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Pop / Rock 10/12/2015

Early Buzz Greets Debut By Sarah McGowan

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New York, NY (Top40 Charts) "It's on par with recent efforts by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson"
Early Buzz and Multiple Exclusive Premieres via Huffington Post, Elmore, More, as Pop Rock Folk Singer-Songwriter Sarah McGowan's Debut Album 'For Whom They Sing' "Will Not Disappoint Listeners"
Early buzz and multiple Exclusive Premieres preceded the 12/4 release of Pop/Rock/Folk singer-Songwriter Sarah McGowan debut full-length album 'For Whom They Sing'. Huffington Post, Elmore Magazine and other outlets gave a taste of McGowan's engaging, sundry sound, which is inspired by such diverse artists as The Strokes, Amy Winehouse and The Ronettes. "My goal with this album was to have every song sound unique and have a little "edge", whether it is through a quirky lyric or an unusual instrument in the mix."
Sarah McGowan is a young musician with a mature perspective for her music. Her inspirations (the Strokes, Amy Winehouse and the Ronettes) have helped her in crafting the diverse musical styles heard on her debut album, For Whom They Sing. The album is co-produced by McGowan and features a collection of songs that reflect a period in her life that was filled with love, loss, traveling, graduating college and becoming an adult. Those these are typical themes for a musician like McGowan, she promises a variety in sounds and lyrics that will not disappoint the listener.

"Each song has a different style-it's a blend of pop, rock, and folk. I had complete artistic freedom with this project, so I was able to experiment with lots of different sounds and genres. My worst nightmare is creating an album full of songs that are nearly impossible to distinguish from one another. So, my goal with this album was to have every song sound unique and have a little "edge", whether it is through a quirky lyric or an unusual instrument in the mix."

McGowan began attending New York University (pursuing a B.A. in Music and Spanish) in 2010 which is also when she made her NYC debut by performing at the Red Lion. In 2013, she lived in Buenos Aires for four months and studied Latin American music, as well as how to play the charango, a South American stringed instrument. South America became a huge inspiration for her music. Returning to the US, McGowan began interning under producer J Chris Griffin at Engine Room Audio and learned music production and engineering. Soon, the pop-inspired music of her teens shifted to an edgier rock/folk style.

Listen to two of McGowan's new tracks below. "A Good Man" is "about the concept of what a 'good man' is and how you could be with someone who everyone thinks is so wonderful, but still not be happy with him. So I'm considering the alternative-finding someone who isn't necessarily a 'good guy', but rather someone who makes me happy."
"Desperate As You" is "about being in the same room with a girl your guy used to date and feeling that awkward tension. The lyrics are light and pop-y, and I think the old school vibe of the song is a really fun contrast to the content."
IN A NEW YORK GROOVE - Sarah McGowan hones her craft and debut album in Gotham By Chris Junior
Growing up in Darien, Connecticut, Sarah McGowan was always enthralled with New York City.
It's where she saw productions of Annie Get Your Gun, Gypsy and Oklahoma! And it's also where she saw her first pop concert (Jason Mraz at Avery Fisher Hall).

"When I was a little kid," McGowan adds, "I used to say I wanted to sell apples in New York, for whatever reason. So I think I've always been destined to live there."

On her way to residing in Brooklyn's South Williamsburg neighborhood, McGowan sharpened her musical skills elsewhere in New York City. With her crafty debut album, For Whom They Sing, set for release Dec. 4, the singer-songwriter-guitarist recently looked back on a few of her Gotham-related transformative experiences.

• In 2010, McGowan began her freshman year at New York University, where she studied music. Sarah McGowan: "For a while, I actually wanted to do pre-med. Then I changed my mind because you can't really focus on music if you're doing medicine, so I started taking music history and music theory classes.

"I had a lot of great professors. I took a recording technology class, and that's where I met one of my mentors, J Chris Griffin. He taught me everything I know about music production. He was a really great mentor."

• From 2010 to 2012, McGowan performed at The Red Lion, a Bleecker Street bar-restaurant that's not too far from NYU. McGowan: "My first show there was during my first semester at NYU. I was so nervous, I thought I was going to pass out. My set was three hours long — and that's pretty insane, looking back on it, because now I play 45 minutes to an hour at regular rock clubs.

"I mainly did a lot of covers. It took me a while to get that much material together — I don't know if I could do that now. I was going through a big Taylor Swift phase, so I did a bunch of her songs. I used to do a cover of 'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen, more in the style of Jeff Buckley. I did 'Landslide,' more like the Dixie Chicks version than Fleetwood Mac.

"[The reaction at that first show] was pretty positive. A lot of my family and friends were there. It was probably from 6 to 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night. There were guys sitting at the bar by themselves. I remember the best feeling was having one of those guys turn around and actually listen to me sing."

• In 2013, she began a yearlong internship under Griffin at Engine Room Audio on Broadway in lower Manhattan. McGowan: "I got it through his recording technology class at NYU. We had developed a great bond. [At the studio], the most helpful thing was being able to shadow him — just watching him record or mix something, then having him explain it to me."

• McGowan recorded her debut album — it's on par with recent efforts by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson— at Engine Room Audio. "Full Moon Kids" was inspired by New York's own Strokes. Then there's "Williamsburg Boy," which takes its musical cues from The Beach Boys and Best Coast. McGowan: "I didn't write the song when I was living there. I originally started writing it about my boyfriend, who lives in Williamsburg. He's definitely not a hipster; he's kind of nerdy (laughs). As I was writing it, I started thinking of all these stereotypical hip Williamsburg things that everybody makes fun of. I started to play around with that.

"The song became a little bit of a joke. When I first performed it, I thought, 'This is terrible.' But people really responded well to it and thought it was really funny. I think it hit close to home with my friends and my age group."

As Co-Producer of her debut full-length album, McGowan reveals an array of strengths, ranging from her exploration of diverse musical styles to her technical savvy, to her thoughtful approach to the overall concept. Ultimately, it's an impressive ten-song collection that evokes the self-assuredness, intelligence and melodic craft of Natalie Merchant's breakthrough solo CD, 'Tigerlily'. From the stark "A Good Man" to McGowan's 'bitch rock' track "Desperate as You" (inspired by Amy Winehouse and Har Mar Superstar)…from the heavy truth of "Young Bride" to the indie-pop werewolves of "Full Moon Kids," to the Apache Native American-driven "For Whom They Sing," McGowan's album is a deep, diverse statement from a witty artist with talent to spare.

McGowan's keen eye for style and fashion are on display in her visually arresting clip for focus track 'When I Come Home'. YouTube link is here:
AXS/EXAMINER - INTERVIEW By Laurie Fanelli 10/22/15
Q&A: Sarah McGowan talks 'For Whom They Sing'
Sarah McGowan is a talented singer-songwriter whose ability to experiment with style, genre and sounds has already garnered her advance praise on her forthcoming, debut album For Whom They Sing. Throughout the release, McGowan finds inspiration in her own life as well as the world around her as she tackles such topics as love, marriage and the beauty of being an outcast.

AXS got a chance to ask McGowan a few questions about her songwriting style and her musical background.

Laurie Fanelli (AXS): Congratulations on your new album For Whom They Sing. What are some of the overall themes of the release?

Sarah McGowan: Thanks, Laurie! I think the overarching theme of this album is growing up and figuring out who I am both as a person and an artist. I wrote this album over the span of three years - 20 to 23 years old - in which I experienced a lot of growth. I graduated college, traveled, navigated relationships and tried to figure out what to do with my life - that last part is still an ongoing process!

This album has also been important in helping me figure out my musical path. Every song on For Whom They Sing has a different sound or musical style—usually a blend of rock, pop, and folk. While writing the songs for the album, I hoped to zero in on the style which I wanted to pursue. After a lot of thought, I decided that I didn't want to tie myself down to a singular style, so I let myself write freely. I know this is a bit unusual, but I think that the subject matter and my voice will tie together the collection of songs on the album. I think I'm on my way to creating my own unique style.

LF: Do you have a favorite track off the album or is that like choosing a favorite child?
SM: Well, I am clearly my parents' favorite child, so I feel ok choosing a favorite song - Just kidding! "Desperate As You" is definitely my favorite song to sing because I get to let out my bitchy side and really make my performance campy. Lyrically, I am most proud of "Young Bride." I think it's the most profound song I've ever written. But it is hard to pick a favorite. And I think that the song I like today may not be my favorite tomorrow. It depends on my mood, and also how people respond when I perform it. For example, people usually start dancing and singing along when I play "Williamsburg Boy," so that makes it one of my favorites.

LF: Do you consider your music to be more autobiographical or do you take more of a story-telling approach and develop characters for each song?

SM: It's a mix! Every song is rooted in an autobiographical event, but I typically take some poetic license and dramatize the heck out of it. For instance, "Young Bride" is inspired by the constant engagement announcements that assault me on Facebook. Personally, I know that I am not mature enough to get married at the age of 23, so it fascinates me seeing all these young married couples. I'll admit that the chorus is a bit dramatic, "I will never be a young bride." But for me, that just means that I don't envision that life for myself yet - it is not because I am depressed and lonely. "Indian Summer" is an instance where the song is not completely autobiographical. I have never been hurt so badly that someone was "my life…and then…cut me like a knife." That's a bit harsh. But I can imagine feeling that way, so I took on this emotion and wrote a song about it.

HUFFINGTON POST - Exclusive Video Premiere
9/29/15, by Michael Ragogna
"My goal with this album was to have every song sound unique and have a little 'edge,' whether it is through a quirky lyric or an unusual instrument in the mix. For the 'When I Come Home' video, the director is Josh Hammond and the producers are Katherine Paige and Scott Schuler. We've been working on this video for almost 6 months now, going through many different ideas and visions before finally settling on our current abstract, visually interesting concept. We filmed at several locations throughout NYC, including Bush Terminal Piers Park in Sunset Park, and several of our friends' apartments. Everything was done on a shoestring budget--in fact, many of the people who worked on the video are my former classmates and friends at NYU. Concept-wise, it was a collaborative process between myself, the producers, and the director. We created different colorful, interesting vignettes that told the story of my song--having relationship issues, but coming home at the end of the day and hoping that everything will be ok. We wanted each vignette to be as colorful, creative, and interesting as possible, with the performance sequence tying the video together. Our hope is that the video will be unique so that people in our world--with short attention spans--will want to watch and re-watch it!"

More About Sarah McGowan:
Sarah began writing songs at the age of 14, performing her first original piece at a high school composition concert in her hometown of Darien, CT in 2007. She continued to write and perform locally. In 2010, Sarah began attending New York University, pursuing a B.A. in Music and Spanish. In the fall of her freshman year (2010), she made her New York City debut, playing at The Red Lion. Sarah played there 2-3 times a year between 2010 and 2012.

In 2013, she lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina for 4 months and studied Latin American music, as well as how to play the charango, a South American stringed instrument. Living in South America was a huge inspiration for Sarah's music.

When Sarah returned to the US in the summer of 2013, she began interning under producer J Chris Griffin at Engine Room Audio in Manhattan and learned music production and engineering. Around this time, Sarah started to evolve her musical style, graduating from the pop, Taylor Swift-inspired music of her teens to an edgier rock/folk style. She describes her sound as "sweet with an edge". Sarah's songs are heavily inspired by such musical acts as Florence + the Machine, Feist, Regina Spektor, and Joni Mitchell.

Sarah released her first EP of original songs, Indian Summer, on January 27th, 2015 and continues to play NYC venues such as Pianos, Arlene's Grocery, and Pete's Candy Store.

When not playing music, Sarah enjoys cooking vegetarian food, baking, reading, and chilling with her cat, Pancake.

A U.S. tour is in the planning stages, and details will be announced soon.

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