Editor’s Note: On November 13th, Sarah Sample released the single “Old Barn Owl”, which weaves a trail of stories through folk, Americana and country music. “Old Barn Owl” was written during a songwriter’s retreat in the Chihuahuan Desert in West Texas, which is a cathartic reflection on mysticism, self-acceptance and a non-judgmental mentality. “Old Barn Owl” follows the October release of “Nothingman”, in which Sarah Sample offers cut-to-the-bone storytelling filled with empathy and compassion. Sarah is also in the folk-gospel collective The Lower Lights, which takes on gospel classics from old hymnals and gospel songs from Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Stevie Wonder.
In this mental health conversation with Madness To Creation, Sarah Sample discusses The Lower Lights, “Old Barn Owl” and mental health awareness. Fans can find Sarah Sample at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: I have to say that you’re a heroine for working as a nurse during these difficult times. Have you used your experiences to help you in the songwriting process?
Sarah Sample: Thank you for your kind words. These are difficult times for healthcare workers and just difficult times for the world. To be honest, I wouldn’t call corona times the most prolific songwriting phase of my life. However, I have been deeply affected by my patient population at our local oncology center. The patients going through cancer are my true heroes. There is so much introspection to be experienced when people are sick. I think the world is going through some heavy revelations right now about how our actions influence each other and how we are all social creatures in need of love and connection. This internal introspection that I have been experiencing has definitely had an influence on my craft.
Madness To Creation: The “Old Barn Owl” is such a beautiful cathartic song, what’s your favorite things about nature? What’s your dream escape?
Sarah Sample: My sister and I wrote “Old Barn Owl” out in nature in the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas. My home is at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains in Sheridan, Wyoming. We are literally surrounded by wilderness. it is a special corner of the world. I love that I can drive 10 miles in any direction from my home and be out in open space. I love the amount of animals that we see on a regular basis (elk, mule & whitetail deer, antelope, eagles, hawks, etc) and I love being under a sky of stars at night without any light pollution. I have so many places I want to travel to! My husband and I were supposed to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc in Switzerland last August, but it was postponed due to coronavirus, so that is first on our list.
Madness To Creation: How did the songwriting retreat give you a different way to approach songwriting?
Sarah Sample: We learned several new techniques for writing songs at the Crooked Crow writing retreat. The one I used with “Old Barn Owl” was the cut-up method. The basics include cutting out hundreds of words from old paperbacks and then arranging them into new phrases and eventually creating verse structures. I love crafts, so it was a double win for me! Ha.
Madness To Creation: You also do some gospel/folk music for The Lower Lights, how do you have a different take when you approach old gospel songs and songs by Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Stevie Wonder?
Sarah Sample: The Lower Lights is such a fun collaborative experience. There are 15+ band members and each one brings a wealth of their own experience from playing in different bands and recording albums. We record all the songs live at June Audio studio. It is as simple as someone finding a song they love and coming up with an idea of how it should be arranged. We laugh a lot, eat good food, and cheer each other on— we have become a family over the years.
Madness To Creation: What’s your favorite thing about music as a whole?
Sarah Sample: It is a universal language and it is my favorite way to connect to the world around me.
Madness To Creation: We cover mental health awareness at Madness To Creation, what helps you when times get difficult in your life?
Sarah Sample: A mix of family/friends support systems, my therapist, my dogs, a regular walk, and my favorite tunes.
Madness To Creation: What’s the biggest lesson that the year 2020 has taught you?
Sarah Sample: Everything always changes. Make sacrifices to help others. Call your mom and sister often.
Madness To Creation: What’s next for Sarah Sample?
Sarah Sample: I plan on continuing to write and record music. Performing music is hard to come by these days, but I hope live shows return sooner than later. Continue trying to find the balance between music, nursing, and being a mom.
Madness To Creation: What else would you like to add?
Sarah Sample: Thank you so much for your time. Listening is a gift in this busy world.
And there you have it! Check out her 2020 single for “Nothingman” via Spotify below: