Five Questions With… Sarah Cripps

After a five-year gap, Toronto singer/songwriter Sarah Cripps will release her self-titled sophomore album this Friday, Jan. 19. With a half-decade between recordings, the song collection naturally reflects a lot of growth for Cripps, as captured in the brooding first single “Leave Behind.” While her sound still contains a lot of her roots music influences, her current collaboration with producer Dean Drouillard builds on years of extensive touring to create more refined and mature results.

A native of Brighton, Ontario, she has been a familiar face on the Toronto scene since she was a teenager, playing venues such as the Horseshoe Tavern and the Gladstone Hotel. Although she attracted industry attention early on, the pressure to conform to other peoples’ ideas prompted Cripps to adopt an independent attitude, leading to her first EP in 2011.

She followed it up two years later with the album Change that blended classic country themes and intensely personal lyrics in the manner of Rosanne Cash. Now, with Sarah Cripps, she’s gone deeper, and, in the process, reinvented herself as an artist fully capable of transcending a multitude of genres.

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What makes your new album stand apart from your debut?

While writing the songs for this album, I was going through a lot of transitions personally and musically. I was struggling with the perception of who I thought I was supposed to be, and who I honestly am. It left me feeling pretty dark at times. It was making this record that helped me decide I would embrace the darkness and the weirdness and I pulled myself out of the perfect box I thought I had to fit into.

I found a way to create my own narrative and not subscribe to the one that is often forced on young women. By the time the sound started to take shape, and the collection of songs started to sound more like an album, I felt like it was a perfect representation of that growth. I stopped worrying and let my sound speak for itself. 

What songs do you feel best capture your current musical vision?

In all honesty, I feel like this album can take you on a journey. All of those songs capture my current musical vision, but if I had to pick, I’d say “Heat” and “Leave Behind.” I’m such a huge fan of how the production of these two songs came together. I feel they both carry the perfect amount of vulnerability and delivered with sultry confidence. This vibe is sprinkled all over the record, but the way these two songs came together feels perfectly haunting to me.

Those dark themes come across in the video for “Leave Behind.” What inspired this?

Amidst this chaotic time in my life, I felt like I was continually floating between different versions of myself. All of the characters in this video represent a version of myself that I felt I was at one point or another. Whether I was irrational and broken, cunning and on top of my game, or the monster causing destruction, I was walking around Toronto and through life feeling out of touch with reality. I felt like I was being haunted, but also felt I was the one doing the haunting. 

What's been the most significant change in your life over the past year?

The most significant change in my life over the last year has been finding comfort in knowing what I want and going after it. I have overcome a lot of fears over the past year by listening to myself and speaking my mind more often. This has brought a lot of positive change into my life and helped me connect better with the music and with the people around me.

What you most looking forward to in 2018?

I’m so looking forward to touring. I can’t wait to play these songs live over and over and hear them take on a whole new life. I get to experience a slightly new version of songs from this album and from my previous one every time I play them. I also can’t wait to start writing for the next one.

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