Port Chester born singer-songwriter and musician, Rachael Sage has released her 10th album, ‘Haunted By You’ on her own independent label, MPress Records. The album opens with the track, ‘Invisible Light’ and continues with the hauntingly stunning tracks, ‘California’ and the title cut, ‘Haunted By You’, ‘The Sequin Song’ and more. She recently appeared on the bill at The Towne Crier Cafe in Pawling with fellow 90s rocker and long-time friend, Patti Rothberg back in August.
“It was so great to play with Patti and hear her current material as oppose to her older material and hear the development of her songwriting,” Sage told me in a phone interview. “She came in and recorded a project at The Carriage House in Stamford, CT. She played electric guitar on my album, Ballads and Burlesque. She played the electric rhythm part and added her signature melodic hooks—it brought so much to the song and it was the most rocking track on that album. It would be great to do something again with her so we’ll have to be thinking about that and find the right vehicle for her.” She added, “I’m looking for label partners all over the world to help with our work and release it.”
Sage is ready to embark on a tour which includes a performance featuring musician Jann Klose at Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett. Klose is known for his hit, ‘Doing’ Time’ and video produced by students of the New York Film Academy.
“I’ve known of him (Jann) for awhile and years ago a mutual friend was managing him and then we just fell out of touch—We were familiar with eachother through the New York singer-songwriter scene and then his current promoter-booking agent sent a notice to the Women in Music List; an organization centering around women artists and music industry professionals and it’s really a great community and they have a list where people post different questions and opportunities—and there was a posting where they were looking for someone to share the date who would be working as hard as they would on promo and general chamber-pop genre and that certainly caught my eye because that’s what I think of my music as; especially when I perform without drums.”
Sage said she admires Klose and has one of his earlier recordings.
“One of his recordings was sent to MPress Records many years ago. A mutual friend of ours knew his former manager—I had never met him but she had sent it to my office and I had thought that he was just incredibly talented and kind of followed him in a scene but this was the first time that someone from his team had reached out directly and it’s exciting so we’re talking about doing some musical collaborations and helping each other design flyers, cards, etc. So it’s very much a team-effort getting the word out and it will be fun to spend some time together the day of the show!”
Rachael’s label, MPress Records was established in 1996 when she released her first album.
“The name, MPress Records was on my first album. I didn’t really regroup and organize in a professional way until after my second album which made the rounds and then I was offered an opportunity to tour with Ani DiFranco in 1998 and around then was when I was offered my first distribution deal. That’s when things got a bit more serious. Myself and my then-business partner; (Walter Parks) who was also a wonderful musician and toured with Richie Havens as his guitarist for many years and other artists. He really wanted to be involved with an independent label—we just share a very similar vision so we worked together for a number of years and moved into our current office in 2002 so it’s been an adventure!” (laughs)
Parks toured with Sage all over Europe and played in her band.
“It was a business-musical relationship,” Sage admits. It’s something that I haven’t repeated but it’s a very auspicious way to share the workload and the vision and I look back fondly on that time.”
Sage is planning to release her 11th album.
“When I put out my 11th, it’s going to have a different ring to it—I’ll have to find some way of working that number in a Kabbalistic way perhaps!”
Many of Rachael’s songs are autobiographical.
“Many of my songs are but not all of them—They’re a little bit more than half and half—it changes from album to album but one of the things I do tend to do quite a bit is write from the first-person but from another person’s perspective. It brings me closer to the material and I’m an actress as well and just having the words come from me in first-person when I’m singing them just enables me to get into it a little bit more emotionally,” said Sage. “There are times when I try to be a Elvis Costello-esque and more documentarian about it and I usually end up changing them from third to first-person makes it more meaningful to me.”
She said what’s interesting is many listeners come to her concerning her music. They say some songs have a dark scenario.
“It’s usually when I’m singing about a heartbreak of some kind usually fans are unaware of when a song isn’t from my own experience; sometimes I tell them what it was really about and sometimes I just choose to let that be open to interpretation.”
Rachael has been dubbed by the press ‘Fanny Brice’ when she performed a holiday scene revue at Joe’s Pub called, “Chatski’s and Latski’s!”
“It was a pretty campy show and it was also kind of on the heels of some shows that I did at Edinburgh Fringe Festival which was an amazing experience. It showcased a different side of my personality. Even my music I was tapping into more character work and theatricality and I guess it kind of towed the line of comedy and cabaret!”
Haunted By You opens with the lead track, ‘Invisible Light.’ So does she consider it her finest accomplishment on the album?
“That is the lead radio-focused track. In terms of my personal favorite on the album it changes. Right now, my favorite track is, Performance Art because recording has a bit of an advantage to it and when you’re finished with it mostly what you’re focusing on is what songs are going to stick with people the most and which ones put the most energy in promoting to radio and press but it’s more about which songs feel the most alive when I’m doing them in a live setting.”
She’s opened for Judy Collins with many dates this summer with many Northeast dates.
“I’ve actually done quite a few dates with her this summer with different venues; I have a couple more coming this weekend in Rockport, Massachusetts and more in Ithaca and Maine and dates in the Mid-West in September and October and at least a dozen more shows with her and also we’re going to be in Northern Ireland with her in November,” she explained.
Besides working on her own projects, Rachael is working with other artists on MPress Records.
“I’m helping oversee some of the design elements, and with A&R feedback on the actual recording processes, so their records will be coming out prior to my next one but it takes about a year for me between all the different shows I’m doing and coming back to all the recordings that I start in New York City. I have six new songs that I recently recorded and I’m continuing to add layers to those; fine tune them and I recently wrote three more songs.”
Rachael has won numerous awards, including the grand prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest over a decade ago.
“It was great and John Lennon is my idol and just to get that certificate in the mail and have it signed by Yoko Ono. Their support was really encouraging and gave me more confidence to keep me doing the things the way I was doing them and not feel pressured to what was happening on the radio at the time. I love contests some people don’t really get involved in them and they can be a mixed bag. For me, it’s more about widening your circle—there’s a chance that someone will embrace and hear what you do and getting approval from your colleagues but it’s what you make of it but it’s nothing to get too hung up about!”
Besides co-billing with Ani DiFranco, Sage shared the stage with Sarah McLaughlin, Shawn Colvin, Marc Cohn, and even a rare appearance with Eric Burdon and The Animals!
“The Animals was one of the greatest experiences of my life! That was actually quite random I had toured in a very grassroots way the year prior and I worked my butt off just trying to get myself out there all over Germany and play five weeks worth of shows for every rock God and coffee house and I just did it the hard way,” noted Sage. The booking agency was specifically looking for a female artist who was younger to balance out the tour and my name came up and they sent me an email and asked me to do that tour so it was just a crazy coincidence of an opportunity and it’s the only time I’ve ever been on a tour bus before!”
With the recent grand opening of the Capitol Theatre in her former hometown, Sage would definitely play there! She also lived in Rye and California. She would be a perfect fit to open with Fiona Apple in October.
“Sign me up! It would be a dream to play there! I love Fiona Apple she’s really brilliant and such a pure artist one of those rare people whose able to navigate the mainstream world in terms of the industry and excel by being true to who she is as an artist.”
For more information on Rachael Sage and tour dates, visit her website: www.rachaelsage.com.