This summer, US blues-rock chanteuse Sari Schorr will release her debut album.
The album, entitled A Force of Nature, will be released via Manhaton Records (Robin Trower and King King) on September 02. The album was produced by the legendary producer Mike Vernon whose credits include the likes of Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall & the Blues Breakers, David Bowie, Eric Clapton and Peter Green to name but a few.
So impressed was Vernon upon first hearing Sari Schorr perform he came out of semi-retirement to produce her debut record. Joining Schorr on guitar duties is Innes Sibun (Robert Plant) as well as special guests Walter Trout and Oli Brown, who both recorded a track each on the album.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Sari Schorr whilst in the UK to talk about her debut album, performing at the Lead Belly Festival and her first single “Black Betty” as well as her plans for the rest of this year.
NRR: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review, we really appreciate. So you’ve been out on tour across Europe recently, performing some shows on the festival circuit and I was just wondering how have the shows been going so far?
Sari: It’s been great, you know it’s truly the reward for all of the hard work that went into making this record. Now that we can finally get out there and meet so many great people who share our love of blues. It’s just like my extended family is growing every day that we are out there (laughing) and I love it, I really love it. It makes me feel like I’m home wherever I am.
NRR: So you are about to release your new album A Force of Nature on 2nd September. Could you tell us a little bit about the album and the inspiration behind it?
Sari: Yeah, great question thanks, Adam. It’s a lifetime in the making, they say you spend your whole life making your first album and for me, that’s really true. I was incredibly lucky to have Mike Vernon come on board when he discovered me in Memphis.
You know without Mike honestly, this would never have happened. He’s a legendary producer because he’s truly a genius to work with and honestly I have to give him all the credit for making a record that I’m so proud of.
NRR: I know that you are also about to release the first single from the album which is a cover of Lead Belly’s “Black Betty.” What made you choose that particular track to cover on the album, and also could you tell us a little bit about the video because I know you just released a new video for the song?
Sari: Yeah, sure. “Black Betty” came about because I was asked to perform at the Lead Belly Fest at Carnegie Hall and it was a huge honour because Eric Burdon, Walter Trout and Buddy Guy with some other great artists were on the bill. The producers of the Lead Belly Fest chose “Black Betty” for me.
I really spent time, really analysing the lyrics and looking at them inside out. For me, Lead Belly’s intention behind the lyrics was very clear and that’s how I wanted to deliver the song. The only problem is it has such emotional weight to it, it’s an exhausting song to sing.
There are some nights where I turn to Innes and I say you know what I think I haven’t got it in me tonight, and he knows just how to push my buttons. He says well ok, he will smile and nod his head, well don’t worry if you want to take the easy way out that’s ok (laughing), and I’m like no, no easy way, let’s do it (laughing).
Then the video was great because at this point the concept was for me to be with some actors and it’s a hard enough song to do, that I don’t want to try to be acting. I would feel much more comfortable with my band mates, and you know just let us do what we do live on stage and that’s how we approached the video and why we enjoyed making it so much.
Sari Schorr – Black Betty [Official Music Video]
NRR: To flip that question, if you could choose any artist to cover one of your songs, which song and artist would you choose?
Sari: Well, that’s a really great question. It would have to be Robert Plant and I would love to hear how he would sing “Aunt Hazel” (laughing). That is a great question, now you’ve got my imagination going.
NRR: On the album, you’ve got a whole raft of guests performing with you like Walter Trout on “Work No More” and Oli Brown on “Damn The Reason.” I was just wondering how did those collaborations come about and did you have those particular songs in mind for those artists when you wrote them?
Sari: Yeah, well Walter and I first met when we happened to both be on tour in Oklahoma. I was in Joe Louis Walker’s band and met Walter and we just established this immediate rapport that was very comfortable. Then we reconnected at Carnegie Hall.
Oli Brown, I’ve always been a big fan of his work. I think he’s absolutely brilliant, and Mike had done a few albums with him. So I knew there was that connection, and I sort of whispered in Mike’s ear saying you know, I would love (laughing) to have Oli on the record and he made it happen.
NRR: What’s your favourite track on the album and why?
Sari: I can tell you the most difficult track to sing was “Ordinary Life.” I had to record that so many times it’s embarrassing to tell you. It was just so hard to find the fine line between restraint and complete you know giving into the emotional undercurrents of really wanting to just sweep me away. There’s a point where you just go too far, and no one wants to hear the singer weeping and sniffling (laughing). But that was a really hard one to do, but it’s one of my favourite songs.
“Stop! In The Name Of Love” was the easiest because I didn’t think I could do it, it was Mike’s idea and I only went in to record it because I thought I had nothing to lose. When I finished and I opened my eyes everybody was jumping up and down hollering and screaming. When I went into the control room I said so did you get it and they were like are you kidding? That was great that was really fun.
NRR: Where do you find the inspiration for your songwriting?
Sari: You know I have to say the song. This is going to sound weird but the song itself tells me what it wants to be. It’s channelling from some higher creative energy that you know artists are able to tap into because we just spend more time trying to access that. But it’s something that flows around all of us and you know I really feel like I’m just a vehicle for the creativity and my job is just not to get in the way and not to mess it up (laughing).
NRR: What’s the one album in your own record collection that you couldn’t live without?
Sari: That is a really tough question. My record collection is so diverse, I have everything from blues to rock to classical to jazz. I would say I would probably have to grab Led Zeppelin II, though that’s probably the one I would grab.
NRR: So obviously you’ve got a UK headline tour coming up, pretty much at the end of August through September and into October. You are playing quite a lot of shows over here. It seems like the UK is really taking to you, you must be pleased by the response you’ve been receiving over here?
Sari: Yeah, I absolutely love performing in the UK and for an American artist, it’s always a goal to try to make an impact here because it’s very difficult. But I have to give my team the credit because I’m with a fantastic record label Manhaton Records. I have a great album produced by Mike Vernon. You know but it’s Alan Robinson who owns Manhaton Records who came on board to take a chance on a new artist. You know I have a great agent Mike Hellier, a great publicist Peter Noble.
With all of these pieces in place it gives me a great opportunity and I am extremely fortunate and of course, my English fans and all the guys in my band are from here so it’s a great opportunity.
NRR: So could you tell us a little bit about your band The Engine Room, and how you came to connect with those guys and how it all came together?
Sari: Yeah, what a good question. Well, when Mike Vernon asked me to put together a short A List of guitar players that I would love to have on the album, Innes Siburn was on the top of the list. I knew that he had also done several records with Mike and I had performed with him in New York City at the Iridium on a Rory Gallagher tribute and was stunned by his playing.
So Innes was on tour in Germany but called Mike back and said yeah, I will be back in the UK, I’m up for it. So the timing was absolutely perfect. But then we had this massive problem, we had such a great sounding record, Mike and I started talking about how we are going to reproduce this live. This is a disaster because Innes is a one off (laughing), what are we gonna do now?
Then when Innes came into the studio that day he said look I’ve been thinking about this a lot, I would really love to take on this project and be the guitar player and Mike and I were jumping up and down and throwing our arms around and then I knew The Engine Room was up and running. Then we had Kev Jefferies on bass, Kevin O’ Rourke on drums and Anders Olinder on keyboards.
NRR: What else do you have in store for the rest of this year?
Sari: Well, the focus is going to be on touring. We are filling out more dates that just came in about five minutes ago from Europe. We are going to be touring Germany, and Belgium, we will be in France again. So we are gonna be touring heavily, but Innes and I are already writing songs for the next album, we want to make sure we prepare in advance.
NRR: Thank you very much and good luck with all of the shows you’ve got coming up and the album release and I will see you in a few weeks time in Darlington.
Sari: Fabulous, fabulous, looking forward to it. Thanks so much for the really nice questions.
Sari Schorr’s debut album A Force of Nature will be released via Manhaton Reconds on 2nd September. Sari will also be touring extensively across Europe in support of the album.
Sari Schorr European Tour:
Aug 04-05 | Notodden Blues Festival5 | Norway
Aug 26 | Norden Farm Centre for the Arts5 | Maidenhead, UK
Aug 27 | Varenwinkel Festival5 | Herselt, Belgium
Aug 28 | Seacroft Double Festival5 | Norfolk, UK
Aug 29 | Great British RnB Festival5 | Colne, Lancashire, UK
Aug 28 | Seacroft Double Festival5 | Norfolk, UK
Sep 09 | Darlington RnB Club5 | Darlington, UK
Sep 05 | Half Moon Putney5 | London, UK (Album Launch)
Sep 10 | Blues Club, Devizes5 | Wiltshire, UK
Sep 11 | Winchester Discovery Centre5 | Winchester, UK
Sep 14 | The Tunnels5 | Bristol, UK
Sep 15 | Southern Pavilion, Worthing Pier5 | West Sussex, UK
Sep 16 | New Crawdaddy5 | Billericay, UK
Sep 17 | Old Town Hall5 | Hemel Hempstead, UK
Sep 23 | Selby Town Hall5 | Yorkshire, UK
Sep 24 | The Iron Road5 | Evesham, Worcestershire, UK
Sep 25 | Hope Tavern5 | Holton-le-Moor, Market Rasen, Lincs, UK
Sep 28 | Vonnies Blues Club5 | Cheltenham
Sep 29 | Cranleigh Arts Centre5 | Cranleigh, Surrey
Sep 30 | B.A.R Festival5 | France
Oct 01 | Hereford Blues Club5 | Hereford, UK
Oct 06 | Bar Brunel5 | Bridgewater, UK
Oct 07 | Deux Rivieres Blues Festival5 | Brittany, France
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Photo: Â© John Bull