August 2013


I’ve recorded about seven song ideas so far this year for GNALP3, but there are only two that I’m really excited about, that feel like G,NA songs.

GNALP3? Huh? Let me catch some of you up, just in case you don’t subscribe to my monthly newsletter, and you missed my August 6th blog post, and you haven’t checked in on the G,NA Facebook Page in a while:

I’ve decided to save up for a year to pay for the third G,NA album, which I plan on writing over the next several months and then recording in a studio somewhere next summer, to be released in the fall of 2014. I’m saving money in a number of ways:

- working a day job and setting aside money each month,
- selling my music through Bandcamp, iTunes, etc.,
- collecting a penny or two every time someone streams my songs on Spotify,
- licensing my songs for film and TV placements, including Patagonia product videos,
- selling handmade merch through my online store,

and my newest approach to making a living as a musician:

- taking donations through my new Gittip account, where people can donate as little as 25¢ or as much as $100 per week, automatically and totally anonymously. As of today, Thursday, August 29th, I am receiving $10.01 in anonymous tips each week! Amazing, and thank you, unknown tippers!

So, now that we’re all caught up…

I said in my last blog post that the next post would contain some excerpt from the music I’ve been working on for the next / third G,NA album (affectionately referred to as GNALP3), so here you go! This is a little chunk of a demo version of a song idea I’ve been messing with since February/March. I’ve recorded it three times so far, the most recent version being my favorite. This section is from the bridge, and I added the keyboard part over it right before I exported it tonight for this blog post. The working title of this song is “Exterior.”

Visit my Soundcloud profile to leave comments on this clip and check back there for future clips (which I will also post here and on Facebook, etc., of course).

Want to help make GNALP3 happen? Throw a dollar in the tip jar HERE.


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Patagonia & G,NA

It’s funny how the universe will send you little messages when you are headed in the right direction. I mean, I don’t know how else to explain the phenomenon of making a decision in favor of your values and then, that same day, getting an email telling you that you just got another song placement in another video/movie/show and will be getting a check in the mail.

This phenomenon happens to me in regards to music so often that now I kind of expect it when I’m faced with making a decision that could affect the future of G,NA. Patagonia is the latest Assistant to the Universe in said phenomenon, and has used two of my songs in three of their online product promo videos in the past couple months. And, each time I got the email, I had *just* made some kind of difficult decision that kept me on my musical path. Thanks, Patagonia! Feel free to send me one of your swanky jackets!

Video: Patagonia Nano Puff® Pullover with Tommy Caldwell
Song: “Saboteur” [Click to buy or rate on iTunes]

Video: Patagonia Encapsil™ Down Belay Parka
Song: “If You Only Knew” [Click to buy or rate on iTunes]

Video: Patagonia Primo Jacket & Pants with Josh Dirksen
Song: “Saboteur” [Click to buy or rate on iTunes]

In GNALP3 news: There is none, other than the fact that I’m saving $10.01 a week toward recording the album thanks to anonymous donations being made to my Gittip account. I haven’t written or recorded any new material for this project in a couple months because I’ve been so busy with these other projects. But! In the next blog post, I’m going to post a little clip of one of the demos I recorded earlier this year. Woo hoo!



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Project: Politik

This year is all about expanding, opening up to possibilities, trying new things, and challenging myself. It makes sense, then, that this year I have also been attracting new musical possibilities and challenges into my life. I know so many creative, passionate musicians and artists and am flattered that any of them would want to collaborate with me.

This past weekend, I worked on an impromptu recording project for my friend Krist Krueger’s newest project, POLITIK. Krist and I have known each other for over a decade, now. We used to throw shows together in Madison, WI, and were both involved in the same punk/DIY community there for many years. After he relocated to Portland, and I relocated to Los Angeles, we still kept in touch and collaborated when we could. In fact, the very first show that I ever played as Gardening, Not Architecture, was opening for his solo project Southerly in 2008. He has several projects and runs a DIY record label called Self Group, which I have collaborated with through my EIY website/movement over the years. The last tour I did as G,NA was with his noise/art project YARDSSS in the fall of 2012, and we collaborated on a noisy rendition of “Amazing Grace,” which is available for free download on my Bandcamp.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Krist asking me to record myself singing a series of eight-second clips of different notes. This is typical Krist. I laughed out loud for a minute and then emailed him back asking him what the f*** he was talking about. He wanted me to just sing all these notes and send him the WAV files so he could incorporate them into this new album he was recording. So, of course, I did it. Then, last week, I got another email from Krist, this time making a bit more sense, asking me to write and record vocals parts for three of the songs. I decided to make it a Florida Sessions-type approach, giving myself two days to write and record, and committing to whatever ideas came up first.

It’s intimidating and freeing, both, to set up a microphone and just hit the “record” button. The result for Politik was a lot of “ooo”s and “aah”s and only a few actual words. I could have easily kept recording stacks and stacks of vocal parts for each song, but sometimes less is more — and sometimes when you have roommates, the recording session ends when everyone gets home, and you just have to go with what you have.

I have two other projects I’ve been working on — one is another vocals-only recording project for a solo artist I met through the Internet, for whom I am (hopefully, if I can keep borrowing nice microphones from my friends) going to record harmony parts; and the other is the project I’ve been hinting at for months, which is still in the demo-ing phase but will be moving into the studio recording (!!!) phase in September, if all continues to go as planned. That is more of a 50/50 collaboration, and I’m so excited to announce it… soon.

Meanwhile, I am saving $9.25 per week toward the third G,NA album (GNALP3), thanks to the anonymous donations being made to my Gittip account! I also had some ASCAP royalties come in this week that are paying for groceries and bus fare, and there’s some money in my Tunecore account from online sales and streams of G,NA songs through iTunes, Spotify, and other online outlets! It’s not a lot but it’s consistent, and growing each week/month, which is amazing because it means that G,NA is a steady source of income, and I’m a musician who is making a (partial) living with my music. So exciting! Thank you for donating to, listening to, buying and sharing the music! Every penny truly counts.

♥ Sarah

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“And so I reckon that I am now at the beginning of the beginning of doing something serious.”

- Vincent Van Gogh

I love that quote.

So, on August 1st I sent out an email to my email list, announcing that I am officially on the path toward recording my third full-length album (affectionately referred to as GNALP3). This mostly means that I have begun saving money to record the album. One of the bigger realizations I have made the in past year (and there have been many) is that this project is something that is totally sustainable, as long as I work it into my budget and stop treating it like this massive, separate, magical being that requires miracles and sorcery to financially support and maintain. It’s possible for G,NA to be like any other day job; I just have to be realistic about it.

I’ve been working on “being realistic” about G,NA since 2009. I grew up playing music and worshiping rock stars. I didn’t have the Internet, and I didn’t know any bands who were Doing It Themselves until I moved to a bigger city when I was 19, and got introduced to my local underground/punk music scene. Even then, bands were only just starting to use email to book tours. I cold-called venues that I found in BYOFL when it was still in print, in order to attempt booking my band’s first tour. But until that point, I thought bands just started writing songs, looked cool, and then got signed to labels and became famous, having all of their expenses covered by their sweet record label deal, and having all their tours booked by their sweet booking agency. God, that was forever ago. I was a different human being, completely.

Learning about and adopting the DIY philosophy probably affected my life more than any other influence, and it still does to this day. It’s so woven into my foundation as a person that I can’t even separate myself from it anymore. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t fantasized about what it would be like to be signed to a record label that paid for me to spend months in a recording studio, or helped me get on tours with amazing bands, or paid for my merchandise. It would mean giving up a lot of creative control, and sacrificing a lot of my freedom, and compromising on a lot of decisions… but man, how nice it would be if my only job was to work on music and hang out in recording studios and play shows on the road.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t been in a situation where that was my only job. From the end of 2009 through the end of 2010, I didn’t have a steady paycheck, I didn’t pay rent, I was starving and stressed out and sleeping on couches while living out of a suitcase — but, I had nothing else on my agenda other than working on music and playing shows. (I couldn’t afford to hang out in recording studios.)

The problem was: it wasn’t sustainable. I couldn’t keep going like that unless I wanted to truly become homeless and live out of a car. Like, literally, put all of my stuff in a car and find places to park so I could sleep, and rely on friends and family to feed me and let me shower. It sounds so romantic, and for a long time I pushed for that lifestyle, but in 2010 and 2011 I started to realize that it was taking a major toll on my self-esteem and my self-worth, to not be able to take care of G,NA on my own. This was another big realization of the past year: going back and realizing that my self-worth was directly linked to my ability to take care of myself.

My Kickstarter campaign in 2011 was a turning point on my path. It was both humiliating and exhilarating to ask my supporters to help me make my second album, and then to see it actually happen. I had to ask for a lot of money, but the response was loving and overwhelmingly positive. So I learned that it’s okay to ask for help, but not to expect it. And it’s okay to ask for money, but only if it’s being directly invested into the project. And most importantly: there are enough people who want to see G,NA continue, that if I do my part in supporting and sustaining the project, it will continue to stay afloat. It will keep going, people will keep supporting it, and I will get to work on music and hang out in recording studios and play shows. It might not be in this glamorous, Radiohead-esque way that I used to fantasize about (can you even imagine what it’s like to be Thom Yorke for a day?!), but I can still have a career. I just might have to work Monday through Friday, and lead a normal life for the most part — which, I’m also realizing, is actually quite beautiful and fulfilling in its own way.

I have been working hard on my realizations and self-care this year. I have a plan and a budget for the next year that should get me to my $5,000 savings goal even if I don’t sell any songs or albums online, or any merchandise, or raise any money any other way. That feels really good. I’m an adult and I can take care of myself and my dog and my baby, which is this project. But that doesn’t mean I can’t ask for help. And I know (because people ask me all the time how they can help) that there are people who want to invest in the project, too. That’s why I started my Gittip account. As of today, I’m receiving $5.50 in anonymous tips per week, from people who want to see G,NA continue. I’m also donating $1 per week to myself on there, from my personal Gittip profile. It wouldn’t be fair to ask for investments if I wasn’t, myself, one of the investors! Check out my G,NA Gittip profile and my explanation of how it works.

This week is all about getting “up and running.” I sent out the email last week, and I’m working on a new website for G,NA, and I’m creating time to update this blog, and find new inspiration for working on new songs. This past weekend, I went to Chicago to see one of my favorite bands, FOALS, play a Lollapalooza aftershow. It was incredible. I stood up front in the small crowd and danced and sang along and enjoyed being a fan. The importance of connecting with music from the fan perspective is another realization I’ve had this year. I’m also realizing how much I miss just playing local shows, having regular band practice, and being part of my local music scene. I’ve gotten involved with the Nashville indie music scene on the fan side, but I’m finally ready to get back into it from the band side, too. Yes, band. I want to put together a band for live, local shows. I want to rely less on backing tracks and more on real instruments. More on that, later. The point is, I am excited to get up an running, to set all these plans and ideas into motion, weaving into them the newly-sprouted realizations I’ve been making about myself, and music, and life. There is so much new growth in my soul that I want to express in everything I do: my actions, thoughts, words, and music. It takes a lot of work to pull out those old weeds and plant something new. But it’s worth it!

More soon,

P.S. I am doing the Chopra Center’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge (presented by Oprah & Deepak), which started on August 5th. I highly recommend it! You have until August 9th to start from Day One:

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