@story SETH PLATTNER
@images KAT HARDIN
A Bright Future for Sarah Silva
In what might have been another life, pop musician Sarah Silva was known across Arkansas as that very petit, flowing-haired brunette with the powerhouse voice who while performing wore jeans, a big gaudy belt buckle, and, perhaps her most signature item, an oversized black cowboy hat and boots. She’d saunter her way around the stage at the state fair with an infectious grin, belting out country numbers while occasionally yodeling—yes, yodeling—to really thicken the charm. These days, the only remnants of that boot-scootin’ Sarah Silva are the actual boots and, refreshingly, the grin. She’s gone from brunette to peroxide-blond, long tresses to shockingly short, cowgirl garb to eclectic rocker chic. “You have to look like a star if you want to be one!” she says. “I live my life in a way that makes me feel comfortable and beautiful in my own skin despite outside criticism. And trust me, there’s plenty. But, you do what you do. Besides, unpredictability is the new black."
And what about her music? It’s miles away from what you hear at the state fair, but the country twang isn’t entirely absent; and that’s fine—as a singer and songwriter, Sarah would rather glean from the various genres her musical life has taken her through than reject them.
Sarah is a born-and-raised Fort Smithian, who at the age of four made her public debut singing the national anthem for her preschool graduation at Central Prep Center in Fort Smith. In the years that followed, Sarah sang the song so much she became known as “that girl who always sings the national anthem,” a classification that wasn’t always positive. As much as talent draws praise, it can also draw criticism.
But she brushed off any negativity and kept on singing, both in the church choir and on stage where she pleased the crowds with country standards. As genre-pegged as her musical upbringing might seem, there were other influences: Ella Fitzgerald, Carole King, James Taylor, Billy Joel and, naturally, Whitney Houston, “the cat’s meow to every little girl in American in the 80s,” said Sarah. “I’ve always had a certain consciousness about my voice because I listened to her during my developmental years.” If that wasn’t enough, in her high school years Sarah (quite effortlessly) delved into musical theater, performing in shows like “Footloose” and “Little Shop of Horrors,” experiences that led her to Oklahoma State University in 2002, where for a year and a half she worked towards a degree in musical theater. Still, the theater world wasn’t satiating enough for an artist whose passion for performing is only as great as her passion for creating. That is to say, Sarah didn’t just want to sing songs; she wanted to sing her
Fast-forward eight years. Sarah has a degree from Belmont University in commercial music with an emphasis on music business. She’s educated herself, made the calls, met the people, waited the tables, and, most importantly, written the songs and played the shows to get her into the ever-thriving music scene of Nashville. So, if she hasn’t “made it” yet, it’s not for lack of effort. If anything, it’s simply because for Sarah, it’s her way, or no way. “I‘ve been handling all of the business aspects myself, which, while I am more than capable of doing, is a tiring process to tackle on your own. But, I certainly have an entrepreneurial spirit and welcome the challenge.” In doing so, Sarah has assured herself and her fan base that what you see, what you hear, and what she makes you feel in her music is entirely her.
Thus, we arrive at her in-progress world tour for her debut self-titled album, now available on her website, sarahsilvamusic.com. “I’ve finally finished it, so now's the time to promote it. After all, some of the best movements in history have begun on the grassroots level.” Speaking to those roots, she’s played for her hometown crowd in Fort Smith, but she’s also performed at Harry’s New York Piano Bar in Paris, where Gershwin composed “An American in Paris;” Googie's Lounge at The Living Room in New York City, where Nora Jones played before her twelve-Grammy-Awards days, and the Hotel Café in Los Angeles, where, on any given night, you can find established artists like Jason Mraz or Death Cab for Cutie playing the same bill as rising stars. Having sat in on her New York show where Sarah, lone at a piano, did a mixed-set of her own singles and a few sing-alongs, I can relate this: beyond her vocals, she knows how to write a killer hook (proof: “Wonderful Man” and “Grand Piano”) and encompass a singular emotion through not only lyric, but melody. I’ve known Sarah for almost fourteen years, and though I’ve been privy to every incarnation she’s ever had, I was, without a doubt, awed. With her pixie hair and black corset, she sat comfortably pounding on the keys, voice soaring, sinking, cooing and crooning, and, though I’ve never doubted Sarah’s inevitable success, I finally saw it crystallized in her performance. Her star rose that night, and it was brilliant.
After her tour she’ll return to Nashville to continue writing for herself and other artists. After that, the world is seemingly her glistening oyster. “For one, I’m not opposed to leaving Nashville, though I’ll always have roots here. Then, maybe another tour! And, I’d say I’m definitely at a point where representation is knocking on my door—and for the first time in my career, I am definitely willing to answer.”