Photo by Anna Haas
Sarah Peacock has been actively entertaining audiences with her unique blend of country and americana music since 2005. Her eighth album, Burn The Witch, was recently released on March 27th to rave reviews. By phone, we discussed the new album, about loving and accepting each other as human beings, about being true to yourself, and about the power of authenticity.
Americana Highways: Burn The Witch is such a powerful and provocative title for a song and an album, especially one that is heavily influenced by country music. Can you briefly explain the creative process behind the song and how you arrived at the title?
Sarah Peacock: The idea for the song started when I was in a recording session with a friend and she said to me that she wanted to write a song called “Burn The Witch.” Both of us are members of the LGBTQ community and when she elaborated on the meaning of that title for her, we both started seeing the similarities between the Salem witch trials and what it means to belittle, dehumanize and demonize people who are different. As we kind of settled into the songwriting process we realized that what we really needed to do was to tell the story of the Salem witch trials and let our audience read between the lines. I think in a lot of ways it directly mirrors the past and the present of some of the ways that minority communities continue to get bullied and ostracized. I believe it’s a powerful statement for today’s world and I’m really happy that people are listening to it and taking it to heart.
AH: You have called the song a “catalyst for hope.” What did you mean by that?
SP: I think as a woman in the music business and as a member of a marginalized community, my hope is that people will wake up, see, and realize the way that minority groups -women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, people who are incarcerated even, and immigrants are being mistreated. I am a promoter of love, first and foremost, and by that I mean that’s what I care about and I want the world to realize that we are all a lot more alike than we are different. Maybe it’s too much to ask or assume, but I am hoping that maybe my music has the power to cultivate some change in that area. I know that music, in general, has the power to speak to people and to bring them together especially in the world now, where coming together isn’t even something we can do. In our hearts, I believe we have a lot to think about these days and my hope is that, even if it’s just a little bit, music like “Burn The Witch” will spark a desire for more unity and love for all people.
AH: This album is your 8th album. In what ways do you think it is similar to your previous work and in what ways do you think it is different?
SP: I think it’s similar in the fact that it’s still me, Sarah Peacock. It’s different, I think, in that it marked a heavy departure for me in the way I approached writing the songs for the album. My songwriting and my music have always been a journey, a journey of a relentless pursuit of authenticity. I say that because I think over the years, through my songs, I have tried really hard to create other versions of myself that I thought at the time might be more likable or marketable. In the last several years I think for the very first time I can truly say that I have come into my own and found my voice. I think that this record is me saying, in no uncertain terms, “F**k You, I’m through sacrificing my authenticity for the comfortability of others.“ I believe that I have become really brave in my songwriting and that it shows in the songs I wrote for the album. This record is me being real and me saying that I am done with creating those other versions of myself. It’s me saying there’s nothing left to be ashamed of or to hide anymore. I am just done sacrificing myself so other people don’t have to be uncomfortable. I don’t care if you are uncomfortable with my life. This is me, so get over it.
AH: One of the remarkable things about this record is that its release was totally crowdfunded. On your Kickstarter page for the album, you state that it is an “ A truth-telling collection of uncomfortable stories for the rising underdog.” Can you elaborate on that?
SP: Well, I have always felt like an underdog. I was never a cool kid growing up and I have battled depression and self-esteem issues throughout my young adult life because I have always felt like a misfit. I feel like I have gone in and out of deals with managers and record labels because I believe that nobody quite knows what to do with or how to market a misfit like me. I have always felt like my place was with the underdogs and their place was with me and I feel like a lot of my fans feel the same way too. We mirror each other in that sense and that’s a safe place and by that I mean my community is a safe place. Being an underdog, being a misfit, being a part of several marginalized community groups is not super fun, but it has helped build my character and my story and helped me find my voice. My art is for the brokenhearted and downtrodden who feel like I used to feel and that is what this album is about.
AH: So many of your songs over the years and on Burn The Witch concern themselves with telling a story. When it comes to your personal songwriting process, what generally comes first- the lyrics or the story?
SP: Even though I will write down random lyrics that come to me during the day, it’s always the story because that’s always the most important thing. That’s what is going to draw people in and make them relate to what you are saying.
AH: How important do you think is it for a person and an artist to embrace their own unique individuality?
SP: I think that it’s the most important thing that an artist can do and I don’t think you’re really ever creating art until you do that. I believe that authenticity should be every artist’s goal. Period.
AH: In closing, what are some of the messages you want the listener to walk away with after they listen to Burn The Witch?
SP: Love yourself. Love your neighbor. Be authentic. Speak your truth. Shine your light.
Burn the Witch is now available at sarahpeacockmusic.com