By STEVEN JUPITER
RIPTON—Why do people love songs about loss? Why do people luxuriate in a singer’s sorrow? Is it because it’s cathartic, allowing us to purge our own pain through someone else’s?
Singer/songwriter Sarah King is building her career on the need people have for release of their own burdens. All the pent-up pain, anger, and frustrations of life come pouring out in the gritty soulfulness of her music. She latches onto a tune, twisting her voice around it like a boa around its prey, tightening her grip, then letting it go…
“Maybe a weight has been lifted,” she said. Her goal is to take the listener on a journey, to stir something inside them, to get them to give up a little bit of their hurt.
King has lived a nomadic life: Maine, New York, North Carolina, Georgia. She moved to Vermont in 2018 after a year on the road with her husband. They landed in Ripton and King began taking her music-making more seriously.
“I started writing songs in high school,” she said. “I knew it was what I wanted to do but the adults in my life told me it wasn’t a career path. I believed them for too long.”
When her mother passed in 2018, it was in some ways a liberation.
“I didn’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations anymore,” King said. “I didn’t have to justify myself.”
In early 2020, King had tickets to see a favorite band, The Lumineers, in Saratoga. Looking at the credits on a promotional CD she received at the concert, she decided to “take a shot in the dark” and email a demo track to the band’s producer, Simone Felice. To her surprise, not only did she receive a reply, but she also received an invitation to come record her music in the same studio The Lumineers used.
“If people at that level are seeing something in me…,” King mused. By April of 2020, she was recording her music with Felice.
King’s sound could best be categorized as “Americana,” a darker, sharper-edged cousin to Country music, with strong influences of blues, folk, and rock. Her influences include Chris Stapleton, Nathaniel Rateliff, Elle King, Al Green, Alabama Shakes…the common thread being a willingness to go deep and raw to get a song across. Her lyrics tackle the emotional and psychological conflicts within us all. Her song “Not Worth the Whiskey,” for example, is a slow, angry burn, lashing out at someone who hurt her so badly that they’re not even worth the whiskey to forget them: “Misdeeds are the fodder/on which your guilty conscience feeds.”
“I like to say my music is by the people, about the people, for the people,” King offered. She doesn’t sanitize life. Temptation, drinking, death…they all find their way into her music.
“But my show is a journey,” she said. She takes the audience on a voyage through the ups and downs, the beauty and ugliness, of life. “It’s not all dark. I saw on Spotify once that someone had a playlist called ‘Sunshine and Struggle’ and I thought that was a perfect way to describe my music. I want to shine a light on the darkness.”
King’s show at Town Hall in Brandon (on Saturday, April 22 at 7 pm) will be the last of her “Listening Room” performances for a while. These intimate sessions are a direct connection between her and her audience. There’s no backing band or singers. Just King and her electric guitar. She’s currently recording an album to be released in the fall and will go out west to tour this summer.
Despite some of the subject matter, King insists the show will have a “feel-good vibe.” The goal is to provide a “safe space” to feel the emotions she aims to stir with her music.
“There’s genuine emotion in everything I do,” she said. “I want to give people something to engage with.”
Please visit King’s website www.sarahkingsings.com to read more about her and hear samples of her music. Her show is at Brandon Town Hall on Saturday, April 22 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door. Red Clover will be selling alcoholic beverages and Nyam Bai will be selling Cambodian food.