Sarah Walk saw an old video of herself a few months ago. She was around three-years-old and, in her own words, “banging away at the piano making something up and singing nonsense.” By the time she was eight, she’d started a rap group with her best friend and they spitted what I can only assume were dope rhymes about the world around them. Their first song was about 9/11. Other topics included poverty, being bullied in school, and staying true to yourself. “It was my first passion,” she said, when asked by TGA to describe her origin story.
In her early teens, Sarah started a rock band. It was then that her music began to evolve and grow into something more challenging. At fifteen, she had her heart broken for the first time. “That’s when the songs started to be more autobiographical and honest to my personal experiences.”
Originally from Minneapolis, Sarah moved to Boston to attend school at the Berklee College of Music at the age of twenty-one. Once there, she put another band together and recorded an EP. “I just played and wrote a lot,” she said, adding that there was a strong musical community there. “I just tried to network, I guess.”
The networking paid off when her bass player revealed a familial London connection: the producer Steve Brown, who’s also worked with Laura Mvula and Rumer. He ended up producing Sarah’s debut album. “From meeting Steve I then met my manager here which led me to the label I’m on now, One Little Indian.”
Sarah plies her trade in the hazy, malleable area between pop, rock, and the piano ballad, often all in the same song. Earlier in her career, she wrote more politically charged songs until she realized that her personal experiences have the power to reach people. She wants to write, “whatever feels honest and true to me at the time, and usually those things have the potential to carry the most weight with others.
“Androgyny plays a big role in how I see myself and my relationship to the world around me—so anything I write comes from that place because it’s honest to me. I try not to overthink it.”
The compositional process comes from a place of patience; or laziness, she can’t quite decide. “If I write an idea and it keeps pulling me back to finish it I usually listen to that.” She said the heavier songs tend to start with a piano riff, which she then builds around. The softer ballads are usually based around a lyric. She might work or re-work something, but she doesn’t push; otherwise, a song starts to sound too forced or clinical. “Other times it feels like things fall from the sky.”
Early press compares Sarah to other legendary heavyweights of pop and ballads. Names you’ve likely heard of, like Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush and Tori Amos and Fiona Apple and Amanda Palmer. Though flattered, Sarah tries not to think about that too much. They’re all inspirational, of course, but what Sarah finds most inspirational about them is “how they (each) paved their own way in music,” and never tried to be anyone besides themselves. “That’s what I’m trying to do and what I’m focused on.”
Still only twenty-five years of age, Sarah has learned how to balance patience with ambition. “I’ve accomplished a lot of exciting stuff so far, but there’s still so much ahead. Things take time to build, but also take a lot of relentless determination. I’m hungry for more.”
Look out, world. Sarah Walk is coming.
Stephen M. Tomic