SAE: Poetry, Debut EP, & Rebranding.
By: Camila C. | February 13, 2021
SAE @whatisae | Photo by: Naomi Lovescu
Singer Sarah, professionally known as SAE, talks poetry, debut EP, & rebranding.
Check out the interview below...
Why did you start music and when?
I’ve been singing since I was five. My sister is the one who helped me find my voice, literally. Our home life wasn’t healthy and music was my only outlet. My sister and I would always sing “Jesus Take The Wheel” by Carrie Underwood. That was the first song I ever memorized along with “Rolling In The Deep” by Adele. I still find myself listening to both those songs after all those years and seeing how much progress I’ve made vocally over the years (haha if you really want to see my progress, there’s an ancient video on youtube somewhere of me singing Adele and I may or may not have had a bowl cut and looked like Coconut Head from Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide haha) I also grew up singing in Romanian church so as you can imagine, I was always singing and practicing for Sunday services.
As for the why, music has been my safe place for as long as I can remember, and that started out at a very young age. I remember sitting in the California sun singing random songs and writing song lyrics in this little blue book I used to carry around with me.
What is advice that you would give to another aspiring artist?
Start. Start now. Start where you are. Write down that lyric wherever you are. If you’re in a restaurant then write it down on a napkin. If you’re at home, write it down on paper or in your notes app on your phone. The point is to start because you’re one day closer to growing more in your craft. My first few songs I wrote I didn’t even release, I wrote for about a year or two before I even released my own music. I released my music and at the time thought it was the greatest thing ever, then fast forward two years and I listen back to it and am mortified by what I hear haha. I remember asking my friends and family why they didn’t tell me how bad it was and they said that I needed the support. If they would have just told me it was terrible I would be more prone to quitting. So, you have to start somewhere, then try, fail, and repeat until you get to where you want to be. It took me years to get to where I am in my music now and to get to a place where I truly felt connected to and proud of my music. When it comes to things like music, you have to keep trying because eventually you’ll get to where you’re meant to be. Eventually your music will get better and better. The more we fail, the more we learn, and the more we learn, the more we can adapt and grow into. So keep trying. Patience is key with this part of music.
Was there ever a time you felt like you were going to give up? If so, how did you surpass that? What picked you back up?
Everyday... if not everyday then every OTHER day haha. In all seriousness though, I think that it’s a very universal feeling among creatives. I was really ready to give up after I had auditioned for a few music tv networks and didn’t make the cut. This past year, I was also really struggling; it felt like it was probably my loneliest year and I was ready to just up and quit music and move someplace new to find some other work. I have a great support system though: my mom and my sister. They’ve been the ones supporting me since day one. It helps to have a really good support system, whether or not it be a friend, family member, spouse, partner, etc. Sometimes we just need someone who sees something in us that we sometimes fail to see in ourselves.
What has kept you going during the pandemic in regards to your art?
First and foremost, God. I was really struggling with my mental health in this pandemic. I was dealing with a lot but in a way it was almost a blessing in disguise because if I hadn’t been faced with all these obstacles then I wouldn’t have written the music that I did. The pandemic really took a toll on my mental health; I had no other choice but to face it and write it out. This definitely produced some of my most honest and vulnerable music on various topics.
If you could embody a topic in a future song what would it be?
There are SO many. Wow. If I could embody a topic in a future song it would most likely be the topic of abuse. I’ve written a few songs about this but have yet to send it into production. It would be something extremely vulnerable for me, which I am becoming more vulnerable with my music, but all in due time haha.
What is your favorite song you’ve released so far?
Oh man, this is tough because in all honesty, all of my unreleased music is really my best work yet because I’ve finally found who I am as an artist in this season of my life. I don’t want to say I’ve found myself as an artist entirely because that’s just never the case; life is always changing and so is my music. If I had to choose one though, I would say “Said it First” because that was the first step into my complete and total vulnerability with my music. I wrote and sang about something that really catered to where I was in my life in terms of relationships. I was so straightforward in that song and it was the first step in the right direction to the music I’m wanting to release.
What are you working on currently? What is in store for us in the future?
So, as of right now I am in the middle of working on my debut EP and album. I can’t say too much about the EP, but I will give a hint with the theme of it: think “Heavenly.” I’m stoked for this to be released. There will be music videos with quite a few of the songs and I’m super excited to share that with everyone. In the meantime, I will be releasing a few more singles, and some collaborations are also in the works. I’m working with some really talented people from all over, some overseas, others right here in the states. Super exciting stuff though and extremely blessed to be working with these incredibly creative people!
What is the process like for your writing?
This is probably my favorite question to ever get asked because it’s quite literally all over the place. Oftentimes I can hear a track and boom, I’ve got a song within five minutes, or at least a good rough draft of a song. As of recently, it has shifted. As we talked about earlier, I said as an artist changes, so does their music, and well...so does their songwriting! I’m a very visual person. I paint, I write, I model, and so I see these pictures in mind a lot of the time. Well, I’ve somewhat incorporated these things into my writing style. I tend to envision a sort of movie trailer in my mind and write based on what I see and this helps me to step out of my comfort zone. I quite literally write whatever I see. I basically envision the music video first and then according to that write what I would imagine would be sung in the video with the topic I came up with. I’ve also just recently started adapting the writing elements I use within my poetry in my music. Kurt
Cobain (bless his soul) used to turn his poems into songs, and I’ve tried that but have always found it rather difficult. So instead, I adapted the writing elements and thought process I use when writing poetry to write my music. For example, I love to compare and contrast in my poetry and have now begun to incorporate that in my songwriting.
What has been the biggest challenge about being an artist?
What hasn’t been the biggest challenge is the real question. In all honesty, I think that it’s a really lonely thing, so I would say loneliness. Lonely because not many people support you when you tell them you’re not working a typical nine to five. Lonely because I have the tendency to fall off the face of the Earth and write for days and so I sometimes am a horrible texter and the people I talk to everyday know that, the reason why we talk everyday is because they call me haha. I think I also am so used to writing so much that a phone call is somewhat refreshing. It’s a good breather for me. But yeah, lonely. I think it’s lonely for a lot of reasons, it’s lonely when you have this idea in mind but can’t quite capture it in your lyrics or production. It’s lonely for a while until you’re performing or you have people messaging you about how much they love your music, then, in those moments, the loneliness is nowhere to be felt, so those moments always make up for the lonely ones—when the music really brings people together.
What type of music do you make?
Music for everyone, now if we’re talking about genres, I’m the worst with that because I listen to all kinds of music and also write all kinds of music, including for others and for myself. Currently though, I would be classified as Indie-pop, Pop, Contemporary, Alternative/Indie, and Electronic Dance Music.
I heard you were rebranding? What has that been like? What are you striving towards with that?
I am! So I have actually had a few people ask me the what and the why haha. What does it mean and why? So my new alias is “SAE” (pronounced as “SAY”). So quick funny little backstory behind how we came up with the name. My sister and I were sitting down talking about life, music, and where I saw myself, what I wanted my music to represent and I told her that I had been going back and forth for a little while on changing my artist name, so naturally she asks me what I thought of changing it to and I said “SAE” and she laughed and goes “oh I could see that in an interview, like, ‘hm what does she have to ‘Sae’? Instead of ‘say’ it would be ‘SAE’ .It is a play on words.” And when I tell you I lost it...I squealed and jumped up and down, it was like this mind-blowing thing that I was just thinking, I’ve got to do this-NOW! So the reasoning behind what I have to “SAE” is because I do many things, I have many passions. Of course music was and still is my first priority but there are plenty of others that I became more established in prior to releasing my music. For instance, modeling. What do I have to “SAE” through my pictures? A picture says a thousand words! Then, writing. I’m a published author. I write poetry; what do I (quite literally) have to “SAE” through my poetry? I also write a lot about my Faith in Christ. I have “Jesus Talks” or “speeches.” So again, what do I have to “SAE” or in this case what do I feel God is calling me to “SAE”? I paint, what do I have to “SAE” through my paintings? And lastly, because you know, the whole “save the best for last thing”, music. What do I have to “SAE” through my music? What am I trying to “SAE” to the people? What are all of the elements that go into music trying to “SAE”? For example, music videos, cover art, lyrics, song titles, EP titles, and album titles; what do I want it to “SAE”?
What would you tell the younger version of yourself?
What you’re going through now seems like it’s going to be the worst imaginable thing, then five months later you’re gonna go through something else that’ll feel even more unbearable. In between that time though, you had good days, great days, days where you felt God smiling down on you, and days where you genuinely smiled and actually felt loved. So even though the unbearable days, weeks, or even months come, they don’t last forever—you just think they do. It’s hard to see the sun when you’re clouded by, well, clouds, but the sun is always right behind them peaking out here and there. You’ll feel the warmth again. Stay strong, I’m proud of you.
Tell me about a time you just knew music was right for you.
It sounds funny, but when everything went wrong. For example, In school, I got bullied for my love of God and for the fact that I loved singing so much. I remember this girl who would always make fun of me was mocking me one day and so I did what I knew what to do best, I sang. I sang “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift haha and by sang, I mean, I more-so, scream-sang the song ,but nonetheless I got my point across. Or the times when I would sing in church and didn’t feel like it was my best performance and afterwards I had the pastor come up to me and tell me that he could feel the Holy Spirit whenever I was singing. That was the highest compliment I had ever received. The moments when I don’t feel good enough, or adequate. The moments when I’m way too hard on myself or when things go completely and utterly wrong, I find myself always going back to music. William Shakesepeare once said, “The Earth has music for those who listen.” That’s how I know music is right for me, because everywhere I go, from the sounds of the birds, to stop lights, to people chatting, I can hear music and harmonies in those moments. I hear music around me constantly.
What’s a moment that was so funny and iconic throughout your journey that you felt it was some sort of movie scene?
I had walked into this studio I was recording in and was talking to this assisting sound engineer. We talked about The Black Keys, The Beatles, Elvis, Legend of Zelda, and more. He’s Irish, so naturally, we played darts in the studio; I talked about being Romanian, he talked about being Irish. It was a really random night haha and I ended up dating him for a little while but it was just a really unexpected thing. So I guess music also helps me with my love life too.. The question is do I write a song about it? Maybe! We’ll see. *wink wink*
You have a book, what drove you to go past just music and releasing poetry?
So it was 2019. I had just moved to Washington State. I had no friends there, it was the end of summer and for the first time in a long while, I had nowhere to be and no one to see. It was time that I now look back on and realize was extremely well needed and deserved. I started going to this cafe near my house, going to the very back corner (like a true writer would do haha) , and I would just begin writing, sometimes typing. I would go back and forth between hardcopy poems and digital poems. I had always wanted to write a poetry book and that idea came from my mom. She had always said she wanted to write a book and one day we were talking about it and I asked her why she never did and she said “I’ll get around to it. Someday.” And we all know that’s just another phrase for “I’m probably just not going to do it anymore.” Well, the book was for her, I remember whenever I published it I told her that this was “our book”. I fulfilled the dream that she never got to, so in a way she could live her youth through me. Poetry is so intricate and delicate but also incredibly powerful and passionate at the same time. Poetry stands on its own. Music has the elements of instruments, harmonies, production, etc. I look at poetry as a form of “acapella” and depending on each reader, the music they hear when reading poetry is completely up to them and caters to their current situation or emotion.
What is your goal with your art? Where do you hope to be?
I like to set milestones for myself. I feel like everyone has goals and that’s great but I’ve always given myself milestones in life. I set milestones that will eventually end up leading me to my goals. So as of right now, my milestone is to just bring a lot of people together, release music that I’m really proud of, and bring my music to life even further with videos and other content. I don’t really know where I hope to be just yet, and that’s okay, all I can say is that I hope to be wherever God wants me to be and wherever he placed me to be.
This is a broad question but I’ve always found the answer has beauty in it, why music? Why this industry and path?
I love this question and I’m so glad you asked it because I find myself asking the same thing. It’s music because nothing else makes sense, and if it does, it’s not truly fulfilling. Everything else just seems dull to me but not music nor writing music. Another reasoning for sticking with music and choosing this industry is because it’s what I’ve always felt was God’s calling for my life. There’s a quote I love that states, “Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” - Leo Buscaglia. That quote right there is what constantly keeps me going when this career path seems too tough to handle. I figure that if God didn’t think I could use my talents in some way, then he wouldn’t have blessed me with it in the first place.
The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health, however, you yourself have struggled long term with mental illness and you use that to help others and advocate. If you could tell the world one thing about this struggle what would it be? What is advice you’d give someone right now who’s feeling dark and trapped?
Completely agree, it has taken a ginormous role on people’s mental health. Many people who didn’t really struggle with it prior to the pandemic definitely started to once the pandemic happened. If I could tell the world one thing about this struggle it would be for people to be more understanding. If someone tells you about their mental health issues, believe me, they know what they are telling you, they have been the one dealing with it. The best thing you can do is listen, even if you do not understand, just listen and ask them what THEY think would help THEM. I struggle with depersonalization and derealization and I cannot count how many times I’ve been in the middle of an anxiety episode and I’d have people who would ask “Why are you anxious? Nothing is happening.” You don’t need to question the what, how, or why, the distressed person will most likely tell you what they need in that moment or what they want. Advice that I would give to those currently struggling, first and foremost, you are not alone at all in it. It’s okay to ask for help too. I was always someone who tried to do things on my own but I realized that it’s okay to ask for help. Something that helped me a lot when I was really struggling these past few months was me just constantly reminding myself of the fact that it was called an “episode.” Episodes must end, eventually, right? Even if they’re hour long episodes, they still come to a close. So just remind yourself of that, you won’t always feel this way, you won’t always be “stuck” like this. It’s just an episode, it’ll come to an end eventually. You are loved.