Interview: Sarah Johnsone | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Photo By Sophie Robson

Midway through 2021, Teesside solo artist Sarah Johnsone dropped her debut single Tonight, which featured on numerous Spotify editorial playlists (including New Music Friday UK) as well as being picked to be used in an upcoming feature film. Since then, Sarah has gotten herself a band and returns with a new single I Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl, which sees her venturing into anthemic indie-rock territory.

The song is about falling for someone who you know is no good (we’ve all been there) and sonically, it’s dynamics daft; veering from dreamy to drivetime, from soulful to ethereal and from soft to soaring. There’s some delightful rhythms, delicious guitar sounds (including a roaring solo) and some catchy vocal hooks. Considering the spacey ambience of Sarah’s first single, I Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl is an unexpected but most welcome second offering. 

How did you get into music? Who inspired you growing up?
I remember being very surprised I’d gotten a solo in my year 4 school play, as everyone was made to audition. I think that was the first moment I’d realised I could sing. My biggest memories of music as a child are the album’s my parents played in the car. My favourites that I asked for on repeat were In Between Dreams – Jack Johnson and Corinne Bailey Rae’s self titled album.

How would you describe your sound?
It’s important to me not to get too stuck into one style, but ultimately I think the juxtaposition of my vocals, which tend to have a softer edge, against my band’s more powerful sound, is what makes us stand out. The songs I’ve pursued solo are more reminiscent of Mazzy Star I think.

Briefly describe your songwriting process. What do you write about? 
It’s been said to me that I always seem to write sad songs, and I’ve realised that it’s because song writing to me is a cathartic process, and I don’t feel as compelled to pick up the pen when I’m happy. And because of that, my process itself is not very linear. I write my best stuff when I haven’t sat down and planned to do it, when I can’t sleep at night usually.

You started as a solo performer and are now performing backed by a band. How did this come about and how has it influenced your music?
I released my first single as a solo artist, but up until that point I’d only ever performed at open mics. I’d never had a proper gig. I started showing my friend Fez (who’s now lead guitarist) some songs I’d written and then I went to his studio to play them. His bandmates from another band he was in started playing along, and I did my first gig with them. Along the way I’ve found Dylan (drums) and Tom (bass). It opened everything up for me musically and confidence wise.

Tell us about your latest single, I Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl.
It’s about falling for someone who you know isn’t good for you essentially. Knowing you should forget about them and not pursue anything, but at the same time wanting that little bit of excitement. I wrote it a couple of years ago, but I was stuck on the chorus and left it for about a year or so. I didn’t perfect it until I played it with the band.

How does it differ from your previous single, Tonight?
The main difference is that Tonight was just me on an acoustic guitar, and with a slower tempo and less layers. I think the beauty of it is its simplicity and lyrics. My new single has more elements to it, and it’s more upbeat. 

What can people expect from your live shows?
They can expect to hear a lot of unreleased tunes that I’m very excited about, as I’ve only released a fraction so far. They can expect to see the energy and talent of my band also.

Have you got anything else coming up in the near future?
I have so many songs that I want to release. I hope to have my debut EP out by the end of the year. Something exciting is also that my debut single Tonight is going to be featured on a film that’s out later this year.

Gig-wise I’ve got The Georgian Theatre in Stockton on Friday 25th February, supporting She Drew the Gun, a solo set at Mosaic Tap in Newcastle on Saturday 26th February, a headliner at Bobiks, Newcastle on 9th April and Stockton Calling on 16th April!

Like this story? Share it!

Subscribe to our mailout