The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Award-Winning Artist and Dancer, Rachael Sage
By Lina Bhambhani
Awarding-winning artist and dancer, Rachael Sage, released her video “I Don’t Believe It” on Wednesday, May 25. 2016. This video is the first of her album Choreographic. Sage’s goal is to represent her connection with dance and pop music together, via her self-described “ballet-pop.”
Sage’s video featured choreography from Megan Carvajal and 3-time national dance champion, Kaci King. Sage was also formerly a dancer as well and attended The School of American Ballet. She had experience with The New York City Ballet in ballets such as “The Nutcracker” and “Coppélia.”
The result of the video is a combination of piano, chamber-pop orchestral elements with a mixture of folk, pop, and rock.
Her music reached a large audience after being placed on Lifetime TV’s “Dance Moms,” which helped her grow her fan-base on YouTube with over 9.5 million views. Her first single off the album, “Try Try Try,” is #13 and and climbing on the AC Top 200 charts.
Get to know Sage a bit better in her interview. Find out what made her who she is today and the challenges she faced as an artist, musician and dancer.
You can find out more about Rachael Sage at www.rachaelsage.com.
WiMN: Dance has been quite the passion throughout your life time. What made you get into singing, aside from dance?
RS: Actually, I have always sung and played piano, even before I danced. Once I started dancing, the two areas merged very naturally, in the sense that while I was teaching myself to play by ear and write songs, I would incorporate classical influences from dance class, and lyrical ideas and emotions from my experiences as a dancer. As a kid, I always wanted to be a “triple threat” i.e. act, sing and dance and my idols were people like Bette Midler and even older film stars like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Later on, I watched a lot of Solid Gold on television where I saw tons of pop stars singing (or rather, lip-syncing!) and also the dancers they had interpreting pop songs, and I simply wanted to be part of all of it – however I could, and for whomever would listen, or watch! Initially that comprised my family, then my peers at camp and school, then talent shows, and eventually producers like Andy Zulla who helped me learn to make polished demos and taught me about studio production. All along, I never stopped writing songs, and once I was in college I got a regular gig singing them at my local coffeehouse. That was the beginning of my career as a singer-songwriter, because it was also my first paid gig!
WiMN: This video is quite an art piece. How long did it take you and what were some challenges you faced making it?
RS: It only took us two days to shoot, and another to rehearse; but then there is the process of editing and revising, and going back and forth with the director giving feedback and making adjustments. All in all, it took a few weeks from start to finish. I think the most challenging thing about it was probably just making sure we got all the footage we wanted, within a short time frame. Our cast was wonderful and the crew was so skilled. Everyone worked very hard, and up to the last minute, until the studio had to close for the night. Our lead dancer Kaci King had incredible stamina, and made the dancing look far easier than I know it was!
WiMN: What made you want to put this song out first compared to others on your album, Choreographic?
RS: The most uplifting, energetic track on the record, I felt “I Don’t Believe It” would hook people in who may not otherwise know my work, and I also wanted to create a visual for a song that addressed the idea of rising above naysayers, bullies and whatever adversity may threaten an artists’ vision. It’s so challenging to stay focused and rise above criticism and bullying, as a kind of artist but particularly, as a dancer…and to truly find one’s own expressive voice. It’s a message I feel is important to convey not only to young people, but to anyone pursuing a craft, a dream or a challenge that is extraordinary and requires the courage to ignore self-doubt or others who may doubt your abilities.
WiMN: What do you want your audiences to understand from this video? What is the awareness you are trying to build and why?
RS: I want audiences to really feel a kindred spirit in our dancer-heroine, Kaci, and to follow her journey within the video from tentative, insecure student to expressive, joyful and confident performer. I think many people can relate to the concept of self-confidence having the power to transcend most of life’s hardships and negative energy in general, and I wanted the adult dancers in the video – who span all ages and ability levels – to bring an element of hopefulness and exuberance that reminds us that dance is not only something for the professionals, but something human and unifying, that can help us create transcendent moments where we can become our best, most expressive selves. I hope people dance around at home when they watch the video, and that they also glean some extra “chutzpah” and empowerment from the repetition of the lyric “every time that you tell me I’m not good enough / I don’t believe it”!
WiMN: You have shared the stage with amazing artists such as Sarah McLachlan, A Great Big World, Judy Collins, Shawn Colvin, Mark Cohn, Jamie Cullum, The Animals and Ani DiFranco. How did you feel with those experiences, and will there be possible future collaborations?
RS: Honestly, each of the artists you’ve mentioned with whom I’ve shared the stage has been an idol of sorts for me, prior to me sharing the stage with them…so predictably, each occasion was a thrill, but also sometimes overwhelming or just plain scary! It depended upon the frame of mind I was in and how prepared I felt. For example, Sarah McLachlan’s record was on such heavy rotation in my life that I was just ecstatic to be in her presence and grateful to be part of Lilith Fair and her extraordinary vision of community between female musicians. With The Animals, I was more nervous because it was first time riding on a tour bus, Eric is older and has had such an incredible career in rock ‘n roll and I wasn’t quite sure how my much mellower music related, so I worked very hard to rise to the occasion every night, and it was a huge learning experience on how to lead a full band and play to large crowds. Judy Collins is always a pure pleasure, and puts everyone around her at ease. When I open for her, I just watch and learn, and it’s a continual honor that she supports my work so generously. I can’t predict the future, but one can always hope! I share the stage with many other artists who are lesser-known night to night, and discovering new talent and supporting emerging artists is also a passion of mine, which is much of why I still run my own label, MPress Records.
WiMN: What are your next upcoming projects? Where can audiences find out more about you?
RS: I will be doing more shows throughout the US this summer, and then will be touring in the UK and Europe in the Fall. In the meantime, I’m working on a new video for my single “Try Try Try” (featuring dancers from the Joffrey and Houston Ballet companies!), and will also be recording a brand new song in honor of the victims of the Orlando shooting.
People can keep in touch with me at facebook.com/rachaelsagepage, at twitter.com/rachaelsage and instagram.com/rachael_sage. You can also check out my official website for ongoing news, tour dates and more! www.rachaelsage.com