By Aaron Wagner
Sarah Johnson is a big believer in following her dreams, believing in them, and living them out.
The 32 year-old has been writing songs and playing every gig imaginable in the Dallas area the last 10+ years. After diving deeper into the Dallas music scene she discovered producer Beau Bedford, reached out, and began a working relationship.
That led to Beau producing her debut EP, which Sarah released this past weekend titled Volcano. “Honest. Catchy. Relatable.” is how she describes her debut endeavor.
“Volcano is symbolic because it represents how I feel releasing this EP. I’ve been writing songs since I was two years old, playing guitar since fifth grade, and playing shows for the last 10 years, but I never took the leap into fully pursuing music. This EP is representative of all those years of preparation finally “erupting” into this new chapter,” says Sarah.
When asked what she wanted to accomplish when she set out to make this EP, Sarah says that it was as simple as making good music and trusting her intuition.
“Truthfully, I just wanted to make really good music. I trusted my gut that I had written songs that I could invest my time and money into a full studio production, so I went for it. My goal is for people to listen to the songs and think “wow I’ve felt like that” or just belt out the songs in the car. I just love good music and hope I’ve put some more of that into the world.”
Volcano kicks off with “Red Bandana,” a traveling-vibe of a song that shows off Sarah’s songwriting chops and ability to tell a story that paints a picture in your mind.
“”Red Bandana” paints such a vivid picture and I always wanted to write a story telling song like ‘”Traveling Soldier” by Dixie Chicks or “Hurricane” by Bob Dylan. I actually got inspired by a real Montana man, which is fun because I’ve been going to Montana every summer since I was born. The lyrics of “Red Bandana” kept flowing out of me, which is really a gift. I also just love what Beau Bedford and the band did with musically.”
Sarah listed “Red Bandana” and “Body Betrays Me” as two songs from the project that hold an extra special place in her heart. It’s one of my favorite questions to ask artists because not only is it challenging to elevate one over others, but it gives fans a better glimpse into who they are as an artist.
“”Body Betrays Me” might be my most poignant, honest song. I worked really hard on the lyrics and even did research to make sure all the anatomy descriptions are correct. I feel like “Body Betrays Me” puts words to some of the most complex emotions that come with heartbreak. I also love this song musically. We juxtaposed very heavy lyrics with this almost heavenly sound, which created a really beautiful song.
Lyrics and songwriting is something that seems to come natural to Sarah on Volcano. There’s an added depth of vulnerability and authenticity that make these collection of songs stand out to the listener.
“Essentially you are listening to my diary. I really process through songwriting, so everything that you’re hearing is how I felt in that moment––the good, the bad, and the ugly. The songwriters I admire are the most raw and honest, and that is what I aspire to be. I find songwriting very redemptive. You can turn something hard or painful into something beautiful. No experience is wasted.”
Honest. Catchy. Relatable.
While Sarah can create meaningful depth and emotions on some of the most heartfelt songs, she can just as effortlessly pack a punch with the more fun and light songs. One of those songs is my personal favorite on the EP, “Looking for Someone.”
“This one was fun to write. I wrote it after I hit it off with cute guy (aka “dark and handsome” as the lyrics say) one night out in Nashville. We said goodbye at the end of the evening and I thought “well he could be someone or I might never see him again.” You just never know! I immediately knew I had to turn that thought into a song.”
“The hook came first, “I’ve been lookin’ for someone, have I been looking for you?” I got together with a good friend and co-writer, Ben Telfort, and we told more of the “girl meets guy” story. It’s just a fun take on single life. That cute guy who buys you a drink could be your soul mate or a good memory…and either option is great.”
The thing that I absolutely love most about Sarah is her willingness to chase her dreams and passions, even when there may be societal pressure to give up on them by a certain age. She has the following great quote that she expands upon:
“I’m 32, not-married, and a lot of times people feel like they should’ve pursued their dream when they were young. But I just don’t have that mindset at all.”
“I can’t imagine doing it any other way! My twenties were all about growing as a songwriter and performer. I also built skills as an entrepreneur, which is essential in the music industry. I’ve written over 70 songs and performed all over the world over the last ten years. So I’m taking all of that experience into this launch.”
Sarah continues, “If anyone thinks I should be “further along in my career,” I hope it proves to them that it is never too late to go for a dream, no matter how hard or far-fetched. Do it! Start today! Start with the smallest baby step. I believe everyone is created to make a meaningful mark on the world, and it is never too late to start.”
“It also feels like I was able to make a timeless EP, not something where in 10 years I’ll think “wow I was so young and inexperienced, I hope people don’t listen to these songs!” It’s nice that I had time to refine my songwriting skills and dig into deep, vulnerable place from which to write.”
“I have peace that this is the perfect time. At 32, I know who I am. I’m secure in who I am. I’m not searching for identity, so to me this is a beautiful new chapter and not something that will give me worth or value as a person. I am glad I’m bringing that perspective to entering into the music industry, which can be quite brutal.”
When people listen to the EP, Sarah hopes that they enjoy the music and find a song or two for whatever you may be feeling.
“Well I hope they love the music. There’s nothing like finding a great song or an artist you really love, so I hope they have that experience with Volcano. I hope it’s an EP where they can find a song for every “mood” —happy, in love, heartbroken, or just ready for some good jams for a road trip.”
Listen to the full EP here: