by Abi Clark
ROCHESTER, NY -- After 10 years as an opera singer, Rochester-based musician Sally Louise took a break this past year to redefine music in her life. During quarantine, she revisited her love for songwriting and ended up self-producing her debut album “My Hands are on Fire,” which came out earlier this month. Our arts reporter Abi Clark talks tracks with Sally Louise on this week's edition of Art Blooms.
ABI CLARK: Sally Louise is a folk singer-songwriter based here in Rochester. Today we'll be chatting about her newly-released debut album titled, My Hands Are on Fire. Thank you Sally, it's great to have you on Art Blooms again. For those that don't know, we met on an Art Blooms episode where we covered the the Virtual Art and Wellness Festival that happened in March of 2021. In between then and May 14th when your debut album released, you must have been quite busy putting on the finishing touches.
SALLY LOUISE: Yeah, man, I had a list a mile long every single day. It was crazy, it was a lot of prep work. I'm a one-woman show.
AC: It bet it's such a relief and exciting to have it out there. How'd you get to writing a record, because this is your first one?
SL: So what's funny is it just kind of happened by accident, is just the best way to put it. It was beginning of quarantine and I had a lot of changes happening in my life -- romantically, career-wise. I was studying at the Eastman School of Music for Opera and I had been doing opera for 10 years and finally felt like it just wasn't for me anymore. And so I did a 180 and I decided to go pursue singer-songwriter stuff. But I didn't know how that would look. I didn't think I need to write an album or any of that. I decided maybe I'll teach myself how to record, I need to find a way to make music a part of my life, but it's not opera. So how does this look? So I was just discovering and exploring what that looked like and before I knew it, I had like 12 or 15 songs ready to go, and I'm like "Ah! I got an album!" What's funny is only one of those songs, which ended up being the title track, ended up on the actual album. Everything else ended up getting scratched like I never actually put them on the album. I don't think I'll ever release them.
AC: You were just working through some of the emotions.
SL: Yeah I think that's something that's really common with debut albums. Debut albums are a place to learn what your style is and how you approach songwriting and what your sound is. So I think this album for me was a really big exploration of that.
AC: This new album, it just plays with a bunch of different you know feelings, it blends a lot of different things. There's definite blues and jazz elements, there's also some doo-wop in there which I really liked, and tied to your traditional folk you know roots. And then I can definitely feel like a lot of inspiration from the sounds of the 60s and 70s, but there's that modern Indie touch that you have too.
Do you have a favorite song on the record or one where the writing process or the reason for writing was just particularly memorable?
SL: My personal favorite, and I'm sure this will change, was "Never Be The Same Again" and chronologically speaking that was the last track written for the album, even though it's not the last song on the album. It was written like 2 weeks after I finished recording the album, 4 days after which I which I found out I had to re-record the album! Just, again, I was doing it all myself and so yeah the microphone gain and settings were not quite right for some of the instrumentals so I had to rerecord instrumentals. I recruited some of my friends -- Jordan on bass and Chris on drums -- in the midst of re-recording, sitting down, kindof putzing around on my acoustic, I had heard this interview with someone. He was talking about how his dad gave give some advice while he was dating a girl that was really not good for him. And his dad said don't ever try to catch a falling knife. And I just thought it was such a good line and I just had to put in the song. So I'd been thinking about that line and then one day I'm just sitting down in between recording because I just needed to get my mind off of it. And I kind of flowed, this song came out in one go, within a few minutes it was done, and the next day recorded and sent it off. I was like I guess it's on the album now!
AC: I personally liked "You're so peculiar," I was in love with like just how dreamy it was. I really think that your vocal melody was just really beautiful. One thing that you learn as a vocalist is just lot of control over your voice, and I think that that really comes through a lot of times in your album.
To circle back, My Hands Are On Fire, your debut album, was released on May 14th. It's available for streaming anywhere you stream music and for purchase on bandcamp and you can also follow Sally at Sally Louise sings on Instagram. Before we end this lovely chat are there any chances that listeners can see you perform live in the near future?
SL: Absolutely, yes, so I'll be performing at Bob Shop on Thursday June 3rd, that's a livestream and potentially in house seating. The following week I'll be in Nashville, hopefully performing on WXNA, as well as opening for my friend Dylan Smucker and Tim Bolo, both lovely artists down there there at Fat Bites on Thursday June 10th, and potentially another concert or 2 in the next few weeks. But as far as the next two weeks, that's what I got on tap, but I love talking to people on Instagram and I love doing all sorts of music stuff on there so hopefully another live stream thing on Instagram in the near future so tune in.