“You’re never above the simple work” – Sarah Cleary
When I was seven years old, I wanted to be a….
Actually, at that age I had no idea what I wanted to be. Or maybe I did, but my capricious memory has redacted that data over time as a defence mechanism having failed to fulfil my childhood dreams. I’d like to think it’s the latter and that at some stage in my childhood, I had formulated a strategy that would bring me closer to the moon and stars or see me developing a cure for previously incurable diseases. Yet the fact remains, I have no idea what I wanted to be ‘when I grow up’.
I imagine if you ask that question of children today, a high proportion of them would see themselves as becoming the next ‘big thing’, innocent victims consumed by celebrity-culture, the influencer-generation and promise of notoriety via ‘fast-track-to-fame-and-fortune’ TV shows, such as ‘The X Factor’. In fact, a study in 2019 showed that 30% of American and British kids would rather become a Youtuber than go to space – according to various polls, only around 4% – 9% of children actually fulfil their aspirations.
Falling within that small percentage of achievers is Sarah Cleary who, from childhood, knew she wanted to become a professional singer and considered that to be her reality rather than a dream. Over the years, with absolute conviction, she has achieved more than ‘just’ that.
With regards to ‘influencer’ status, Sarah has amassed a significant following on many social platforms; 38,000 YouTube subscribers with five million video views (equivalent to the entire population of Ireland or New Zealand), and the same volume of Instagram subscribers. Readers familiar with Smule, the online social karaoke platform, will likely be familiar with her already; over 250,000 of their 50 million subscribers can be found within her follower base. Sarah is also an official Smule Partner Artist; an accolade she shares with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Anastacia, Ne-Yo, Jason Derulo and Ed Sheeran.
The kind of success Sarah has enjoyed, (including being flown out to Hollywood to shoot a network commercial with San Francisco rock band, Train), doesn’t just happen overnight or without a huge amount of dedication and passion. Her commitment to realising the reality she’d envisioned for herself all those years ago is an example of good old fashioned hard work. Despite all the success she’s enjoyed so far in her career she radiates humility, gratefulness and in addition to investing energy into her own self-development as a singer/ songwriter, she’s putting all her knowledge to good use by helping other budding vocalists realise their own potential as a vocal coach. IAMUR are therefore extremely proud to introduce… Sarah Cleary.
Icebreaker questions then… share with us some examples of things you like.
Leaning about science and physics… traveling… writing songs…Thai food… cooking… painting and sculpting… learning classical songs in different languages… dancing… exploring nature… performing.
How about some things you’re not so keen on?
Rude behavior. Traffic and stressful driving. Waiting in lines. Feeling unprepared. Feeling like someone is being excluded.
Tell us a little about your background.
I’m 21 years old and originally from Oregon, though I just moved to LA a month ago! Growing up in Oregon was amazing. I’ve known since I was about seven that I wanted to be a singer.
I was homeschooled until 5th grade because I am dyslexic and couldn’t read until I was ten. I’m so glad I wasn’t thrown into public school and made to feel less intelligent than the other kids. Through hard work and perseverance, I graduated high school with great grades in many AP and honors classes and got accepted to my dream college, Berklee School Of Music, with a scholarship.
When I tried out for singing solo in 5th grade, I was bombarded compliments on my voice which gave me the reassurance to pursue music further.
I was always extremely involved in my school choir and my senior year had five choir classes, which I helped lead as a teacher’s assistant.
From age ten I started training in vocal safety, breathing technique and body mapping, and since then music has been my entire life. Now I am a vocal coach myself and help my students reach their vocal goals while teaching a safe foundation to grow from. All I do every day is music. I whole heartedly love it and I’m still growing and developing, which I hope never ends in my music career.
How would you describe your music, and who do you consider to be your target audience?
I’d describe my genre as dark pop. I love writing alternative or even indie music. I have written in every genre of music for fun and to challenge myself., but the dark pop is where I feel my sound resides. My target audience would be young adults similar to myself, who want to hear something that conveys the emotions they can relate to.
I have definitely had my share of bad performances where I thoroughly embarrassed myself but for the most part you still never regret going up on the stage.– Sarah Cleary
You’ve performed live shows, how would you describe the experience from your perspective?
Its incredible when you actually let go and can feel the audience there, giving you their time and attention. I hope to perform more in the future, but I can definitely say that of the performances I have experienced, I still think about and smile back on. However, I have definitely had my share of bad performances where I thoroughly embarrassed myself but for the most part you still never regret going up on the stage.
What is it that motivates you to create, and if you’ve experienced a ‘creative block’, how do you typically combat that?
Literally any little thing can spark inspiration. I am an emotional individual and a way for me to have control and help sort through those emotions is writing. The same as if you keep a journal. Except I just write in the form of poems and song lyrics instead. Often times I won’t even write about my own personal experiences, it will just be a visual or a story that comes to me with no correlation to any current event in my life. That’s the fun of the creative process. I’ve never had a long run of writers block fortunately, but when I find myself stuck on a line for 10 minutes I’ll try writing in a different section of the song and then try to fill in the missing pieces like a puzzle.
Do you play any instruments, and if so, to what level of proficiency?
I started to teach myself piano around 5-6th grade and today I love to learn classical pieces from Chopin and challenge myself. I even love to write classical piano songs for fun. I am still learning my way through guitar which I started about a year ago, but I can play my way through most songs with practice.
Is there a particular track/ project that you are particularly proud of, or has special meaning for you?
My latest single Cold Hearted is what I’m most recently proud of for being more vulnerable and authentic in my writing than I ever have been. The lyrics in this song are based off of my own life experiences in relationships. I’m proud of myself for putting it out there even though it’s terrifying letting something so personal be heard by the public and open to criticism.
Can you describe your creative process; do you have any processes or customs that you apply to each project?
My creative process changes depending on the project. Usually, I start with piano chords I made and then write a melody and scat around until certain words stick out. From those words I piece together a story. But sometimes I’ll start with lyrics if I have a line that I was inspired by or if I have a specific topic I know I need to write about.
Strive for no regrets and if it’s meant to be than it will happen– Sarah Cleary
Is there a particular lyric, or quote, that means something special to you?
The lyrics to Vienna by Billy Joel mean a lot to me. Everything is just so relatable in that song. Especially “You got your passion; you got your pride. But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied? Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true.”
What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career, and what advice would you give musicians and artists that are yet to be discovered?
Try your absolute hardest, strive for no regrets and if it’s meant to be than it will happen. Most of all take chances and bet on yourself. Also never say no to opportunities. You are never above the simple work. Even the little things can get you noticed, and they do add up.
You have a huge social media following. How critical has that been to your success?
Social media is your best friend but it’s really hard to stand out if you aren’t really connecting with your audience. That is something I hope to improve on myself. Being more open and showing more of my personality and day to day life. Finding the fans who are invested in you is the most valuable thing.
Are you working on anything new at the moment that you’d like to mention?
I’m always writing new music! I just released Cold Hearted, my latest single, which means a lot to me. This song is not only the rawest and open I’ve been but since it’s the most recent, it’s the most relevant and relatable to my life currently.
It’s about being guarded entering a relationship and giving off the vibe that you don’t care for the other person even though you are just afraid to get hurt because you do have deeper feelings for them. This is an issue I’ve personally had. Where you’re just extremely cautious entering any new romance because You’ve been hurt so much in the past.
It’s definitely scary letting lyrics like that just escape your diary and then your job is to promote it to the world. Like what if the person this song is about hears it? What if my grandparents hear it? But the most rewarding thing is just getting past those fears. Relying on the fact that emotion is art and people genuinely want to hear your life events in your music because it’s real and you can connect to it.
I’m excited to release my music video for Cold Hearted! I had so much fun filming it and I think it shows in the end product. I will have many more singles coming out soon after. I can’t wait to share my new sound.
You can find more information and keep up to date with Sarah’s work via her social links below.