Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Interview Flashback - Talking Highs, Lows & Highs with Sarah Buxton- The 9513 Interview

I have been blessed to write contributions/reviews/interviews/opinion pieces for several country music and roots-oriented websites and publications over the years including Saving Country Music, Nashville Scene, Country California, Country Weekly, American Noise, The 9513 and Engine 145. As a regular contributor to the last two in that list, I did close to a 100 interviews with different artists- and since both of those great sites have come down, I will reprint some of those interviews here to give them a home in perpetuity. This interview was originally published in February 2010 on The 9513.

For Sarah Buxton, the last six years have been a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. The singer/songwriter has realized huge successes and at the same time has questioned at times where the road towards her first full album release would take her. Today, that journey aims to all points north with the release of her self-titled album scheduled for release by Lyric Street Records on February 23rd.

Born in Lawrence, Kansas, Buxton’s childhood was filled with music with piano and flute lessons and being active in her town choir. She moved to Nashville following high school graduation both to attend Belmont University and follow her musical dreams and ambitions. The early 2000’s found her the lead singer of a southern rock band called Stoik Oak. But after that group called it quits- and after an ill-fated marriage- she found herself at a crossroads of where to go next.

It was John Rich and others that encouraged her to find her country music voice and after singing back-up vocals from everyone from Kenny Rogers to Cowboy Troy, she landed her own record deal with Lyric Street Records back in 2006. Keith Urban recorded the Buxton co-write "Stupid Boy" on his album Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing- which he took to #3 on the country charts in 2007. But despite that big success as a songwriter, three different singles released over three years- “Innocence,” “That Kind Of Day,” and “Space”- didn’t result in enough radio play in Lyric Street’s eyes to result in an album release.

A fourth single was the charm, however. Her current chart hit, “Outside My Window,” is close to busting into the top 20 and its homegrown video has been a staple hit on the country music television stations. The 9513 had a chance to talk to the fun and free-spirited Buxton about her journey and the new album.

Ken Morton, Jr.- Thank you for sharing a bit of your time with The 9513.

Sarah Buxton- I’m so good right now. I have a new burst of energy because I just opened up my first CD ever!

KMJ- What an exciting moment for you.

SB- I’m freaked out. I was in the middle of another interview just a few minutes ago and had a very awkward moment. My publicist and my manager came in with the CD with their phones and were recording me. I was talking with the interview guy and I was waving at them and jumping up and down. It was crazy. I’m just so happy about it. It’s just so great.

KMJ- Congratulations. You can still hear the excitement in your voice. 

SB- Thank you. I am excited.

KMJ- Well, let me dive into a few questions we have for you. How is it that Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks led you into country music?

SB- Through her, her singing, her melodies and the way she sang about her life, she taught me something about music. You either connect with it or you don’t. When you do, and you’re a musical person, it’s a powerful thing. There was something about her that just didn’t just pull me in, it lassoed me in. Wow. I was just completely blown away by them and I saw that she wrote all her own songs. I just connected with her. I don’t know what it was. She’s always been my favorite.

KMJ- I understand you met her and it was by her suggestion that you follow your musical dreams and ultimately ended up here.

SB- She didn’t suggest it, but she told me that if I knew that I was here on this planet to sing and that if I really believed it, I would make it happen. That’s how I felt. And that’s what I did. I believed in myself. She said, “If you believe in yourself, then I believe in you.” So that’s what I took from it and that’s why I moved to Nashville.

KMJ- While you’ve been signed to Lyric Street since 2006, it’s been your songwriting on Keith Urban’s “Stupid Boy” that probably has cast a light as bright as anything thus far- was has that song meant to you? 

SB- It’s meant a lot. It’s meant a lot of things. First of all, it’s cool to be able to write a song about something you feel strongly about, you feel like you did it. If you feel like you like it and that you couldn’t have done any better then it’s a gift. But then to have it recorded on my record and to have Keith hear it and record it on his album and then nominated for Song Of The Year, it’s just the gift that keeps on giving. And most importantly, I’m still getting checks from it. Yea! (Laughing).

KMJ- It seems as if things are really rolling now for your career- your long awaited album hits at the end of February. What can listeners expect to hear?

SB- You can expect to hear my long struggle through my 20’s in my songs. It was written over the course of six years. You can hear all of my previous singles on it- “Innocence,” “That Kind Of Day,” “Space,” and “Outside My Window.” They’re all on there plus six new ones that will give you a direction on where my music is headed. It’s an emotional CD with a lot of highs and lows. The highs are really high and the lows are really low. I tried to take you with me on that journey when you go through it. And hope that when people listen to it, they’ve gone through some of the same things and there’s a song on there for every thing.

KMJ- Sonically and musically, how would you describe it?

SB- It’s very guitar-driven. It’s very rocking. It’s got the Nashville country sound on it but it’s got a little different spin on it. I tried to be a little more organic than it could have been. With tracks like “Big Blue Sky” at the very end, I wanted something on there that was very light. There’s some stuff on there that’s very heavy- some things that have a deep message to them. I think you can hear some Stevie in there. I think you can hear Tom Petty. I think you can hear Shania in there. A little Faith in there. I think you can all the influences I’ve had on there.

KMJ- On some of the songs we’ve heard on the radio, there’s a certain spunkiness to them. Does that carry through the rest of the album? 

SB- Not every song has that on it. That’s something I let go of a little bit.- and not that I’m not letting go of my spunkiness. I just recently finished writing one of the most ridiculous songs I’ve ever written called “Train Wreck.” I tried to write more songs that were a little more grown up. I tried to tap into some of these new things while still trying to make it make sense. I’m kind of in a big place in my life right now. Lots of things are moving and working and getting resolved.

KMJ- I’m sure there’s been a roller-coaster of a ride for you over the last four years, perhaps even the last six. Were you always sure that this day was going to arrive?

SB- Yes, I always thought it was going to happen. But then there would be moments in which I thought maybe this wasn’t going to happen. Or thought, maybe I don’t want this to happen. Why isn’t this going smoothly? Why is it that I see these other artists out on the road and other people are talking about their careers and everybody else seems to be having fun? And why am I having such a struggle and such a big fight for everything? I felt like everything was such a big deal. Every decision was so much drama. And now, finally, I feel like one of those other happy artists. (Laughing)

KMJ- Your current single “Outside My Window” seems poised to become your first top 20 solo hit any week now. There’s a great story regarding a “personal investment” in the video.

SB- Totally. The standard of my label is that they like to release music videos when they know they have a top 20 record. So until they got to the point that “Outside My Window” is now, they wouldn’t have a video out for it. They explained in-depth this reason. I just went and made this video with my co-writers for fun. I said, “Whatever, we’ll just go put it on YouTube.” But we showed it to the guys at Lyric Street and they loved it. They loved it. They thought it was hilarious. And we’ve got some friends at GAC and they said they’d definitely play it. And when I told the label they were going to play it, they said that they wouldn’t normally play anything this low of quality. We literally shot it on an iFlip on Mark Hudson’s laptop. It was his brain-child. He totally thought the whole thing up.

KMJ- And the whole thing was shot for a crazy amount like $50 or something like that?

SB- It was more than that. It was eighty bucks. (Laughing) The most expensive thing we got was the window. The big expense was the window itself.

KMJ- Does that hang proudly somewhere in your house now?

SB- You know what? No, it should. I think it’s over at (co-writer) Gary Burr’s house. I should go over and get that thing. Gary’s very proud of this record though.

KMJ- You’re out on tour with Martina McBride and Trace Adkins on the Shine All Night Tour beginning this month as well.

SB- Yes! I’ve actually done a few dates with them already. It’s so great. I love being on tour. You get to work on your craft of performing when it’s been start-stop-start-stop. It’s not until you do it night after night after night when you start getting really good. You learn how to get really good at how to be better at bringing Trace Adkins out on stage because he comes on literally right after me.

KMJ- So who are more like out on tour? Is it the Trace Adkins bar-room drinking girl or the Martina McBride family-oriented girl?

SB- Somewhere right in the middle. I don’t drink all night every night. I do every once in awhile. (Laughter) But I like staying home and having a nice glass of wine with my dinner. But when I do party, I find that the more I party, the more I want to party. So it can get a little out of control. So I try to be a good girl out on the road.

KMJ- And you’re also going to be the featured GAC Artist of the Month in March, I understand?

SB- The hits just keep coming. They’re going to have all these hit songs and interviews. I’m really just overwhelmed. I really am. Even with everything that’s happening, I just can’t believe it. Everything’s good!

KMJ- I have one last question for you. What is country music to Sarah Buxton?

SB- Country music is a genre for everybody- kids and adults. It’s a genre based on storytelling. I think that’s the best way I can describe what I do to others. It’s storytelling. It’s about people’s lives. It’s about real tangible things that we all go through. It’s real stories about real life. When I first started listening to it, Patty Loveless became one of my all-time idols. I love her so much. She sang and spoke so well to women and women’s emotions and real things. It was love and divorce and death in a plain-speaking way. That’s what country music is to me.

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