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Fast Five: Sarah McQuaid



When did you begin making music, and did you ever ponder a different career?

I’ve been making music ever since I can remember — I toured with the Chicago Children’s Choir from the age of seven and started writing songs and performing them while I was still in my teens. However, I only became a full time musician in 2007. Prior to that I worked as a journalist. It was very frightening to leave the security of a steady job for a career as a touring performer, but I’m very glad that I did!

How would you describe your music?

I try not to be bound by the definition of any particular genre. My influences range from singer/songwriters to jazz to classical and early music, and when I write a song I’m not aiming to please any particular audience — I’m just trying to write the best song I can write, and hope that it will be meaningful to others. One thing that reviewers mention a lot is that with me, it’s really a duet between my voice and my guitar, rather than the guitar merely accompanying the song. It’s a comment that always pleases me when I hear it.

What have you been up to so far and what can we expect over the coming months?

I just released my third solo album last March, on the Chicago-based Waterbug Records label. The album was a big departure for me in that it’s the first one to feature mostly my own songs, so I’m delighted that it’s been getting lots of airplay and amazing reviews — I’ve never been described as “incendiary” before! Now I’m gearing up for a very intensive few months of touring — 56 gigs from the 1st of September to the 2nd of December, in both the USA and the UK.

If you could duet with anybody who would it be and why?

James Taylor. If there’s one musician I’d emulate it’s him — he’s such a consummate artist in so many ways: great songwriter, wonderful singer with such a natural laid-back style, terrific instrumentalist and a riveting live performer. And on his website he shows great generosity of spirit — he even puts up video guitar lessons so fans can learn how to play his songs properly!

What’s your desert island disc and why would you take this one album?

I never get tired of listening to the Bach Cello Suites — sorry if that sounds awfully highbrow! When I’m concentrating really hard on a big piece of work, I’ll just have it on a continuous loop — somehow it keeps me relaxed and focused at the same time, which isn’t easy to achieve.


(Photo by Brent Nearhood)