Interview: Sarah Schonert

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With an eclectic, experimental approach to music, Sarah Schonert, has risen above the norm, both sonically and lyrically with her newly released “Unwinding State”, on June 28th, 2016.  The album has 16 heartfelt, soul-searching tracks, all different in texture.

Louder than war was able to gain some insight to Sarah’s music, visual explosiveness, and customized instruments….

I would like to decorate my house, my clothes, my life around your music. What do you think about while creating a song…any song?

I’d love to see how that would look!  I’m a very visually person, even when it comes to music.  When I start a song, I often think about one or two very clear scenes or images while I work through the words and music.  The sound and the lyrics need to help build that scene in my head.  Even instrumental pieces invoke imagery for me.

How many instruments do you play, and what are they?

On the recent album I played 5.  I play the piano of course and any keyboard based thing I can get a hold of, including accordion, a vintage Rheem Kee Bass, and the Seaboard.  This album includes those plus a bit of electric guitar.  I also enjoy acoustic guitar and occasionally break out the oboe, which was my main instrument in band from 4th grade through high school.  I’ve also played the xylophone, drums, and glass flute in the past although I admit I would be rusty on them now.

You’re at a concert in the audience and one of the band members spontaneously combusts. You are called to the rage to take the band member’s place. Who is the band?

The Shins, definitely.  I can’t get over their sound!

Growing up, who did you listen to on the radio?

I listened to Collective Soul and Foo Fighters a lot as well as Elton John, David Bowie, and Billy Joel.  When I found internet radio in high school and college, I started listening to a few stations out of Europe and discovered Keane, Snow Patrol, Kate Bush, and Imogen Heap.

Do you ever feel like your lyrics are a lifeline to people you will never meet?

In many ways, yes.  My music is meant to introduce me to the world personally (such as “Hit Save”) or with the hopes that someone will take comfort in a piece (like “Trade My Smile”).  If anything, I want someone somewhere to connect deeply with a song, whether it’s their rainy day cry or their happy place.

Do you plan a tour in honor of your new release?

I’m not currently planning a tour, but I am looking for venues in Illinois to perform later this year and early next.  Should that go well, I will venture farther.

With degrees in engineering and physics, why music?

Engineering pays the bills but music is my passion.  Should my music start to support me, I would likely quit my engineering job (I do work full time even while I record) or I would find something part time.  My first love has always been the arts (visual, music, the stage) but I do find that my degrees aide me a lot in the studio from fixing amps to manipulating waveforms.

What does music mean to you?

Music means freedom, escape, and expression.  There’s a reason this album is called “My Unwinding State.”  At the end of the day, music is my safe haven and my outlet, whether I’m listening or creating, undoing all of the stress of day.  I both vent and relax in it.

What is a customizable virtual instrument?

These are software synths essentially.  I like using vsts that are highly customizable, from choosing waveforms and filters to combining them to trigger off of tempos or each other.  In the end, you can create new and interesting sounds that are controllable via MIDI controllers.  I use my keyboard to play my customized sounds. “Maybe I,” “6 O Clock,” “Corner,” “Experienne,” “Georges,” and “Break Me Down” used these heavily.

Are there any new projects on the horizon?

Always!  I just finished shooting a music video for “Break Me Down,” which is now in editing mode.  I’m also working on a second Because EP (instrumental) which I’ll likely release before the holidays.  Then there is a small collection of piano improvisations I’m building to reflect the images of the 1893 Columbian Exposition.  On top of that, I’m always recording piano / vocal pieces.


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All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.

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