Kevin Norris

Interview: Sara Haze

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At only 19 years of age, Orange County-based songstress Sara Haze has already accomplished the dreams of many aspiring musicians. With her songs being plugged on MTV’s hit reality show “The Hills,” the blonde haired California native has built a strong fan base, and has grabbed the attention of SoCal pop juggernauts Jacks Mannequin. About to embark on a massive tour, Haze recently caught up with us to discuss the difficulties of being a newbie in the cutthroat music scene that is L.A, her writing and recording process, and the overall message she wishes her audience would receive from her music. What inspired you to become a musician?

Sara Haze: Well, I grew up in a musical family. My Mother was a vocal coach and I kind of always have grown up around music. I would hear her working with other people when I was very young and I just wanted to be like my Mom so I started voice lessons when I was actually four years old. My Mom played guitar and piano, so I wanted to learn an instrument. I started playing piano and have been hooked every since.

SCMT: Do you write your own songs on piano, or do you write you songs collaboratively?

Sarah: I write some songs on my own, but I love to co-write. I wrote a lot of my last record “My Personal Sky” with a guy named James Slater. He is a huge Nashville writer for Rascal Flats. He actually just got a Country Song of the Year award for “High Cost of Living.” He’s wonderful, he wrote “In My Daughters Eyes.” He’s pretty legendary. I worked with him a lot. Right now I’m working with Jason Reeves, who is amazing. He wrote a lot of Colbie Caillat’s first record.

SCMT: You’ve already had some pretty notable success, being that your only 19. Your music has been featured on “The Hills” and “American’s Next Top Model.” What was it like hearing one of your songs for the first time on TV and with an accomplishment like that already achieved what are your future goals?

Sarah: We had a huge show placement last year and it was crazy. We had the last song on the episode [of “The Hills”]. It was like 30 seconds long and it was really loud. What was so cool about that was there was no liner notes letting the audience know who I was. So they all had to go to figure out who I was and what the song was. All of a sudden our Myspace completely blew up and we had a ton of iTunes sales. We had iTunes sales in so many different countries, it was crazy. Finland and Sweden, I was like what’s going on. I also had a show in L.A. a couple of days later. It’s so hard to build a fan base in L.A. but all of a sudden we had a ton of people slammed up against the stage at what I think was the Knitting Factory. All these people I didn’t know were singing my words, I was like ‘Oh my God, this is completely crazy.’ It was really awesome. I definetly want to get a [song in a] trailer for a big film, that my next big goal.

SCMT: You mentioned it’s kind of hard to get notoriety in the L.A scene. Besides that, what do you like and dislike about L.A., being that it’s the epicenter for aspiring musicians?

Sarah: Well, L.A. is great because obviously there are so many talented artists out there. You can see a really great show any night of the week, but that’s also what makes it really difficult. In L.A. there are so many people, but the fact that it does take an hour to get to [from Orange County] makes it kind of hard to get people out to your shows, or at least it use to be for us. But since we got these placements we’ve built a pretty strong fan base. So I’ve been very lucky to have gotten those opportunities.

SCMT: You released your first album “The Ladder” by yourself. What do you feel has been your major progression from your first album in 2007 to your latest?

Sarah: I feel the writing has gotten much better. I feel like I know a lot more of what I want to do as an artist now and the messages I want to be giving out. My latest record [“My Personal Sky”] has an overall theme of being a “feel good” record. I wanted this record to be something people listen to and smile. This record is not necessarily like ‘life is peachy’ or anything. It’s basically just you’re gonna go through hard times and things are going to be difficult but at the end you are going to become a better person, you are going to see the blessing you never noticed before.

SCMT: I read in your bio that if one of your songs were to touch someone it would mean the world to you. If you could have one message to get across to everyone who encounters your music, what would it be?

Sarah: Well, it’s defiantly to look at the positive as hard as it is sometimes. You have to focus on the positive things in your life. I had this song called “Lovely” and I wrote that when I was 17 and that song has touched a lot of people, we get a lot of fan mail about it. It’s very strange growing up being a 17 year old girl and having these “suits” telling you everything you need to change about yourself. It’s very weird because that’s not something a lot of 17 year old girls go through, some adult guy from Sony Records telling you that you need to dye your hair, wear these kind of clothes and you need to look like this. I wrote that song when I basically decided I don’t care anymore. So, defiantly the main focus of my records is to look at the good in your life and see many blessings we all have, because we have so many we take for granted.

SCMT: So would you say that that attitude and mindset is attributed towards your writing process?

Sarah: I always look to write and base my music on life experiences. But there is some things that I haven’t gone through that my best friends have and I’ll write a song about that, from their perspective. “Every Heart,” I wrote that with James Slater and it completely the story of my life, like every random detail. There’s a lyric in there, “getting too old for the Batman cape,” where I wore a Batman cape for three years. I like to keep my songs very personable so the audience can feel like the know me. If they haven’t met me yet they’ll definitely know a lot about me.

SCMT: Wait, you just said you wore a Batman cape for three years? What’s that story?

Sarah: Heck yeah! When I was little I was the biggest tomboy ever. I didn’t have a Barbie; it was Batman all the way.

SCMT: You recently played a secret show with Jacks Mannequin. What was that like opening for someone you said you’ve been listening to since 7th grade?

Sarah: It was amazing. I’ve been a huge fan of Something Corporate and it was like an Orange County band that I love. We were pretty excited. Half of my band is like crazy Jacks Mannequin fans, so when we got the opportunity it was so exciting. What was so cool was that we were direct support so we played right before them, so they heard us. Right when we got off the stage, the bass player [Jonathan]Dr. Jay [Sullivan] walked up and was like ‘hey stick around after the show, I really wanna talk.’ Obviously I’m gonna stay for the show and I got to talk to every single one of them. All of them were like ‘we loved your set, we wanna do more shows with you, we’re gonna work this out.’ So it was just very exciting to know that a band I love so much could respect the music I’m making and want to work with me in the future. It was one of the funnest nights ever.

SCMT: Any plans to collaborate with them?

Sarah: I would love to, we’ll just have to see what we can do. But now that we have that contact I’d love to do that.

SCMT: You are about to embark on a massive tour, that sees you traveling across the nation. How are you preparing for such a grueling schedule?

Sarah: (Laughs) Well, I’m actually at band rehearsal right now. We’re doing lots and lots of band camps. We all get along really well; we’ve been playing together for like a year or two and we just have so much fun together. It’s exhausting though, it can be very tiring sitting in a van for eight hours. It definitely has its up and downs but we have so much fun because we get along so well and it’s so fun to go out and meet new fans and play your music in front of people who don’t know who you are and build a fan base. It’s a challenge but it’s something that we all really want to work really hard for. We’re also very excited to put some chains on the van and go through the snow in Denver and St. Louis (laughs). We’re going to be freezing. It’s going to be really funny; they will probably be a lot of really good video blogs that come out of it.

SCMT: Any place you’re looking forward to playing the most?

Sarah: I’m really excited to play in Chicago. I’ve never played in Chicago. My mixer Craig Bauer lives there, he mixes for like Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco. He’s awesome. So I’m excited to go play his hometown. It should be fun.

SCMT: Lastly, once you arrive back home to California. What are your next plans? What are your future aspirations for your music career?

Sarah: I want to get back into the studio and writing and working on the next record. I know we’re going to be touring this summer. So it’s going to be the same old. Writing, recording, touring and hopefully getting a big feature film placement. I gotta cross my fingers for that.

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