In just 2 days, Sarah Slean will be playing the Regina Folk Festival. In anticipation of her performance, The Leader-Post printed the following article. (thanks to Kyall for submitting this news)
Cured by cabin fever: Four months alone saved exhausted Slean
The Leader-Post (Regina)
Thu 28 Jul 2005
Section: What's On
Byline: Andrew Matte
Source: The Leader-Post
Fans of Sarah Slean can thank small-town Ontario for allowing a rebirth of sorts to occur for the singer-songwriter, known for her angelic sound andcerebral, spiritual approach to writing and performing.
At the end of her last tour, Slean admits, mental and physical exhaustion left her so unmotivated that she feared her career in music had come to an end. However, after a show in Almonte, she was attracted to the Ottawa-area town's beauty so much that she stayed -- for four months.
Slean rented a cabin and lived alone, enjoying downtime that not only lifted her spirits, but also cleared her mind and made her eager to return to music.
It was then that Slean recorded her fourth album, Day One, a CD that critics and fans view as her greatest success, thanks to an evolution in a sound that leans more toward pop and rock rather than the lilting Tori Amos-like sound Slean was known for.
"I'd reached a real bottom and a real zero time in my life," she says of the time she arrived in Almonte. "I needed to clean out all of my senses, including my sense of identity. "I wasn't sure whether I'd continue in music, and I felt really adrift. All my dreams were about me being in the middle of the ocean hanging onto a piece of driftwood."
"I was reading way too much philosophy I guess . . . I was looking at the desolate side of existentialism rather than the freedom and optimism that could be found."
In recent months, Slean has enjoyed a growing audience and appreciation for an outlook on life that is different from the way she viewed the world in years past. She admitted to regularly pondering heady issues such as the meaning of life and the conflict between science and religion, and has since discovered she's more comfortable in her own skin living without trying to find answers to questions she deemed unanswerable.
"Sometimes you have to simply be, rather than make life a math equation. That proved very educational to me and I try to cultivate that in my life because thinking too hard about everything, I think it would kill you," she says.
The evolution in her sound and sharper skills have occurred naturally, Slean says, though she approaches songwriting and performing in the way she always has. She acknowledges she's a better singer today than she was in her early days, but believes her progress has resulted from the simple experience and practice, rather than from any mandate to arrive in any new place.
"I hear my voice revealing itself. In the first two records, and even the third record, my voice sounds paralysed in fear and insecurity and hesitation. And I think that's gradually going away as I do music," she says. "I feel the muscles and the various tools you need to employ, I hear them getting stronger."
"I don't really know about my music stylistically. I wouldn't be able to describe any big shift in the sound of my music. It's all becoming clearer to me, I guess."
Some songs on Day One veer away from folk music, but it didn't happen by design. Slean has never altered her approach to song construction. "I try not to think about the final product when I write a song, because to me a song is the melody and the chorus ... a good song is still one that you can play by yourself," she says.
"Some of the folk crowd is narrow minded, but I find that most of them are just fans of music. So I hope they don't throw things at me if I play some rock songs."
What hasn't changed is her view on the realities of performing, which includes the rather unfortunate chore of travel, living out of a suitcase, and dealing with "industry" issues in order to share her music.
"It's a real double-edged sword. The joy and power you get to experience by making art and giving it away, and performing on stage is so thrilling. And that's tempered with the emptiness of travelling," she says.
Another challenge comes every summer when Slean performs outdoors, as she did last weekend, at the high-profile Hillside festival in Guelph, Ont.,and will do again this weekend in Regina. Playing in clubs and theatres aids her sound and performance, and she concedes that she misses those factors when she performs outside to a crowd sprawled in a park.
"A lot of the time, I use the darkness of the hall, and I use that to my advantage and ramp up my character. I guess the difference between the character on stage and the real person goes up a notch," she says.
"When I play outdoors, I just try to trust that when I open the door to the music, people won't throw knives at me. I think that if you are a little bit scared, then the music dies."