Rachael Sage’s tenth album, HAUNTED BY YOU, is a song cycle about passion. As the NYC-based artist explains, “I fell recklessly in and out of love multiple times while writing this record. I broke a couple hearts…and I also had my heart broken pretty badly.” Nonetheless, the crystalline-voiced singer/songwriter says she has no regrets, revealing she was “due to feel as deeply again as when I first started making music.”
For Sage, who is also a poet, actor and visual artist as well as a longtime record label owner (she founded MPress Records in 1996), music has always been her primary form of self-expression. By the age of three she had taught herself to play the piano, and by her teens, she’d won the ASCAP Pop Songwriting Contest. Upon hearing Sage’s winning entry, legendary producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T. Rex) told her she was “extremely talented” and offered to produce her demo. While her parents pressed her to go to Stanford University instead, it was an encouraging moment that gave her the confidence to self-produce her first record, MORBID ROMANTIC.
On the milestone of her tenth album, Sage admits, “I started writing songs to make sense of being bullied in school. I never envisioned music taking me around the world, or that one day I’d play the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Being part of the indie community is humbling though…it keeps you grounded.” Sage, who has collaborated with Phil Ramone and shared stages with Judy Collins, Marc Cohn, The Animals, Shawn Colvin and Sarah McLachlan, has had a prolific career both as a musician and entrepreneur. This year Sage produced the fourth volume of MPress' annual charity compilation series, NEW ARRIVALS, benefiting homeless youth, while her label had its first Billboard charting and Grammy® nominated releases.
HAUNTED BY YOU was tracked with members of Sage’s touring band The Sequins: Quinn (drums), Dave Eggar (cello), Russ Johnson (trumpet), and also features guitarists James Mastro (Patti Smith), Mark Bosch (Ian Hunter) and Jack Petruzelli (Rufus Wainwright); bassists Todd Sickafoose (Ani DiFranco) and Mike Visceglia (Suzanne Vega); mandolin player David Immergluck (Counting Crows); and drummer Doug Yowell (Duncan Sheik). Singer-songwriters Dar Williams, Lucy Woodward, Katie Costello, Ryan Hommel and Seth Glier – as well as actor/director Joshua Leonard – also make guest appearances; John Shyloski (Johnny Winter) and Kevin Killen (Elvis Costello) engineered.
Unlike Sage’s previous albums, including 2009’s critically acclaimed DELANCEY STREET, much of HAUNTED BY YOU was composed on guitar. “I pushed myself to pick up guitar to write this record because I was scared of it and took that as a cue.” The title track, along with “Abby Would You Wait”, “Invisible Light”, “Hey Nah” and “Everything”, were all penned by Sage on a 1966 Martin acoustic inherited from an ex. “I gave myself a pass to try something brand new, and to make mistakes that would hopefully yield something more visceral.”
Sage wrote the dozen songs on the album after separating from her boyfriend of four years, whom she describes as “the kindest, most balanced person I’ve ever dated. He was much more traditional than me though…touring slowly took its toll." Alone, reflecting on her breakup, the 3-time Independent Music Award winner found herself suddenly prolific. “California”, “The Sequin Song” and “Confession” show a more vulnerable, raw side of the singer, reckoning with her newfound freedom, as well as inevitable loneliness.
“After my breakup I had an intense affair with someone I met overseas. I was swept off my feet…but it was an impossible situation.” Strained by long-distance, Sage eventually felt pressured to break off what had become a tumultuous wave of cross-continental phone calls and emails. “Soulstice”, featuring Counting Crows’ David Immergluck on mandolin, “captures that moment where I was as happy as I’ve ever been, even though it was fleeting.”
The concept of soul-mates reappears throughout the record. Sage wrote the Americana-inspired “Abby Would You Wait” about someone with whom she shared one long conversation after a gig, but with whom she “connected so strongly that I saw an entire future.” Likewise, the lush, acoustic guitar-based “Everything” celebrates the shameless joy of a new attraction, “when all you can see is shimmering possibility.”
“Invisible Light”, which both opens and closes the album in two very different musical arrangements (one featuring Dar Williams on guest vocals), is Sage’s favorite song on the record. “I wrote ‘Invisible Light’ while fantasizing about someone who just effortlessly ‘gets’ me and lets me in completely. I’m definitely ready to have my mind blown by that kind of love.”
Upcoming tour highlights include official showcases at SXSW (Austin, TX), Hotel Café (Los Angeles, CA), Joe’s Pub (New York, NY) and Lincoln Center’s ‘Meet The Artist’ series (New York, NY). In addition, Think Coffee will be presenting Sage’s first art show in a decade at their Bowery & Bleecker location, from May 6-June 3rd. HAUNTED BY YOU is due out in the U.S. in May 2012.