Riveting Riffs Logo One  Rachael Sage - New Album - The Other Side

Rachael Sage Interview Photo One by Bill Bernstein

The first single that was released from Rachael Sage’s upcoming album The Other Side is “Whistle Blow,” a beautiful, retrospective song with a slow tempo. It is accompanied by an equally beautiful and artistic video. Under the direction of Jenny, He and with the Director of Photography Daniel Cho onboard, both seemed to be in complete unison with Rachael Sage’s lyrics and music.

Rachael Sage Interview Photo OneShe talks about the song, “One thing I wanted to convey with “Whistle Blow,” is that moment when someone is able to find the inner strength and to summon the courage to confront someone in a greater position of power, whether it is in a workplace or in a relationship, when they know that inappropriate boundaries have been crossed. When they have been abused or wronged in some way. There are innumerable examples of this every day when we watch the news. I have also experienced these dynamics and just as a witness in society I see it recurrently. The story in the video is interpreted through movement by the wonderful director Jenny He and (we) were able to convey that specific moment when a human being is able to say ‘No this is not right. I am not going to accept this anymore and I am moving to a more positive space and away from this negative energy and negative person.’

I had not worked with Jenny before, but I saw some examples of her work and I was blown away. I have never actually worked with a female director in this capacity and it was exciting for me. She is very talented and she trained at NYU. When we talked, we had a lot in common and we shared a feminine sensibility and a specific sensitivity to music that led to a wonderful collaboration. I hope to work with her again. She was wonderful.

Jenny was not only open to my ideas, and when I pointed to different examples of things I appreciate visually. She presented this wonderful presentation with her own ideas.

It is very important to allow the viewer to interpret (the video) in a way that resonates with them. It is important for a music video and really anything in music. It is less about me trying to shove an idea down somebody’s throat than for me creating art and then have people interpret it in the way that it connects with them the most.”

Rachael Sage could be called a lot of things, a visionary, an eclectic innovator, a human rights activist, without ever deliberately intending to be one, but I think the best description we could provide of Rachael Sage is she is a woman who is very comfortable in her own skin and the values she holds close are incorporated into her music, without necessarily sounding like loud statements.

She also has a tremendous talent for painting vivid word pictures with her lyrics that make it very easy for someone to imagine what is taking place.

“One of the most important ongoing lessons is to be able to take in at a sensory level everything around you in any situation. It is no different when you are writing, you are accessing some sort of muse or inspiration that is ephemeral and can’t be explained. From there the craft of finding details that do depict a time and place, an energy, a visual imagery and emotions, you have to tune in on a variety of levels to what can create the most impactful listen for someone or read if you are writing poetry. I do it in a variety of different ways and it is not always the same. I may see a film or TV program that directly inspires me and I literally try to capture the essence of that. Other times it is purely imaginative, with a grain of truth from my experience that sparked it,” says Rachael Sage.  

Rachael Sage wears many hats, is a singer, songwriter, musician, producer, the owner of MPress Records and she is a visual artist. Hmm, I hope we did not forget anything. How does she manage it all?

“That's very true, I do wear a lot of hats or at least a lot of flowers. I do not make unilateral decisions but rather I try to take each task or series of tasks revolving around a particular goal, one at a time. I have ADD so I tend to hyperfocus on what means the most to me and put off things that bore me. Making lots of lists is very helpful. I also admittedly do not get nearly enough sleep which has contributed to some health problems that I continue to navigate. I am trying to do better in that department!

I really operate on 2 levels most days as a creative artist, and as a businessperson. There is a certain amount of "grunt work" that must be done on any given day such as emails and various (other types of) correspondence, but I do my best to make it as pleasant as possible and approach my communication as an extension of who I am as a performer and who I want to be as a human in the world. It's often an exercise in both diplomacy and strategy but always, I try to lead with instinct and confidence while being kind. In that sense every interaction is an opportunity to grow, even in business.

As an artist I find my opportunities to write, paint, play and reflect when and where I can, whether on the road or at home. It isn't always easy, but I've developed an innate sense of when I need to shut off the phone and computer and just generally put the "do not disturb sign" on so I can hear my inner creative voice and summon the muse when She is near. There is no magic formula for balance but rather a sense of meditation throughout each day, listening to one's needs and learning, frankly, to say "no" when necessary,” she explains.

For some people there is a time and place where the light goes on and either they or those around them think this is the artistic path this person is going to take. Well, we do not know if we should necessarily encapsulate it quite this way when at a very young age first wowed her parents.

She tells the story of what happened when she was four years old, “It is not an urban myth, with the caveat being I did not perform it at a Mozart level. I came home (from attending the musical Oklahoma with her parents) and I played every song with my right hand. I am told I did it with relative ease. I was sitting at the piano and my feet didn’t even touch the pedals. (She vocalizes just the music.) My parents were like, what is this? It was very clear that I had an ear for music. I had already been finding my way around the piano, so it wasn’t like I had never touched the piano and I came home and did that. I had spent an abundance of time on the piano already and feeling the keys innately, up is high, down is low and the middle is somewhere in between. I wasn’t thinking about it, it was just intuitive.

It is like how some kids play with crayons and make an undeniably beautiful picture and we know the genius of little kids. Then we grow up and we struggle to (rediscover) that creativity once it has been squashed out of us.”

Rachael Sage did not stop there, “I was somewhere between three and five years old when I started making up little songs. I had a whole bunch of little songs, and looking back there was something to them, melodically, for sure. I would be singing about a friend or someone who was picking on me in school. I remember one that was about a friend named Jenny and it is actually a catchy melody that someday I might turn into a Rock song (she laughs warmly). It became a second language and I would come home from a pre-ballet class that I started at three or so and I would tap out songs by ear.

It was a natural evolution from playing other music by ear to making up my own little pieces. My parents were not musical perse, but they loved music, so they would gently encourage me or they would say, ‘Honey that’s not your song, just so you know, that’s something else. Let’s hear something you think is yours.’ Gradually, I learned the difference.

I would be watching Solid Gold on television and I would sit down and write a song like Air Supply, about making love and I was five years old. Of course, I did not know at all what that meant, but the words sounded nice together. I was just trying to make songs that sounded pretty and that were catchy. That much I knew already. You can make something that sounds complete and whole and whatever it is, people will clap.”

The song “I Made A Case,” is recorded both solo and as a duet with Howard Jones. It is a song about two people who know their time together has come to an end. One gets the sense that one person is trying to hold onto the last shreds of love and yet at the same time they can look back fondly at times they shared. Kelly Halloran’s violin and Dave Eggar’s cello beautifully provide a balm for the heartbroken. Russ Johnson’s trumpet laments. Rachael Sage’s vocals and words will prompt tears to tug at the corners of your eyes, I want to hold you again like before / I want to lay my world at your door / You say you’ll miss me I’ll miss you more / Time won’t heal this heart.”

Rachael Sage talks about the song, “There is definitely an imbalance in the dynamic, but what interested me in also recording it as a duet especially with Howard Jones is because he is a practicing Buddhist. He is all about balance and he is a very mindful person. I think when we have a perspective that we fully understand is our own, we do our very best to be empathetic, to be sensitive, but ultimately the decision to stay in or not is ours or is one person’s. Rachael Sage Interview Photo Three by Bill Bernstein

I thought with the song the lyrics could work as a solo piece and for the reason that you explained, one person is trying to stay in it and cling to the past, but another has already let go. In the duet version, which some days I prefer each person feels that the other person has disconnected and doesn’t understand, but they are actually going through a parallel experience. The tragedy there is that they are not connecting, for whatever reasons and that don’t necessarily need to be explained by a song. I think in life there are so many moments like that, personally, politically and with entire nations. Sometimes it just seems like we are arguing the same points for ourselves, without the sophistication of higher diplomacy if you will.”

As far as both people looking back fondly she says, “Yes, oh no doubt. I mean in many ways that is the definition of romance for a lot of people. The willingness to romanticize what someone might not romanticize. You are looking for love and you are looking for what is beautiful. Sometimes circumstance may be just the thing that is keeping you apart or at a distance. There may be some kind of event in the world. Especially with COVID and the lockdown, I am fully aware that many people who were in fully grounded situations found themselves highly challenged and ended up separating from their loved ones or quite the opposite. There were folks who might have been in that state of flux and were able to pull it together, because they were together physically. I think it is a very timely song and I had a lot of people tell me that it did resonate with them, so I am glad I recorded it.

I had a fully realized version of the song and the pronouns were flipped. I spent a little time with Jeff Cohen (co-writer) in Nashville. I presented the song and I said what do you think of this? It could maybe use a little work. The first thing he said is, what is this song about? He said, I think you are saying the opposite of that, what if you said, you made a case for me to love you and instead you said I made a case for you to love me. It just took it to a different level. When someone brings an idea, that is important to a session, whether it is a listening session or a writing session. There is no question that he contributed, so now we are co-writers and it is an honor, because he is a very smart guy.”

There are so many songs from the album The Other Side that reach deep inside you and find that place where you are vulnerable, find that place where you may smile or find that place where you may cry.  One of the songs that does just that is “Deepest Dark,” written solo by Rachael Sage.

Rachael Sage says, “I wrote this song originally as a teenager and then put it aside as it never quite felt finished. I thought I needed a bridge for it. But last year I unearthed the crumpled piece of paper in an old box of lyrics, started playing with it again and decided it didn't need anything else but to be arranged more freely with my wonderful band. They definitely helped me flesh out the instrumental sections and lean into the melodies in a jazzier way. Sometimes it is okay to let the music lead, though I tend to put more pressure on myself (and think) every song must tell a distinct story.

“Deepest Dark,” is more of a feeling and an expression of loyalty and commitment, even if all that means is that you're far from someone but want them to know you would always show up for them if they just needed a supportive friend. When I sing it now, I try to channel the energy of the TV show Stranger Things, as I was a bit obsessed with it during lockdown. The acting performances, especially by the younger cast members was very inspiring.”

“Deepest Dark,” is a very pretty song, and expresses what we all long for at one time or another, just to know that somebody cares, whether we are touched by another person or perhaps something more ethereal, something greater than us. Rachael Sage’s vocals have a gentle lilt and there just seem to be so many good musicians on this album, one fears not giving them all their due. Violinist Kelly Halloran and cellist Ward Williams provide a nice canvas for the vocals, and Rachael’s Sage’s playing of the piano.

Rachael Sage has toured extensively at home and internationally, so we wondered how audiences in different countries respond to her music.

“I have indeed been so fortunate to tour all over the world. I was surprised by just how reserved and polite audiences were in Japan, but also how well prepared. When I shared the stage with other Japanese artists, they had taken the time to research me, even learning "Sistersong," and offering to play with me on it. Of course, I jumped at that, and it was an incredible experience. In Germany I was also very impressed that they listened so closely to the words, would come up after and ask me about many lines, and their meaning. All in all, I have found audiences in the U.K. and Ireland to be especially enthusiastic, which is of course why I keep coming back,” she says.

Rachael Sage turns back the clock to reinterpret Vince Clarke’s song (sung by Alison Moyet), “Only You.”

“It has always been one of my favorites. I love it since I first heard it in the ‘80s. I grew up with it and it was a Pop staple in my mind. I love Alison Moyet’s voice. I didn’t realize originally that it was written by Vince Clarke. I thought it was them together or just her, because her performance is so compelling and heartfelt. It was during an era when a lot of the music had a bit of a cold sound and sounded a bit synthetic. I always wondered what it would sound like with a Folk / Pop treatment. I was live streaming every week and I was looking for a few interesting covers and I remembered that one. I gave it a go and I thought this just fits. I feel like I am connecting with it and I am bringing something new to it. That is why I did it and it is one of my favorite tracks on the record. It was a lot of fun to merge my organic approach to it with my nostalgia from the era from which it sprang,” she says.

Rachael Sage has used her voice as an artist to bring attention and hopefully change to the homeless to the LGBTQ+ community and through her life as an openly bisexual woman. We asked her if she thinks her music and simply living her life in an authentic way gives a voice to the vulnerable people in our society.

“I think it does. I don’t know that I intended for that to be the case early on, but the more out there in the world that you are as an artist, the more you have a dialogue with your audiences. Listeners come up to me and share their stories and they let me know how my music has affected them. They let me know how my choices to be out and open helped them in some way. That does become a responsibility and I have enormous respect for people who have been willing to share how my music has resonated with them in that way. It becomes a dialogue. They inspire me and I guess in some way my music is helping them. Of course, any chance that I get I will be happy to perform at Pride Fest or to help raise money for LGBTQ+ communities and organizations that need our love and support,” says Rebecca Sage.

There is so much more we could say about these wonderful songs, the musicians who play them, the words to the songs. There is nothing about these songs that is coerced or deliberately trying to pull at your heartstrings. You will cry, you will smile, you may laugh, but most of all you will fall in love with an artist that is willing to be transparent, willing to be vulnerable, so she can help all of us to become a better version of ourselves. In the end maybe you will say with this writer, thank you Rachael.

Please visit Rachael Sage’s website.

All photos by Bill Bernstein, all photos are protected by copyright ©

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This interview by Joe Montague published June 13th, 2023 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos are the the property of Rachael Sage unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine.