By MIKE CHAIKEN
Connecticut singer Sarah Barrios has been on a tear this past year.
Last year, she won Best New Act of The Year at The New England Music Awards. She is now nominated for Best Female Performer of The Year (voting ends March 1). She traveled to audition for “American Idol.” She’s been touring with The Jam Fest, which features music artists who have made their names via social media. Finally, she recently was selected by Connecticut magazine as “40 under 40 High Achievers to Watch in 2015.”
The Observer caught up with Sarah via email to talk about her career at this point, as she tries to build up support for her nod as Best Female Artist of the Year at the NEMAs.
Observer: First of all, after having been honored as best New Act last year, you’ve “graduated” to receiving a nod for best female artist. A year, for a musician, can be a long time creatively. How do you think you’ve evolved artistically and as a human being since last year’s honor? How is this manifesting in the songwriting?
Sarah: I think I’ve learned a lot about myself over this past year. For a while, I was trying to figure out what kind of artist I wanted to be, what kind of music I wanted to make, who was Sarah Barrios? But I think now, although I’m still learning, I’m so much more confident in who I am, the music I make, and what I write about. I think lyrically I’ve matured a lot and have taken more of a poetic turn, in the sense that my lyrics aren’t necessarily as generalized as they were before and much more descriptive and specific.
O: You also were just honored by Connecticut magazine. How did that kind of accolade make you feel?
S: Definitely extremely honored and proud. Being so young and trying to breakout into the music industry can definitely be difficult so it’s an amazing feeling to know that I have the support of the locals and state.
O: You also had a chance to be part of the “American Idol” process. First of all, why did you want to give it a go?
S: For me, it was an opportunity that was close enough to home that I could actually go for so I just thought, why not? It can’t ever hurt to take risks in life and I’m happy that I auditioned.
O: Talk to me a little bit about the process, and what your thoughts were on it?
S: I can’t really talk too much about it, but the audition process is quite long compared to what you see on TV. But it was really interesting to see how a large show like this works behind the scenes and how much work and labor goes into the show.
O: Your focus has been pretty much on the local scene and growing artistically within the confines of the Nutmeg State. With “American Idol,” you are entering the heart of the music business machine. How did it affect your ambitions to move beyond being a big fish in a small pond and heading out into much rougher waters where competition can be much fiercer?
S: I definitely knew going into it that the competition would be a lot more intense as I progressed, but I think that definitely is uplifting for me. It makes me feel like I’m moving in the right direction so it’s definitely made me want to breakout and start to travel to other places.
O: Seeing all of these talented singers, what kind of perspective did it give you on your own talent?
S: I’m not one of those people who hears another singer and then immediately thinks negatively of themselves. I just listen and recognize the positive things about their voices, but I am comfortable in the music, style and sound that I make. For me, hearing all of the talented performers was nice because it gave me a chance to hear different styles and cultures, which was super rad. But as for my own talent, I’m just comfortable being me and I think being around all of those people just enhanced that.
O: Talking about perspective, I also understand you’re also participating in the Jam Fest. First of all, what is the fest and how did you get involved. More importantly how do you think it will affect you to be performing in large markets like Toronto, Orlando, and Houston.
S: They had contacted my mom (Trish Barrios) after seeing me at a show a little while back and asked if I would be interested in participating. The JamFest is a multicultural entertainment festival with some of the biggest social media names of today. I think it will definitely be a great opportunity for me to get some exposure in places that I haven’t been to yet and be able to meet a lot of new people so I think it’ll be helpful in spreading the word about who I am and my music.
O: It definitely seems as if you’re gaining a lot of life experience as well as experience as a performer. How do you think this has had an impact on your songwriting?
S: As I mentioned before, I think it has helped me to learn how to process my emotions and write them in a more mature way. Instead of just having a feelings and then immediately trying to write a song, I sit with that emotion for a little while. I really think about how I’m feeling and what I really want to say and it’s become like a sort of therapy for me. My writing has become a lot more descriptive and specific and I really want the listener not just to understand the emotion, but to feel it and I think that’s a big step up from my previous writing.
O: Finally, what can fans expect in terms of recordings from Sarah Barrios?
S: Nothing as of yet, I’m currently working with some writers and mainly focusing on capturing my sound and style of writing, but hopefully I’ll have something out soon.
For more information on Sarah Barrios, go to www.sarahbarriosmusic.com; on Facebook, www.facebook.com/sarahbarriosmusic; Twitter: @sarahelizb; Instagram: Sarah Barrios
To vote for Sarah Barrios for the New England Music Awards (voting ends March 1), go to nemusicawards.com/ne-music-award-nomineesvote
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.