Riding a train around a country seems like something you only read about in history books when the rails were basically the only way to get from point A to point B in a timely manner. Not the case with artists like Sarah Hiltz. Now that I’m thinking about it, she’s the second Canadian to come through Golden Mixtape via train. Sarah’s latest adventures were the backdrop to her upcoming release, Beauty In The Blue. A modern folk album that’s dropping in early November. While we all wait for the 7th of November to arrive to get a copy, we can get know Sarah more as she talks about a decade of playing, caboose memories and more.
Kendra: You’re not some new kid on the block. You’ve been performing for over a decade now. What is the number one thing you’ve learned from all those years playing various stages and places?
Sarah Hiltz: I’ve played lots of bar gigs where no one is paying attention. Sometimes it’s hard to stay connected to the songs in that atmosphere because it requires me to be emotionally vulnerable with no audience reciprocation. But what I’ve learned, what I’m still learning, is that it’s crucial that I do stay connected and engaged with the songs and how they affect me, no matter what the crowd is like – otherwise, what am I even doing there? How can I expect them to suddenly engage if I’m just going through the motions and playing it safe?
Kendra: Part of that time was what inspired your upcoming album Beauty In The Blue. You were riding a train all around Canada, writing along the way. What is one story that didn’t make its way to a song on the record? Perhaps it was just too insane to put to song?
Sarah: The last time I played on the train, I was traveling over New Year’s Eve. It was a pretty cool night – everyone in the bar car sang “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight, drank a lot of champagne and sat around trading stories. There were people from all over Canada, visitors from other countries, people in their 20’s all the way up to their 80’s, but we were all celebrating together as stranger-friends.
Kendra: How does Beauty In The Blue compare to 2013’s Til The Sun Falls?
Sarah: Beauty In The Blue is all original compositions while Til The Sun Falls was primarily jazz standards (I did sneak in one Joni Mitchell cover!) Til The Sun Falls was also recorded entirely live-off-the-floor in one day. Beauty In The Blue, on the other hand, was recorded over the course of one year. It also feels like a return to my main musical objective, which is creating and sharing original music. It was fun to tackle recording a bunch of old jazz tunes that I love for Til The Sun Falls, but it’s not what I want to focus on generally. So in that way, Beauty In The Blue also feels like a return to my main musical objective, which is creating and sharing original music.
Kendra: Right now you’ve got one show coming up in October. Can we expect more to be added to your calendar as the year winds down?
Sarah: Absolutely! My album launch show will be November 7th at Burdock in Toronto. After that, I’m heading out for a few Western Canada dates that will be announced soon.
Kendra: You’ve performed all over Canada, any plans to head to the US in 2018?
Sarah: I would love to tour in the states! It is a tricky process though, and it’s been getting trickier over the last 10ish months (based on what I hear from other touring musical buds). Still, it’s something I’ll be exploring next year with the album launch – there are so many places I would love to visit and play!
Kendra: Seeing as you’ve spent a ton of times on the rails if you had to make a mixtape for a cross-country train ride for your BFF – what five songs would have to be on it?
Sarah: Oh, cool! Okay, most of my rail-riding goes between Toronto and Vancouver, so I’m gonna think of this as each song taking you one province further west.