November 7th, 2021 7pm Stage 3
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Sarah Elizabeth Haines
Sarah Elizabeth Haines was used to living in the harmonies, the lines outside of the spotlight. A classically trained violist and violinist, she plays both instruments in the touring production of Tony award-winning musical Hamilton and the New York City-based contemporary classical chamber group Contemporaneous. Previously, she’s toured with Les Misérables and Kansas City Choir Boy (featuring Courtney Love), and been a co-bandleader of Americana-folk band Bellehouse and a member of orchestral rock band Emanuel and the Fear.
But with Castaway, her second full-length solo LP, Haines steps confidently into the center of the music of her own life. The 11-track album, co-produced by Kevin Salem and due out in February 2022, showcases Haines’ impressive instrumental skills on viola, violin, guitar, arrangements, and production, as well as her sharp songwriting and strong singing — both on the melodies and harmonies.
Haines opens the album with the spoken word poem “Body,” a feminist treatise on being in control of her own. “It became a fun little project in sound design and the viola in the background is specifically done to kind of make it uncomfortable,” she explains. “Because especially after the last year and half, not all of our feelings have to be good feelings and I kind of want to explore that too.”
Indeed, Castaway explores a range of emotions and experiences, most of which were written before the pandemic. Swathed in strings, but staggering with distorted guitar slides, lead single “Liar” exposes a cheating ex. Yet, she follows it with “In the Morning,” a song that leaning into her chamber pop strengths while reminiscing on a lost love. And “Lazy,” one of the most guitar-heavy tracks on the record, is also one of the most sultry, as Haines sings in an airy soprano, “Shut the door why don’t you babe? / I think we’ve got some heat to make.”
The closing title track, however, is a frank, yet hopeful ballad about forgiveness. “I've been thinking a lot about like the juxtaposition of strength and softness and how they can be the same thing, but we often don't talk about that,” Haines says. “There's nothing wrong with softness. We feel like we have to be really tough all the time, and some of the music maybe is tough, but I don't think at all needs to be in order for us to still be brave.”
That strength of self, paired with an innate ability to live and sing between the margins, makes Castaway such a bold statement for Haines. “In order for me to have my own voice, I need to be able to do my own projects,” she says. “I can contribute my voice to someone else’s project, but it's that idea of making the music that you're really feeling and sharing the things that you really want to communicate with other people. It's going to be the clearest if it's coming right from you.”