Written by Sophie Wyatt
Equipped with her soothing, ethereal vocals, upbeat melodies and significant experience in terms of producing, Sarah Carton has made her mark on the UK music scene. And she’s not stopping there. Since releasing her first track back in 2019, Sarah has gone on to collaborate with a number of artists and establish herself as an experimental musician. We got the chance to catch up with her to discuss dismissing the constraints of ‘genre’ boundaries and her latest track ‘Lemon‘.
We kicked off the interview by asking Sarah about the music she experienced in her childhood. With such a range of sounds and interest in different genres, we were not surprised to learn that Sarah has always had a fascination with different types of artists. And she went on to explain that some of the very artists she was so in awe of growing up have gone on to help shape the music she creates today.
‘Oooh… that’s interesting. I think my first fan girl thing was that I was obsessed with Avril Lavigne. Loads of people in my generation had that when you’d watch Kerrang! music videos before going to school. I thought I was really cool, I’d wear the sweatbands and all of that. And then when Limewire happened I got into some really weird stuff. Stuff that had like folly produced sounds mixed with spoken word. I was a big fan of Kate Nash and Jamie T. I was obsessed with The Streets as well, ob-sessed. They were my first big things.
I think it was a culmination of everything that I was listening to then that has shaped my music today. I love the music I’ve just spoken about, but then I also love alternative female artists such I think my music embodies both of those genres combined. I got into production when I was 17, and I’d always try and like do the beats from The Streets songs. That was probably on Garage Band,‘ she laughed.
As a female artist in a male dominated industry, Sarah has faced her fair share of obstacles. To add to this, she is also a producer, which can be quickly disregarded by many in the music scene. We asked her if she has had to overcome sexism within an unbalanced musical society.
‘100%. I did a masters degree in music production and when I went to my graduation ceremony, all two years of the course was all men and just me. I produce a lot myself, and I do sometimes work with other producers. I want to co-produce things, I love someone else adding different elements to something. People just assume you’ve had nothing to do with the production. It’s difficult now as well because anyone can become a producer. The logic isn’t that hard to learn, especially the basics. I think people also get confused between producing, mix-engineering and mastering. They think that because you haven’t been doing all this stuff in the music industry for the past 20 years you can’t call yourself a producer, but that’s not how it works anymore.
Sometimes you’re made to question whether you are worthy of a production credit on a piece you have co-produced, but I don’t think men sit there and question that. I could talk about this for ages, it’s an interesting one. Being in the room and in being confident in the room is essential.‘
Sarah’s music balances many different sounds and genres. While her music is instantly recognisable as her own, she continues to experiment and play with sub-genres in order to find her niche. So to confine her broad musical spectrum to just one genre-esque label seems insulting. So we asked her to sum up her music outside of these constraints.
‘I completely agree. Whenever anyone asks about the genre of my music, I can’t give them a straight answer. I don’t think there is a straight answer, unless you are just a straight rock band or pop artist. But many artists don’t need to be in a bracket, because so many do mash up so many different kinds of genre. I do use some sort of spoken word, but I wouldn’t say I’m a spoken word artist. I would say it’s more talking actually. Sleepy, ethereally, I keep getting called alternative indie and I don’t know what that means. People can say whatever. For ages, my friends noticed this and sent it to me, I came up on Google as a rap artist,‘ she laughed. ‘Rap/hip-hop, I had to keep emailing Google to take it down.‘
‘Lemon‘, Sarah’s latest track, see’s her experiment yet again with new sounds and emotions. She explained that with this track she wanted to play on the sense of nostalgia and comforting emotions. While the lyrics and story are based on her own, there are a number of relatable senses throughout the track, hence why it has been a hit with fans. She went on to explain a bit more about the story behind the tune.
‘With ‘Lemon‘, I wanted to do something really different. I was actually doing my masters at the time and you had to do an album of work. And that’s where that started. I was writing about bubblegum pop and I just started writing it a couple years ago; just the lyrics. I wrote it all within an hour and I knew it was going to be in tribute to my mates at home and how much I love them. So I wanted it to feel nostalgic, so I started finding old sounds like MSN notification sounds. I just played around with those noises and fun synth sounds and mixing in glitchy tones.‘
Finally, we looked towards the future. Sarah’s musical career is only just beginning, and while she has achieved so much already, she is looking to complete many more goals. And we are excited to watch her career progress.
‘There’s a lot at the moment. A lot of the stuff I’m doing is collaborations. I’m working with a lot of electronic artists, there seems to be a lot of duos at the moment. It’s quite a mix, like quite housey. It’s really fun working between different kinds of artists. And then I have written an EP which needs to come out at some point. It’s just one of those things because an independent artist has to apply for funding etc. There’s steps, especially when you have to work another job outside of this.‘