to be honest. I think of them as colorful adventures, and certainly I must have learned something that I'll look back on years from now and be able to ruminate on...but mainly I learned that Lulu's one hell of a singer, and that at 75 she sounds more incredible than ever!! I have no idea why she's retiring; if I sounded that fantastic in my seventh decade - and had her dance moves - it would be pretty hard to keep me off a stage...

2. Now, you are embarking on your latest US Tour in support of your upcoming album, Another Side, a reimagined, acoustic version of your album The Other Side, which you released in 2023. You will be coming to the Cutting Room in NYC on May 29 for the album release concert. What should excite fans most about this stop on your tour? I'm really excited to be taking the stage at The Cutting Room with my full band The Sequins - which is a fairly rare occurrence these days since I tour most frequently as a duo. In addition to my usual guitar and piano, I'll be accompanied by violin, percussion, harmonica, and special guests Annalyse & Ryan on mandolin and vocals.

In the past, I've played The Cutting Room on bills with Judy Collins, K's Choice and Ari Hest which have all been wonderful. It's going to be a thrill to do a headline set there in support of Another Side, and to perform all these songs live with my brilliant bandmates!

3. Before we get into the specifics of this new album, I have noticed reimagining your albums is something you do with many of your records. Take us back to the very beginning. How did you come up with this idea to reimagine your albums? Actually, I've never done it quite this way. My other acoustic records such as Character (Acoustic) and Haunted By You (Acoustic) were derived primarily from the existing productions, so basically they were remixed/rebalanced with all the electric instrumentation removed, i.e. muted, with the intention of releasing versions that appealed more to my listeners who simply prefer more sparse, acoustic elements and the intimacy that necessarily creates.

This album, we started entirely from scratch - hence the reimagining - and there are also more guest vocalists singing harmonies as well as new collaborations with folks like Katie Marie and Quinn (percussion) who were able to do their overdubs from home. Robin Boult, who I met on tour with Howard Jones, created a beautiful acoustic guitar arrangement for "I Made A Case" and it really took the song somewhere more jazzy and unexpected.

The goal here was really to have no rules other than that if the newly reimagined instrumentation helped tell the story and bring out the lyric, we should pursue it. Thankfully my engineer/mixer Mikhail Pivovarov completely understood the mission, and I'm very proud of how these versions breathe more and really reflect my folk and Americana sensibilities, versus the alt-pop side of me more people still know the best. I would definitely say I would never have made this record had I not toured these songs for a full year prior. My tastes change, my approach to arrangement even goes through a bit of a tour-vortext...where ultimately you just want to focus on the song: lyrics, melody and a little bit of a frame around it.

But don't worry, I'm already working on my next album, and it's a "more = more" kind of affair. I'm nothing if not eclectic!

Rachael Sage

4. How do you feel this acoustic sound showcases your voice differently? I think it's a bit easier for the listener to focus more on the storytelling aspect, rather than to have one's ear pulled as much toward the layers of production. These arrangements are very organic and leave a lot of space for the voice and for the harmonies. It's definitely more in the spirit of folk, Americana and roots music, than some of my previous work.

5. What was the easiest song on Another Side to reimagine? Not to sound too hippie about it, but working on this record was an absolute pleasure and the whole process was very natural and easier than many of my previous records. Part of that was because I recorded the bulk of it in my home studio, but also because the special guests were all my dear friends.

I suppose "Albatross" was the easiest in the sense that Crys Matthews came up with her harmony part without any tweaking or was fully realized and just felt complete as soon as we (my engineer Mikhail and I) heard it. She is truly a once in a generation talent and the best thing I could do to serve that vocal arrangement was get out of the way!

6. Which song was the most challenging to reimagine, and why do you feel it was so difficult? "Butterflies At Night" was slightly more challenging because I was very attached to the original which was already very acoustic. But I think the listener will be surprised and hopefully as delighted as I was by the lovely mandolin playing, and by how much more intimate and fragile the song is now. It was also a tough one for me just to work on, because it's about my dear friend Hugh McGowan, a wonderful Boston-area singer-songwriter who passed away suddenly, during the pandemic. I miss him all the time, but hopefully he's enjoying his musical tribute!

Rachael Sage

7. Let's play with some of the song titles on Another Side to find out more about you:

  • "The Place of Fun" - Where is THE PLACE, you have the most fun? That's easy: obviously, on stage! Close second: in front of a canvas, painting. Distant third: watching movies (I'm definitely an avid movie-buff).
  • "Whistle Blow" - If you could blow the whistle on something that is going on in our world today, what would you want to call out? There are so many things, but the one that strikes me most today is ageism. I am often told I look "so young for my age" but the older I get the more that feels like a big old back-handed compliment. How about just being allowed to age? What a concept?! I never met my grandparents and it weighs me down every day that I never knew them or benefited from their wisdom.
  • "Forgive Me This" - What is something you are looking to get forgiveness for or from? I can't think of anything. I try to really live my life in such a way that I treat people with respect and hopefully don't put myself in a position where I need to look for/ask for forgiveness. I try my best to practice kindness and be empathetic while still being true to my own needs. In that sense, I suppose I am always seeking forgiveness from myself: for being a people pleaser for far too long, for letting people take advantage of me in the past, and for not taking care of my health. But I don't really like to dwell too much in the the "don't go to bed angry" truism for couples applies as much to me in my attitude toward friendships, and family. There's very little a genuine apology and a hug can't fix, in my life at least. But I'm a pretty peace-loving person and have never been one to hold a grudge, to a fault perhaps.
  • "Breathe" - How do you relax and destress from the world, and your work? I'm not sure that I do that very successfully, because I have a hard time relaxing and it's no secret I work long hours whether as a musician or a record label owner; there's always so much to do and not enough time. I went through a (very important) phase during my recovery from cancer where I meditated and practiced yoga nearly every day, but during lockdown I definitely lost that thread. I suppose my most relaxing time would be painting, or binge-watching a TV series or watching a movie. I am the least stressed when I'm on stage. So for that reason alone, I'd better keep booking more gigs, it would seem!!

Rachael Sage

8. In our last interview, you were recovering from Endometrial cancer. How are you doing today with your health? See above - I'm doing well thankfully, and in remission. But I do need to take better care of myself for sure. Like most people I know, lockdown took its toll on me mentally and also physically, and I formed some not-so-healthy habits and abandoned some healthy ones, alas. As someone who definitely experiences seasonal affective disorder, I'm really looking forward to summer, when I can walk more outside, hopefully get a bit more sleep (always the hope) and generally get a little more Vitamin D! I appreciate you asking me this question!!

9. What is something you have done post cancer that you wouldn't have done before your diagnosis? Hmm...that's a tough one because I believe very firmly I'm the same person as I was prior to my cancer experience; I've just experienced surgery, chemo and radiation. But I suppose the biggest shift for me has been what I eat and drink. I almost never have sugar, I eat virtually no carbs and I try to drink green juice every day when it's available.

Before my diagnosis, I ate gummy-bears, drank sugary chai lattes, and ate pizza as much as the next person. So I guess the answer is: eliminate sugar! I read the book Anti-Cancer early in my journey and it was very illuminating, to say the least. That said, I am still a major foodie. I'm just making better choices and thinking about the big picture a bit more, as grownups do!

10. I love how you titled this reimagined release, Another Side. So, I have to ask, What is Another Side of Rachael Sage that we have not seen, that you are ready to share with my audience? I'm a pretty open book so that's not an easy one, but I suppose most people don't know that I've done a bit of teaching, the last several years. I've given workshops and taught classes in creativity and songwriting, I just gave my first keynote speech at a folk conference, and will be doing a poetry workshop in June at the National Women's Music Festival.

It would appear I'm entering the "giving back" phase of my career, not only via charity fundraising (something we've always done at MPress), but by admitting I know some stuff, and being open to sharing it. Just don't ask me how I get my red lipstick to stay on all day...that's a trade secret!

More on Rachael Sage:

Since founding her own label MPress Records two decades ago, NYC-based folk-pop artist Rachael Sage has steadily released a slew of vibrant, dynamic albums described by Goldmine Magazine as "mesmerizing...thoughtful, pensive and flush with an emotional flourish, all carefully and adeptly executed." 

She has toured with an eclectic list of artists including Rufus Wainwright, Ani DiFranco, Beth Hart, Howard Jones, and Grammy® winners Shawn Colvin and Judy Collins – with whom she also recorded a critically-acclaimed duet of Neil Young's "Helpless."

In addition to being a six-time Independent Music Award-winning musician and producer, Rachael is also a John Lennon Contest Grand Prize winner who has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, SXSW, and toured globally from Japan to Berlin with her band, The Sequins. Rachael is also a visual artist and former ballet dancer who performed with the New York City Ballet.

A self-described "cancer thriver", she is additionally a philanthropic advocate who has raised money for a wide range of causes, including Foundation For Women's Cancer, WHY Hunger, American Refugee Committee, and National Network For Youth (NN4Y).

Her 2020 album Character yielded the Billboard-charting single "Blue Sky Days", and her side-project Poetica, an adventurous fusion of poetry with jazz, classical and Americana musical elements in the vein of Leonard Cohen and Laurie Anderson debuted in October 2021. 

Rachael's sparkling cover version of the Yazoo classic "Only You", from her full-length album The Other Side, reached #32 on the Mediabase Top 40 radio chart. Her singles "I Made A Case (feat Howard Jones)" and “Deepest Dark” are also available.

Her companion acoustic album Another Side was just released on May 17, 2024. You can stream it everywhere you listen to music & order hard copies from Rachael's website.

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