Saturday, January 20, 2018

Sarah Slean looks at creative process, marketing process

October 4, 2017 by Jayden Grieve, contributing writer

Canadian musician Sarah Slean says that downtime helps her realize what she really wants to be doing. And she’s clearly taking some downtime: her 11th album, Metaphysics, came out this April, more than five years after her last album.

“I bought a farm and decided I was going to attempt something that was not transient, because that’s kind of what I was doing for 20 years and I needed to stop moving,” she says. “I literally and figuratively put down some roots and let seasons pass, but I got restless at the end of two years. I guess the seeds I planted started to sprout and I had to act on that, and that’s how the album came to be—the songs grew into something that needed my attention.”

Her voice says it all; Slean’s passion and energy beg for an outlet. She says that she’s been like this since her very first album, and she can’t imagine living any other way.

Since her last album, Sarah Slean has bought a farm and tried living a new lifestyle (photo by David Leyes).

“Anyone who’s doing anything even mildly unconventional has looked over the fence at structure and stability and had that feeling of envy, but it goes both ways,” she says. “I think I know this about myself—I’m restless and I constantly need to make things. I’m a creative spirit; I need to generate. So I’ve got to be doing that, and, yes, it’s heavy lifting. You’ve got to give birth to worlds over and over again. Every album takes a piece of me, there’s no question; my family and friends know that.”

When Slean plays in town this month, she will have with her a number of new string players. The orchestra has played a big part in her musical career; strings appear prominently on her new album. She says that she’s always excited about the prospect of a new show.

“When I get asked to sing Joni Mitchell with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, I’m freaking out,” she admits. “But I’m as excited to play with 20 new string players in a beautiful hall in Victoria, because for me it’s always about the actual music. What is written and what gets played, when we are performing and when the music is unfolding in the present moment, it’s utterly beautiful. That’s why we still do it, even though this industry can break down the strongest among us.”

Music has always been the most important part of Slean’s career, and it’s the part she wants everyone to take away from her performances. She says that as she grows older she’s been able to distance herself from her physical image, and no longer has to lean on the crutch of sex appeal to promote herself.

“When you’re in your 20s, that is absolutely, 100 percent, front and centre,” she says. “Whether they say so explicitly or not, that is part of your marketing campaign. You are a young, nubile ingénue and the girls want to be you and the guys want to fuck you and that’s how they market you. I feel like if I had been given the opportunity I would have completely omitted my face, my body, everything to do with that, from the marketing of my music. There are women now that are turning it on its head, there are gay artists that are turning it on its head, I feel like more than ever the way that you sell your music, you get to define the terms.”

Sarah Slean
7 pm Thursday, October 5
$20-$24, Alix Goolden Hall

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