Some of you readers may be aware that at one time I was an art teacher at Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield — from 1973 until 1999, to be exact. In the years since, I’ve had the occasion to interview a couple of former students who are pursuing careers in making music.
Recently, Katie Daggett, who books acts for Slates in Hallowell, contacted me about shows coming up in April and May. She told me about Sarah Crosby, who hadn’t performed there before — and was I interested in interviewing her? I said yes, and then learned that she was a former student from Warsaw. I knew her as Sarah Berryman who entered Warsaw near the end of my time there.
Crosby called me one evening to see when we could chat about her upcoming show, there was only one problem:
Crosby: I can’t call you ‘Lucky’ — I just can’t!
Q: That’s okay, no sweat! And for me, going from knowing you as a student to you being a singer-songwriter is, well …
Crosby: A big change because I was pretty quiet, if I remember correctly.
Q: Yeah, you do remember correctly. Well, to begin with, does songwriting come easy to you?
Crosby: Um, well, when it comes to me then, yes, but other than that it’s just blocked all the time. If I write something then I don’t like it … then it just sits there for a while. As you can see on that EP I sent to you, I did it in 2014 so now it’s three years later and I still haven’t gone back in the studio — other than to work on some other people’s stuff.
Q: How so?
Crosby: A few friends of mine have asked me to do some harmonies and stuff, so I’ve been in the studio that way. But as far as writing, it’s just: “Aw, I don’t want to do it anymore!” But a lot of people around me want me to go on. I don’t know why I can’t just accept that and keep going.
Q: Well, it’s got to come from inside, that’s the tricky part.
Crosby: Yeah it does, and it’s the same with art because I’ve done a few art pieces here and there to sell and I can’t have a timeline — it’s so horrible. I end up waiting until the last minute. It’s the way I’ve always been.
Q: Well, let us change up a bit here. Let me ask you this: What can folks expect from your performance at Slates?
Crosby: Well, at Slates I’m going to do a whole handful of my originals — more than just the three on the EP. I have enough for a full album so I’m going to try to squeeze them all in there. And as you’ve heard they all have some sort of serious subject — I’m not really a comic writer when it comes to songs. I’ve tried and it just comes out sounding silly, you know?
Q: Yes, I do.
Crosby: So it’ll be that and then a lot of stuff I listened to throughout school — like high school and middle school. It’ll be stuff that probably a lot of people that come to see my shows haven’t heard before. So it’s all going to be new stuff for them, as far as locals who show up. People have seen me in Hallowell a bunch of times but I want to let them know that this is not going to be the same old thing; this is going to be all new stuff! So I’m pretty excited for it — yeah.
Q: So you’ve been out gigging before this?
Crosby: Oh, I’ve been performing for, gosh, exactly five years now. Yeah, five years ago was the first time I got up at the Wharf and played at an open jam. Ever since then I’ve been getting gigs here and there in Hallowell and outside of Hallowell — not outside of Maine yet, but all over the state.
Q: Well, you’ve got to start some place.
Crosby: Yeah, you do. And I play with a band and sometimes other musician friends of mine will ask me to come on a gig with them and I’ve done that, too, so I’ve played with lots of the cats in Hallowell. It’s pretty fun — I like it, it’s my favorite job.
Q: Is this going to be a solo show?
Crosby: Well, I’m actually going to have my friend, Seth Pillsbury, playing guitar for me. So technically you could call it a duo but he’s not really going to do much singing. It’s going to be me and him playing the guitar, and I may have some other instrument there for myself.
Q: So what do you play?
Crosby: Well, I just play rhythm guitar; I don’t do anything fancy that’s why I’m calling Seth in. I don’t like to play when I’m singing because I want to put all my energy into the vocals, the performance and the delivery of that rather than try to focus on keeping a rhythm, putting energy into the performance, remembering the lyrics — all that stuff. I like to just sing, that’s my favorite part.
Q: Now you mentioned your band earlier. What’s involved with that?
Crosby: We’re usually just a four-piece and we call ourselves the Whitefields — that’s where I live so it’s not too original. We’ve played around and we recently did a gig up at Squaw Mountain. They had a three-day festival and we got to close the gig off, so that was pretty fun, playing with the guys.
Q: What I heard on your EP was more in tune with a coffeehouse or a Slates’ vibe.
Crosby: Yeah, and that’s when I like to play my originals — I’ve only had a couple of gigs that way where people were actually there to listen and not just drink and socialize. And that’s fine, I don’t mind playing for gigs like that because it gets people dancing and that’s fun. But I like the gigs where I’m going to do my original stuff and do stuff that people haven’t heard — and they’re actually going to pay attention, you know?
Q: Yeah, I really do. Tell me, Sarah, is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Crosby: Oh, goodness — regarding the show? Well, it’s guaranteed to be songs that nobody has ever heard — it’s going to be a smorgasbord of my childhood.
Q: Sprinkled liberally with your own material, as well?
Crosby: Yes — yes, very much so!
Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.