New York City is a place filled with unfulfilled dreams, unrealised hopes, and infinite potential. It is both exhausting and exhilarating. It’s difficult to find who sounds best and who matters in the general cacophony of the city, from open mics in the West Village to that one amazing once-in-a-lifetime concert at the Bowery Ballroom. There is just enough space for one more singer-songwriter to let themselves in, record one song at a time and leave a lasting impression on their audience. This is a game of musical chairs, pun intended: whoever lasts the longest gets to say they have somewhat made it in the big city. I take a lot of pleasure in trying to find out the rare gem, the incoming talent, the one emanating a different light. I have walked up and down Second Avenue so many times it was finally in a Park Slope kitchen that I have met Sarah Factor, a freckled, smiling and smart newcomer from Toronto who pinned me to my seat for an hour or two, as the sun was already setting over the Atlantic Avenue buildings and the rattle and hum of passing cars outside made for difficult conversation. Alcohol, as always the lubricant of social interaction, made everything so much easier, and I promised myself I would keep tabs on her. Soon after the release of her live album, recorded during a session at SideWalk Café, I emailed Sarah and pressed for more information.
How long have you been playing professionally?
Professionally… Such a funny word. When do you BECOME a professional? For me, it was when I graduated university last May and said to myself: “Ok so, now I’m really gonna do this. I’m gonna do this thing. I don’t have deadlines for school anymore so it’s time to write and perform for real.” And I am. I feel like I am, so I guess it was almost exactly a year ago!
You’re Canadian; what prompted you to come to Brooklyn?
I am Canadian! I originally came here to study musical theatre- I wanted to be on Broadway! This was about five years ago and I was fresh out of high school and had big dreams. I still have big dreams but while I was studying I realized I didn’t enjoy working this hard to act like someone else, to be someone else, and then be picked apart about HOW I acted when I was being someone else. I wanted to learn how to be great at being myself and create that way. Writing music enabled me to do that, and I could still be on stage, I could still perform, and be creative and share that with people. So, here I still am, in the big apple… I’ve just adjusted my dreams a little bit.
Do you think it’s harder for a young woman to establish herself as a songwriter?
I feel like people look at me on stage and maybe pigeon-hole me into that female singer/songwriter genre… which I guess I am. I haven’t had anything in particular happen that has made things difficult in this industry because of my gender. I think I was super lucky coming here and being surrounded by tons of amazing female singer/songwriters, and seeing them succeed and accumulate so many fans, I thought: Ok, I’m gonna do that too. But I’m not far enough into my career at this point that I can say for sure it won’t happen. It’ll probably happen. Maybe I’ll get an offer to get signed and they’ll want me to look a certain way, or be more lady like or something. Haha. But for now, I’m enjoying being my female singer/songwriter self.
What are your biggest accomplishments to this date?
Honestly, I’m most proud of myself for coming here to New York City, and doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing. Right now I’m counting my small accomplishments because I know it takes a long time to establish oneself. So far, I’m so happy to be regularly playing shows in New York City. I set goals and I achieve them and that’s my biggest accomplishment- wanting to do this and actually doing it. I wanted to play a show every month, and I’m doing that. I wanted to release a live album that can be downloaded, I did that. I wanted to write songs that allow my audience to sing along and get involved, I did that. I wanted to play with a drummer and a back-up singer, I’ve done that. And in a year from now you’ll ask me that again and I’ll tell you the release of my first album is my biggest accomplishment! Bitches get shit done, you know? That’s my biggest accomplishment.
Have you collaborated with other songwriters before? If yes, who and how did it work out?
I’ve dabbled in collaborating. It’s a lot harder than it sounds… It seems like such a great idea- let’s write a song together! But it’s gotta be the right fit. Maybe you and the other person have a completely different method to writing. I need to be completely alone to write and to really think clearly and that’s hard to do when you’re working with someone else. I do want to collaborate with Joni Mitchell, though. So if she ever comes back from her cave, I’m going to hit her up!
What is the next step in your career? How about a full-length record? (*winks*)
My next steps are definitely to tour and to release an album. I’d like to get an album out first, because you know. Logically I should be promoting something on a tour. It just costs so much money to get an album recorded and it’s important to me to do it right. I may do a Kickstarter, who knows. I’m itching to get my music out there and to get some more instruments on my songs so in the next year it’s gonna happen.
What does live performance mean to you?
What does it mean to me? It means I get to do what I love and share it with strangers and friends. It means I can pour my soul out in a song and share it with the world. I think that performing will always be my favourite part of being a singer/songwriter. The whole point of this is to connect to people. I mean, of course I want to write songs that people can sing along to and that Meredith Grey can save lives to, but being up on that stage seeing people FEEL- that’s the absolute best. I wanna see you cry, laugh… connect to what I’m singing. That’s why I do what I do.
Photography by Kelly Neel