Chase Denton

After releasing her latest EP, Struck By Lightning, 22-year-old pop singer-songwriter Sara Kays chats with Variance’s Ethan Ijumba for a brief Q+A interview to discuss the inspiration behind her recent EP, transitions in life as well as her career, and personal growth as a singer-songwriter. Be sure to scroll down to read the full interview below; as well as for more information, updates, and news related to Sara Kays be sure to follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok: @sarakaysmusic. 

EI:
So you're Sara Kays, you're this artist who came from Indiana, started playing covers in restaurants from having this huge influence from bands and artists such as Mayday Parade, Ed Sheeran, Alec Benjamin, and Panic at the Disco! among others. After that you went from Indiana you went to Georgia and now you're in Nashville making just records that are just being listened to by everyone cumulating millions of streams. So with that my first question is, how has the transition been for you going from a small town singer-songwriter performing local gigs to now having just millions of streams as well as fans listening to singing along to your music?

SK:
It's so awesome because in Indiana I started playing those kinds of gigs at restaurants and bars when I was probably 13 or 14 and it kind of became my job to play covers for three-hour gigs. So it felt like a job and I decided to kind of try and pursue writing more and once it really became my job, it's been such an amazing feeling cause that's what I wanted to do, but it's been awesome. 

EI:
To go along with that based on how you made transitions regarding your career, recently you signed to Atlantic Records. How exactly has the transition been from you from going that as an independent artist, now having this viral fame and now you're having this major label, just backing and supporting you at the moment? 

SK:
It's been really good, my producer Steven, we still kind of just make music as we always did and we have more people kind of like helping us on the back end and it's been really awesome.

EI:
So along with that your first EP titled Struck by Lightning just dropped on Aug. 6. How exactly would you describe it based on themes meeting and just emphasis that you have on it musically? 

SK:
Yeah so each song on the EP, I feel like has it's kind of its own story, but with my last EP Camera Shy, I went through all of the songs and the lyrics to figure out what to call the EP.  So I chose a lyric from one of the songs and I was doing the same thing with the new EP but I just couldn't figure out what to call it. So if you can hear that somebody is like building a fence. I just couldn't figure out what to call it and I thought that I just wanted to call it Struck By Lightning, which is the title of one of the songs, but that song specifically is about just like being there for a friend no matter what, even if it's like they don't want to talk about something and just laying down next to them or whatever. I kind of feel like that it's kind of how I hope like this song can be for people sometimes. 

EI:
So with that being said, Struck By Lightning is supported by previous singles, such as “Future Kids” “Traffic Lights”, as well as “Remember That Night” when you compare the composition process from your first projects, Camera Shy, is there anything that you did differently or that you learned from the first project that you now carried onto, Struck By Lightning

SK:
I feel like there's not a huge difference because I feel like I am still just kind of like telling a story with each song and then kind of like putting them together on a project. I feel like I will have a different mindset going into recording an album because it's like I wanted to feel like more of a four project. I don't feel a huge difference honestly with these EPs when it comes to me and Steven I feel like we do get better with each song.

EI:
So with how you guys have been consistently working together and he's such a positive factor in terms of working with you on your projects. How did you and Steven come together? And how would you describe your guys this process of how it goes when making music? 

SK:
Yeah, I met Steven like five years ago, I think we both used to post covers online and somebody connected us because they wanted us to sing together and then we just became friends, and we both ended up in Nashville eventually and he produced my first EP for me, I was like three years ago by now, and from there, like we just kind of kept working together and going together and it's been great. 

Christian Sarkine

EI:
So based on how you also do collaborate with others your EP, Struck By Lightning features as the title and lead single, as well as a video, featuring Cavetown.  How exactly did the collaboration and composition go for the both of you when you guys came together and made the song? 

SK:
Yeah, it was really cool I've been a fan of Cavetown for probably three or maybe even four years and I started writing this song start highlighting it in October. I think me and Steven recorded part of it in the next month and we thought the song would be cool as a duet. So we kind of sat on it for a little while thinking of I don't know who we thought should be a duet and I was connected with Cavetown through Robbie to work on writing something together and they were like what about him? So he sent it to him and he sent back a version with the verse, he wrote and add some stuff to the chorus and we were just like this is it, this is really good! It couldn't be better and I feel that it went well and Steven had just finished producing it and it was a really easy process as far as not having to send it back and forth that much.

EI:
With that being said, is there anyone that impacted your career the most that changed it for you musically? 

SK:
Honestly, that's kind of Alec Benjamin for me because when I decided around the time I decided I wanted to shift my focus over to songwriting. I had just discovered him and I discovered how good his songwriting was. So he inspired me a lot at that time.

EI:
So a similarity between you and Alec Benjamin and I can see the influences a lot of you guys, Well both of you both use a lot of the storytelling element of songwriting. So through your music, a lot of it has you cope and just therapeutically cover topics such as divorce between your parents, such as like “Same House” or body image when you did “Smaller Than This” or with self-love when you made “Chosen Last”. So when taking these topics from your life and putting them into lyrics when you compose it, does it start with you just writing it out of how you're feeling, or do you converse with others to kind of get more emotion out of it?

SK:
Yeah, I feel like I almost always start with some lyrics first. A lot of times like write down a few of the lyrics or I just used my notes app on my phone. But I write down to the lyrics before kind going into the melody part of things, and I feel like that helps me and sometimes it does come out quicker if it's something I'm feeling at the moment. But other times songwriting for me can be fun to just think of a cool story to try and make it into a song too; It's not always like something I'm heavily going through, but it does end up being that a lot of times.

EI:
Was it an easy transition for you to go from just being specifically a singer to then learning how to become a songwriter as well? Or did you kind of have some struggles at the moment with transitioning?

SK:
I did start writing a little bit at the age when I started singing and playing guitar. But I wasn't super into writing yet, once I got to a certain point where I was like playing so many gigs and I was like, I don't want this to just be my job, I realized that how important it was to be good at songwriting and like how important the songs were and so it's just kind of like clicked for me that I need to focus on this while I was still playing those bar gigs and playing like busking to make money while kind of focusing on that. It probably was like a good two years before I felt like, okay, I wrote maybe one or 2 songs that I feel confident enough to record and kind of went from there. 

EI:
So with that being said, have you ever written songs for others? 

SK:
If maybe once, so barely I'm open to it, but I'm just like so focused on writing my stuff right now, that just doesn't come up that often. 

EI:
Do you feel it's because you have such a personal connection to your songs which is why you like to keep it to yourself or just want to focus on just you at the moment?

SK:
Yeah, I have done I have done a few co-written works so far with Steven and some writers and they can be fun. But I feel like I've learned that I don't want to bring topics that are personal to them because I don't want to talk about that kind of stuff to random people. So I feel like writing with other people can be fun too if you have a cool idea that you really want to hash out and try to make into a song, but for me the personal stuff I just usually prefer to write by myself. 

EI:
With that being said, out of all the songs you've written, they're extremely personal, they're extremely emotional, just relatable for others too, for those that relate to which one you feel you're the proudest of, that resonates with you the most.

SK:
I think I would say “No Matter The Season” because it's just like the first time I opened up about something hard for me to talk about. 

EI:
So now with the EP out, is there anything that you have planned that we can expect such as anything touring-related or is there anything that you plan to put out? I know there are visuals of course, that there will be expected to be released, but do you want to take a little bit of a break musically or just want to focus on writing again?

SK:
Right now I’m in the midst of recording the songs as we speak. So I don't want to take a break from music, but I also am going on tour. And the end of well the end of this month, I'm opening for Mt. Joy for a week and then going on my own tour starting in October.

EI:
Is it your first time headlining? 

SK:
Yeah, this will kind of be like my first real shows that aren't just like playing covers at a bar kind of or bus game. 

EI:
How do you feel about that? Do you get nervous at all or are you excited to do it? 

SK:
I'm a little bit nervous, it was kind of like the timing of it since people didn't start listening to my music until it was like March of 2020 I think. So it was like right when everything started closing down. So I haven't been able to play any shows since then, so I’m a little bit nervous but I feel like even though they're going to be way different from gigs, and I feel like I've performed enough times feeling uncomfortable performing live so that helps. 

EI:
As far as this right now with the whole tour plan, that's like your short-term goal that's going into what's going to happen in your long-term goal for you musically in your career. Do you have any specific plans that you want, they want to accomplish?

SK:
Honestly, I don't feel like I have a lot of big goals, I want to do this for sure, I just want to keep making songs and like having fun because I feel like I'm still having the same amount of fun I was having a year ago and I just want to keep that alive.

EI:
Like don't lose that energy and kind of continue to maintain and have grounded aspect as a singer-songwriter, you don't want to a mindset of I need this or I want this to feel fulfilled or successful. 

SK:
Of course, that's exactly how I feel.