If You Go
131 Congress Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801
PORTSMOUTH, NH – With her “Horizon Line” EP that came out January 11, Boston singer-songwriter Sarah Blacker was aiming to bring forth her live performance into a recording. It’s an ultimate goal for any working musician and/or band, and while it can be difficult to pull off, Blacker and her band definitely achieved it within the three-track album. There’s also a substantial quality within the EP where the songs are represented in their purest form.
On February 10 in the lounge within the confines of The Music Hall in Portsmouth, Blacker and her band are bound to play the material off of the record within an intimate atmosphere. The show starts at 8 p.m. and is part of a series that’s sponsored by the local car dealership Key Auto Group.
Blacker and I had a talk ahead of the performance about the making of her latest release, her career in music therapy and being excited about coming back to The Music Hall.
Rob Duguay: Your “Horizon Line” EP exudes a genuine essence through the acoustic foundation of the songs. What made you want to capture this raw quality with the record? Did you simply feel that it was the best way to represent the songs that you were working on or was it something else?
Sarah Blacker: It was in part that I hadn’t made an album like this before and I’ve always wanted to do something more in the acoustic vein. That said, I was also really struggling with the logistics of trying to get the whole band into the studio. Whenever we’d put a date on the books, something would come up that prevented us from getting in there so my husband finally said “Why don’t you just go in and record live?,”so I did.
RD: That must have made things a bit easier. Was it like working with Sean McLaughlin at 37′ Productions on the record? He has quite a resume both locally and nationally.
SB: Sean’s the best. I’ve worked with him for all of my albums, he’s just really easy-going and he also played bass in my band for a while so we’ve become really good friends over the years. He’s a mix master, he gets the best sounds and he mixes things really beautifully. He’s an amazing talent.
RD: He definitely did a great job on the EP from listening to it. Outside of writing, recording and performing music, you also use it as a form of therapy for people of all ages and backgrounds. First off, how did you initially go about getting into this field?
SB: I’ve always been really passionate about psychology and I knew how much it helped me through writing my own songs and processing my own emotions. I went to the Berklee College of Music [in Boston] and they had a major there called “Music Therapy” that I had never heard of, so I was able to study how all of those things came together. Helping people, psychology, neurology, medicine and it makes total sense to me. Our entire brain reacts when we listen to music, we build connection through music, we heal & process emotions through music and we’re uplifted. We’re held when we’re down, so there’s a place for everything in music.
RD: Yeah, I totally agree. During a session, how does music intertwine with psychotherapy in this way? Is it more than just listening to songs and talking about the music you both just listened to afterward in a mental sense? How does this exactly work in layman’s terms?
SB: It depends on who is in the session and what their needs are. I’ve worked with infants in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and for them it was helping them to regulate and self-soothe through music to feel comforted and to feel calm. I’ve also worked with folks who have dementia and Alzheimer’s, so for them it’s all about playing and singing along to songs that are intertwined with memories from their youth and accessing long-term memories that got stored in the music. With mental health, a lot of it comes down to songwriting or analyzing lyrics. Finding a song that really captures an emotion that we have a difficult time articulating otherwise.
RD: It’s very interesting, but thanks for describing it in that way.
SB: You’re welcome.
RD: What are your thoughts on performing at The Music Hall this weekend? It’s an historic venue that’s been around since the 1800s.
SB: The lounge at The Music Hall is this beautiful intimate space. We had one of our favorite shows of all time when we played there the previous time around. The sound is pristine, it feels like you’re in your living room with fireplaces and dim lighting and it’s very intimate. The staff is immaculate and just so kind and professional. We’re really, really excited to be back there.