There are musicians out there who have a natural grasp for the art form. It runs in their blood, shines through their soul and exudes through their techniques. Sara Azriel is an excellent example of this from her passionate way of singing and the quality of her songwriting. She has a way of taking over a room by herself with an instrument that’s simply stunning. Tomorrow night, she’ll be exhibiting these abilities at Pump House Music Works in Wakefield with fellow Providence songwriters John Faraone and Lily Porter Wright and Norwood, Massachusetts artist Chip.
Azriel and I had a talk ahead of the show about how she came to Rhode Island, being in a major motion picture, the importance of singing and writing the music of her life.
Rob Duguay: You’re from Muskegon, Michigan, so what brought you to Rhode Island?
Sara Azriel: I lived in Boston while attending Berklee College of Music and fell in love with the East Coast. Later, after living in Los Angeles for seven years, I missed the east and made my way back. I ended up housesitting for my friends’ mother’s country home in North Dighton, Massachusetts. A for about a year and started venturing in to Providence. I went to Fete Music Hall one night for Eric Bloom’s New Orleans night, met a bunch of wonderful people and the rest is history.
RD: What do you consider to be the spark that made you want to become a musician?
SA: Well, my parents said they thought I’d be a singer and a musician before I was even born, so there’s that. Before I could speak I could copy my dad’s melodies. My very first memories are all around music. There’s me demanding my parents play “Happy Birthday” by Stevie Wonder again and again on the turntable. My dad singing a song he wrote for me called “Sara.” Singing was my first love, it always felt like the thing I was here to do.
RD: You’re also the co-founder of MARS Camp with fellow Providence musician Dan Dodd. The camp teaches students how to write, record, produce and distribute original work. How did the idea for this camp come to fruition?
SA: Dan and I were teaching together at the Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts in the music department. Back then, writing original music wasn’t a part of the curriculum. I’ve always felt traditional western music education has a big hole in it in that it relies primarily on teaching students to perform others’ work, with little to no education in creating one’s own work. We wanted to give students a space to learn how to write their own songs, to tell their own stories. I’m very happy to say that the Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts has added songwriting to their curriculum for every grade level and I still offer the program after school there as well.
RD: You also got to be a part of the 2017 film “The Polka King” starring Jack Black as a member of the band in the film. How did you get involved in the flick?
SA: I know the filmmakers Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky. I used to work for them when I lived in Los Angeles. Maya somehow remembered that I’d played saxophone throughout my youth and asked me if I wanted to be in the band. Getting to be in a pretend Polka band with my favorite actor Jason Schwartzman, was very, very fun.
RD: 2020 is in its infancy, so do you have any major plans for the year?
SA: In terms of my own music, I plan to write the best songs of my life. I am starting my search for a co-producer for my next release. I wrote a lot last year and have about 30 songs to choose from. I hope to be recording this summer and fall. I’m also really excited to be starting a community choir in Providence.
We humans need to sing with each other, for our health and for our spirits. It’s a really simple, joyful way to feel connection to our bodies, our community and to our humanity. In my work as a voice coach, I come across so many people who think they can’t sing. This is wrong, it’s your human right to sing. You don’t have to play ball like LeBron James to enjoy some hoops, right? This choir is for everyone, especially those who have fear around using their voice.
We will be taking the choir outside of the traditional performance venue to create public pop-up singalongs. I’m really excited to create this space for people. My other major plans for 2020 include a lot of laughter, dancing and lightening up.