INTERVIEW: Rachael Sage

Who is Rachael Sage?

Rachael Sage has had an illustrious career as an independent artist, respected and praised by the likes of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Rolling Stone and Billboard. She has shared the stage with Ani DiFranco, Sarah McLachlan, and Shawn Colvin and her songs have appeared on MTV, HBO, “Fame” soundtrack and Lifetime TV’s “Dance Moms”.

She has made a name for herself as one of the most active touring artists in independent music with her dynamic stage show, signature flair and colorful stage banter. Billboard has said “her keen ironic sense of humor and quirky sense of the profound is what makes her special as a songwriter“ and called her a “genuine talent.”

In addition to her activities as an artist, Rachael runs her own record label, MPress Records, since 1996. She released her new album “Choreographic” in May on MPress. Produced by Sage and Andy Zulla (Kelly Clarkson, Rod Stewart, Megan Hilty), the album features 13 brand-new chamber-pop gems, and showcases her touring band The Sequins.


Take a listen to “Heaven is a Grocery Clerk” taken from her latest album “Choreographic” and then read on to see what Rachael had to say when Talk About Pop Music recently caught up with her.

Hi Rachael thanks for chatting to us! Now, “Heaven is a Grocery Clerk “- you’ll have to explain that before we go any further.

The title of the song is also the title of a painting by my friend Riki Chen. (You can look up his work on Facebook, as he posted hundreds of images there). Riki and I became Facebook friends because our visual art style is very similar, and eventually I met him in person out in California. He was a very unusual human being who seemed to be perpetually challenged – he was homeless off and on, and then he became sick with cancer – but before he passed away I had a chance to perform the song for him live at a gig in San Francisco, and it was a pretty poignant moment; I didn’t realize it would also be the last time I’d see him and experience his irrepressible, colorful spirit.

That’s kinda awesome – thanks for sharing that special memory with us!

Who is Rachael?

I think I’m essentially a storyteller. I’ve always expressed myself through music, dance, theater and poetry since I was a little kid…but the thread has been a heartfelt desire to connect my own perceptions with the lives of others in a way that offers hope and highlights the heroic, in whatever form.

Who are your musical Gods or Goddesses?

Some of my favorite musicians include Elvis Costello, Marc Cohn, Sinéad O’Connor, Maria McKee, Rufus Wainwright, Glen Hansard, John Prine, Suzanne Vega, Lucius, David Bowie and Queen. Pretty much anything from the ’60’s and ’70’s gets me excited – other than Classical music, I was raised on The Beatles, The Doors, Buddy Holly and doo-wap – and Carole King is my #1 goddess. It was nerve-wracking covering “So Far Away” on my new album, but I hope if she ever hears it, she enjoys the tribute!

I’m sure she will love it – let’s remind ourselves of the original…

What was the first song you sang in public?

The first song I sang in public was a song I wrote called “Jenny”. It was about my best friend and I still remember the music though some of the words have slipped from my memory. I should probably record it, it’s pretty catchy!

…and the last song you sang in public?

The last song I sang in public was yesterday at a festival…I ended the set with a brand new song I just wrote for the 15th anniversary of 9/11, called “The Tide”.

What music is on your phone right now?

I’m in “A&R” mode for several artists on my label (MPress Records) right now who are all writing for new projects, so I’ve been listening to unreleased demos by Seth Glier, A Fragile Tomorrow and a rising young artist named Matt Nakoa lately…with a smattering of Tom Waits, Passenger, John Lee Hooker, Bruce Springsteen, Marianne Faithful and Ravel.

A few new ones on me there but I have to admit I love Passenger – let’s listen…

Tell us something embarrassing about yourself…

I don’t know if I know how to swim. It’s been so long and I’m not really a “beachy” person…I might actually have forgotten! Same situation re: riding a bike, probably, since once I started ballet I pretty much dropped all other physical activity. I need a patient, sporty friend to encourage me somewhere off the grid where no one else will laugh or tease me.

So long as you don’t sink – that works for me haha!

Have you heard of Eurovision? If so, would you do it?

Yes I’ve heard of it. I’m not sure! My friend Mickey Harte did it for Ireland and it seemed to be a positive thing…but…probably not. I think my music is pretty quirky and more anthemic types of songs seem to do well in those contexts. Never say never I guess (?). I’d love to write a song for someone else to sing on it though, for sure!

That’s too cool! Let’s watch Mickey at Eurovision in 2003…

If you did CarPool Karaoke – what would be your first song?

“Walking In Memphis” by Marc Cohn…but maybe Cher’s version would be more amusing. I’m pretty good at channeling Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” too; those are my go-to karaoke songs, generally speaking.

Oh I would so love to hear both – maybe you can put them up on your YouTube channel?

What was the first song you bought/downloaded/streamed?

It was Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”. I heard it at sleep-away camp via a counselor and once I was home my mom took me to our local record store and I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up – or sooner.

You are only allowed one song on repeat for the rest of your life – what would it be?

Maria McKee’s “Breathe”.

Wow – this is another great song!

What’s your favourite joke?

I don’t have one favorite joke, specifically. But I do owe the great Joan Rivers a good deal of laughs and enjoy impersonating her in general!

I really want to share some Joan Rivers videos now…but it’s a family blog haha.

What’s your favourite lyric ever?

“can you imagine all the greed and avarice coming down on that child’s lips…” (Elvis Costello, “Tramp The Dirt Down”). But everything he writes is brilliant – that’s the one that jumped into my head 🙂

Have you ever been to Scotland?

Yes, several times! I actually produced two shows at Edinburgh Fringe, a few years back, which was an amazing experience! I’ve also performed there on tour with Judy Collins and John Barrowman. I also visited when I was a kid on vacation with my family. We stayed on a farm with a lovely family who had a boy exactly my age and another my sister’s age. Fond memories all around of Scotland and look forward to returning soon!

Well let us know when you every get as far as Aberdeen!

What’s next for Rachael?

Well, I’m headed over to the UK for a bunch of dates in September supporting my new album, so that’s exciting! We’ll also be venturing over to Germany, Italy and a few other spots in Europe. I’m looking forward to getting out there, playing my new tunes live and generally having lots of adventures!

So, your giving away some stuff for our readers – tell us about it?

I’ll be sharing one of my limited-edition Tote Bags, jam packed full of fabulous goodies including my new CD, my signature Rachael Sage lipgloss, a Rachael Sage kazoo, and my pop-art, “Choreographic”-themed coloring book.


All the best of luck with the new tour and album and for the future and thanks Rachael, for chatting with me!

How great is Rachael? Let me know what you think in the comments below or tweet me @PopAndTalk and keep checking this blog for details on how to win Rachael’s goodies!

Listen to more of Rachael on Spotify

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