Singer Songwriter Sarah Burton

Photo by Jen Squires

Burton’s career started in 2006 with a broken heart, a broken down van, and a haphazard tour across Canada in a van named Lucky. This set the tone for an artist life driven by adventure, spontaneity, and a desire to connect with people from all walks of life. 3 Minivans, and several greyhound trips later, Sarah has played 200+ shows a year, released 4 albums and played many festivals across North America, finding and sharing the inspiration for hundreds of songs. Rooted in folk, and skirting pop, rock and country – Sarah’s music is a collage of her own adventures, and the people she meets along the way. Her songs have made their way to the big screen, earned college radio charting in US and Canada and commercial radio play in Canada and Europe.

Courtesy of:

Singer Songwriter Sarah Burton

Scott - Hi Sarah, thank you for agreeing to do an interview w/ my website Guitarz

Sarah - Thanks for having me!

Scott - Give our readers a short but descriptive label for your style of music.

Sarah - Rooted in Folk, skirting rock, pop and country. Think Jenny Lewis meets Neko Case with a bit of 90s era Sheryl Crow.

Scott - Where do you live and hang out with other musicians?

Sarah - I live in Terlingua, Texas right now, but I hang out with musicians all over... mainly in Austin where I recorded my upcoming album, but most of my musician friends are scattered along my old stomping grounds in Toronto and in Western Canada.
Scott - How did you first get into the music business?
Sarah - I graduated from music school in 2006 and I was like "I'm a musician now.... what do I do?" So I flailed my way through a couple indie releases, loaded up in a minivan with my friends and started troubadouring my way across Canada. We started to make a tiny little bit of money and figured it was better than nothing and kept at it. But before all that I started out busking - that was when I realized I could make a living playing music. That whatever happened, no matter how dire things get I could always grab a guitar and sing in the street for money.

Scott - What is the name of your band and where do you tour?
Sarah - I have had many bands over the years, starting with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys (we played 3 shows before we split up) and in 2013 I had a band with my friends Jeremy Knowles and Luke Stackhouse called Hot Peach. We played kinda pop/garage rock and put out an EP, a 7 inch, and we toured the US selling records and actual hot peach jam made by Jeremy. I also played in a band in Toronto for several years called the Ole Fashion, which consists of a somewhat rotating cast of killer players in Toronto. But the vast majority of my touring has been under my name as a solo act, or Sarah Burton Band, consisting of a rotating cast of great players from across Canada. I toured mostly out to Vancouver and back and a couple times to the East Coast. My last regular band was awesome but we split up as life changed. I had started touring solo down the West Coast and was falling in love with Texas and was ready to move to warm places,  Alfred Chow (guitar) put out a solo album and started touring Australia and beyond, Scott Nickol (drums) moved to Japan, Vic Beard (bass) got a cool job at Last Gang and opened a bar in Toronto called Wenona. Now I tour mostly solo and play occasionally with a band for select shows and runs. Luckily I have lots of talented friends. It's been 3 years since I toured Canada but I'm hoping to get back up there summer of 2019 and in the mean time I'm playing a lot in Texas, and touring out East to NC via LA, AL, FL, GA and TN. You can expect a US West Coast tour some time next year.    

Scott - Do you have any new music out there?

Sarah - I am getting ready to release a new album in 2019 called GIVE ME WHAT I WANT. I recorded it in Austin at Public Hifi. Elijah Ford produced it and plays guitars, Brad Bell was the engineer, Jason Baczynski plays drums, Chris Konte on bass, Tim Regan plays keys, Leigh Wallenhaupt plays strings on one song, and Sam Kossler plays pedal steel on a couple tracks. There is also a collaboration on one track with some of my favorite Winnipeg musicians - Sweet Alibi, and Dave Quanbury.

Scott - What type of Guitars do you play live?
Sarah - I mostly play my 1979 Takamine and my fender strat, but occasionally I play a Franken-phone built for me by friend Darcy (it's an old Epiphone small ish solid body with a single coil and a Bigsby) I also recently got back my old Guild - it had been stolen (for the second time) and ended up in evidence in Detroit. So we were just reunited after a couple years of it being lost in Detroit and I've been bringing it back out to live shows. Like I said, this is the second time this guitar has been stolen and made its way back to me. I've played probably 1500 shows with it over the last 13 years. So I don't know either it's lucky, magic, or maybe it's unlucky cause it keeps getting me robbed. I also play an old 1940s Gibson acoustic with steel string and electronics that I found in an antique shop in Uvalde. It’s pretty unique!

Album cover photo by Tony Drewry

Scott - What type of amps and effects are you using while playing live?
Sarah - I love my Princeton Reverb and it's an amazing workhorse. I even use it when I play keys and I just love the tone. Any Fender reverb amp does it for me, but I also love playing through a Marshall stack if it's on the backline. Effects wise I use MXR's distortion and analog delay pedals. I've been so happy with them I re-bought them twice after both thefts. I also have a TC Helicon vocal delay for when I want to get a little trippy.

Scott - How many days a year are you playing out in music venues?
Sarah - I generally play about 200 shows a year, give or take. I have my regular local gigs and private gigs when I'm home, and then I do a few larger tours.
Scott - What were your favorite recording artists and or bands as a teenager?
Sarah - Oh man, it depends on what day you ask me. I was and am still a huge fan of Sloan (an amazing Canadian rock band), Weezer and Greenday got me through the middle school blues, and I was into a lot of that pop/punk stuff like Blink 182, Goldfinger, Jimmy Eat World, The Salads. I also used to go to all ages dance halls and listened to a lot of Reggae, dance, and hip hop. I always had an eclectic taste though - I loved everything from Tupac to Sheryl Crow. I definitely loved the classic rock though - Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Zeppelin, Black Sabbath. But that just scratches the surface really.

Scott - Who have been your main influences on your career to date?
Sarah - It's only in looking back that I really see who has influenced me. Musically, Jenny Lewis, Ryan Adams, Wilco, Gram Parsons, Elvis Costello and Sloan have probably had the biggest impact. I always admired artists who had different projects and sounds. Muse is one of my all time favorite bands but I don't know if you'd hear that in my music. I've always admired Neko Case and Aimee Mann, Jenny Lewis puts on the kind of show that I want to put on and Butch Walker has been a big influence for me in writing this new record (although you may not exactly hear that in the new tracks, I was listening to a lot of his extensive catalogue right before I wrote these songs).  

Scott - What are you listening to these days?
Sarah - I've been playing Sam Evian like it's going out of style, two of my best pals put out amazing records last year which I listen to all the time (Cindy Doire - Panorama, and Dave Quanbury - Still Life with Canadian). I recently bought Ben Ballinger's latest record and have been enjoying it a lot. I listen to a lot of Serius XMU and have been enjoying discovering bands I didn't know before like Cigarettes after Sex, Phosphorescent, Soccer Mommy, as well as new cuts from bands I already knew and loved like Alvvays and Big Thief. When I first moved to Texas, I was discovering a lot of Texas Country for the first time and listened to nothing but Outlaw country kinda stuff - Waylon Jennings, Randy Rogers, Steve Earle Turnpike Troubadours, Niki Lane. I was dying to hear more female voices though and that craving took me over to more rock and alternative where women seem to be kicking ass right now.

Scott - I also don't want to forget this... Tell us about any other things you may be in involved in or any special interest besides music that is close to your heart?
Sarah - I'm pretty focused on music right now, but I'm also super interested in off-grid living, which is what drove me to move to a little desert town to begin with. My dream is to build a little house with solar power and water catchment. I am slowly but surely working on this. I also love swimming and discovering new beautiful places to swim. My travels are guided by music and swimming holes.

Scott - I would like to thank you for your time and candor with our loyal readers and keep on fighting the good fight to bring us some awesome music.


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