Musician, American Idol Season 10 Contestant, Foodie, and blogger at Sarah's Musical Kitchen
BG: I think when we were kids, our first exposure to music, for better or worse, was whatever our parents were listening too. I came up on classic country from both sides, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs. And a part of me still loves that genre very much. Is it the same for you? What music were you first exposed to and how did that exposure come? Do you still love it now? Do you find yourself returning to it for comfort, listening to it or singing it?
SS: Yes yes and yes! Ha it’s funny because I grew up in a pretty strict household until I was a young teenager. My parents were ordained ministers and my mother was a preacher’s kid and choir director. So, needless to say, my exposure to anything that wasn’t Christian music was pretty much limited to Whitney Houston.
During the audition process we had to do a quick interview for the Idol website at the end of a very long day. The last question was, who is your favorite performer of all time, I don’t know why my mind went so far back, but the words, Whitney Houston came out of my mouth. Not a single one of my favorite singers of today, but one of the very first artists I was exposed to. He must have asked a question earlier that triggered my inner most childhood memories, because all I could think about was time spent dancing in the living room to “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” when I was about 4 years old.
So in my usual long winded fashion, Gospel and R&B music will always strike a chord with me and bring back some amazing childhood memories. It definitely had a huge influence on how I sing to this day.
BG: Tell me something about American Idol that someone watching at home wouldn't know.
SS: Well to some this might be fairly obvious because they talked about it so much in the news this year, but the audition rounds you see on TV are not the first initial rounds. It’s actually the fourth round. You have to go through a huge cattle call audition followed by a few producer auditions before you even meet the judges. So to make it even that far is quite an accomplishment.
BG: On your blog, Sarah's Musical Kitchen, you said "Do you have that one genre of food that hits every inch of your taste buds?" For me, growing up in Amish Country, I'm a sucker for simple foods, beef and potatoes, chicken and buttered noodles. You answered "Well, I do, and it’s Mexican food. Throw some chiles, cumin, cilantro, avocados…etc etc…into any dish and I’m immediately comforted." How did that happen? What is your connection to Mexican food and how/why has it become an annual birthday feast in your household?
SS: Chicken and buttered noodles are delicious by the way. I am completely and utterly obsessed with Mexican food. There really is never a time that I get sick of it because it has all of the flavor combinations I crave. My first connection with Mexican Food is my family’s obsession with it as well. It’s pretty unhealthy actually, I think we all need to seek help. When I was little it was our weekly tradition to go out and eat Mexican Food. My dad is also an amazing Cajun cook who has cooked with a lot of spice ever since I could remember. So now, if I don’t have some level of heat in my food I almost don’t enjoy it.
I moved to Texas about 8 years ago and the Tex-Mex down here is unlike any other Mexican Food in the country (strongly opinionated about this subject if you can’t tell). If I ever move away from Texas I know I’ll be okay because I’ve eaten so much Tex-Mex that little bits of inspiration make its way into practically everything I cook, and I can make some mean Mexican Food.
BG: Who's sexier: Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, or Randy Jackson?
SS: Jennifer Lopez, I swear she glowed in person.
BG: Being a Blues and Soul singer / songwriter from Dallas, TX, what artists from those respective genres do you admire most? How has that particular region of the country affected your music?
SS: There are so many amazing artists throughout the years that have inspired me. Right now the artists that have inspired me the most, musically, have been Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, Joss Stone, Etta James, Johnny Lang, John Legend, and of course Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Aretha…and on and on. Blues and Soul music strikes the biggest chord with me and it’s always what I turn to when I need a little soul pick me up.
BG: If you could steal anyone's voice who's would it be?
SS: Right now I would have to say Beyonce. That woman is flawless and as a vocalist I listen to what she can do, and the notes she hits with such ease yet with so much power, and I’m amazed. Like her music or not, that girl has some impressive pipes on her and she’s amazing live.
BG: As an artist, what is the appeal of being on a show like American Idol? Other than winning, what do you hope to accomplish by auditioning / making it to Hollywood, etc?
SS: Definitely the exposure more than anything. It’s a great platform that propels you in front of millions of people so quickly. Someone like me living so far from New York or LA, sometimes it’s hard to get out there and make a dent in such a huge industry. American Idol definitely gives people like me an amazing opportunity, and I’ve always just loved the show.
BG: As artists, I think we all have that one song, that one book, that one painting, that one really great dish, that we wished we would have gotten to first. As a fiction writer, I really really wish I wrote The Cat in The Hat. What about you? What do you wish you would have gotten to first?
SS: Flautas. I wish I would have invented Flautas. Those simple, crispy, and delicious golden corn tortillas stuffed with cheesy goodness. Perfection.
BG: Who's your favorite musician that nobody's ever heard of?
SS: I don’t really listen to a lot of bands that are that unknown. I’ve been a huge fan of Ellie Goulding for the last few years and am happy to see she’s starting to make an impact here in the states. Her voice is so unique and refreshing, love her.
BG: What instruments do you play and what originally inspired you to learn them? What's your favorite? Which are you best at?
SS: I’ve been playing the piano for about 23 years now and was classically trained for 12 of those years. I started taking vocal lessons when I was 6 and learning the piano just fell right in with it. I stop playing for a few years and have finally made my way back to the keys over the last year or so and it feels better than ever. I definitely have a new found respect for the piano that I’ve never had before.
BG: Who's sexier: Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray, Anthony Bourdain?
SS: Um Bobby Flay!! He whips up some Southwest Cuisine like no other, and that is pretty sexy.
BG: What is your favorite cooking show?
SS: I really can’t pick a favorite but I would say my top 3 are Giada at Home, Chopped, and Iron Chef America.
BG: Where does your inspiration come from to write lyrics? What song have you written that you are most proud of? Why?
SS: I pull a lot of inspiration from the people around me and what they’ve gone through. I’m surprised at how dark most of my music is because I’m such an upbeat person. But I’m specifically drawn to different minor and inverted chord structures and their darker overtones. So I tend to create stories in my mind to match the melody I write on the piano. I’m working on writing up beat songs more often and my husband has definitely been the inspiration for the happy songs.
My latest original, What’s it Like, I’m very proud of because it’s the most personal and honest song I’ve ever written. It’s just about my dreams and the fears that keep me from them. When I started writing it the words just came out so quickly. I’m trying to tap into that inspiration again for some new tunes I’m working on.
BG: Where did your love for food come from and what is your earliest memory of you cooking? What dish are you most proud of? Why?
SS: My love for food started with my dad. I remember sitting on the counter and helping him put the seafood in the gumbo when I was a little girl. He was never afraid to cook with exotic ingredients and lots of spice when we were young, and it definitely had an impact on my love for food.
The dish I’m most proud of would have to be my Southwest Chicken Spring Rolls. I made them just the other day and they were sooo good. They have the perfect blend of spice and southwest flavors and were so simple. I like simple and delicious.
BG: Who is your favorite person to cook for? Why?
SS: My husband hands down. He has the best ideas for dishes and he’s not picky at all. Even when some of my best cooking attempts have gone so horribly wrong, he can still find something positive in the dish. When I’m stumped and have run out of ideas I always turn to him and he’ll give me 10.
BG: Who's the best American Idol contestant from any season not to make the Top 12? Who is the best Top 12 contestant not to win? Who is the best American idol of all-time? Who deserved to win the least?
SS: My favorite contestant not to make it to the Top 12, I have to say Kendra Chantelle of this last season. That girl was cut way too soon. She has amazing vocal skill and is absolutely gorgeous.
For the best non winning top 12 contestant I have to say Adam Lambert because he was the first person to pop in my mind. He’s one of those, love him or hate him, but you can’t deny the skill.
I would have said Kelly Clarkson was the best American Idol of all time, but I’m leaning towards Carrie Underwood now. Every time I see her perform she sounds better and better and she’s flawless live.
I hate to say that someone didn’t deserve to win it because you had to have worked your ass off to make it that far, so props to all of the winners and non-winners.
BG: What are your three favorite books of all-time?
SS: My two favorites growing up were A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Great Expectations. For some of my recent favorites, I think I’ll have to keep those to myself (blushing).
BG: What do you love more, singing or cooking? Why?
SS: They are both my two biggest passions, but singing will always be my first. I’ve always been a foodie but have just discovered my love of cooking within the past 5 years. I’ve been singing my whole life and it’s definitely what brings me the most joy.
BG: McDonald's. Love it or hate it?
SS: Oh no, I’m going to make some enemies here…um, no comment.
BG: What will be going on in Sarah's life 10 years from now?
SS: Hopefully lots of cooking, lots of singing, and raising a family that I can cook for and sing to!
BG: If you could sing a duet with anyone, past or present, who would it be?
SS: Joss Stone because she’s a recent artist that has influenced me the most in the last few years. The soul in her voice and the way she moves on stage reels me in every time I listen to her or watch her perform.