Sarah Lentz
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Sarah Lentz

album reviews and artist reflections

No Going Home
Everything's All Right

Review, Interview and HTML © Russell W Elliot 2003
Images © 1999-2002 Denny Renshaw, Jared Roxby, Sarah Lentz
all images used with artist's permission
Formatted for 800 x 600 or larger windows
Last updated: 05 January 2003

Sarah Lentz is a rapidly emerging singer songwriter based today in New York City. Alongside artists like Rachael Sage, Marina Belica, Sylvia Tosun, Bernadette McCallion and other singers familiar to our readers, she has embarked on a self-financed musical career. We caught up with Sarah as she released her second album Everything's All Right and after her first gig with Rachael Sage. Sarah's rich and evocative vocal style can be compared favourably to Amy Grant.

Our indepth interview exposes Sarah's musical foundations, experiences in Nashville and her eventual transition to New York City where she beat a serious illness, found love and embarked on successful musical career. Read our review of her debut album No Going Home and as well as our review of her second recording Everything's All Right (2002) which are both included in this feature. Further details, additional photographs and a live performance schedule is available at Sarah's website.


Musical Discoveries: Please tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from?

  Sarah Lentz
Image © Sarah Lentz 2002

Sarah Lentz: I am from Murrysville, PA a rural suburb of Pittsburgh. We lived on 5 acres of woods in a cedar log home. Cool place to grow up looking back, but my brother and I didn't have many playmates! Perhaps that's why I starting hitting the piano keys though. We had an old upright in the house that was my grandfather's. My parents sang in the church choir and then started getting me into the church Christmas pageants and things like that and it just caught on with me.

Being in front of people was fun for me. Dad and I sang a couple duets together in chuch too. He would sit me on top of the church piano and give me a microphone, it was amazing. Then they got me some piano lessons from someone in the church. I practiced diligently and started singing and playing soon after.

Then at some point the bug really got me and they couldn't get me to stop practicing. My family would be out chopping wood or shovelling snow in the driveway and I'd be inside playing away--to my brother's dismay! What I really loved was the singing and playing at the same time.

So how did your style take shape from there?

I had some Amy Grant songbooks and they just took my heart away. When it came time for college, the only thing I loved was singing and playing so I thought I might as well major in piano. Little did I know how unprepared I was for that cut-throat world. I had a piano professor take me on for a year to try and get me up to the current standards none of us had a clue about but I did manage to get a good scholarship to a good music school at a university in Pittsburgh. I faired well, but knew I would never cut it classically. That's when I started writing a lot.

Sarah Lentz
© Sarah Lentz 2002


I had some Amy Grant songbooks and they just took my heart away. When it came time for college, the only thing I loved was singing and playing so I thought I might as well major in piano. Little did I know how unprepared I was for that cut-throat world. I had a piano professor take me on for a year to try and get me up to the current standards none of us had a clue about but I did manage to get a good scholarship to a good music school at a university in Pittsburgh. I faired well, but knew I would never cut it classically. That's when I started writing a lot.

I had done a bit of writing before college, but now I had something to sing about. I had gotten my first real boyfriend! Thus ensued eight years of my pining and crying about that guy. In the meantime I got involved in a very established chamber choir at school. We toured Europe a couple times and I was able to feel and see the effect that music has on people no matter where they are from or if they know the language. Music has power. I wanted in on that as much as possible. Because of this choir I had really learned how to sing too.

My voice was taking on a power of it's own. I remember coming home and going to my church at one point and while singing a hymn my brother nudges me to say "Man, your voice is good!". A compliment from your brother is a rare and weighty thing.

After I graduated, being a songwriter was first in my mind. To the chagrin of my piano professors, the second half of my senior recital was actually my own songs with a band. What a moment that was for me. I'll never forget it. Being able to emote and connect with an audience and to share my thoughts and ideas through song was what I felt made to do.

So I soon moved to Nashville, the natural conclusion for me. Because Amy Grant was from there! I got to meet all the Christian labels down there. I thought I was going to be the one to bring thought provoking, quality music to that industry. But they weren't ready for that. They all turned me away saying that I was talented and loved my work but it wasn't "Christian" enough. Whatever that meant, I ran far from that mentality. But I had no where to run to. I had moved down there knowing no one and had no money. I was sleeping on couches and waitressing and just kind of flailing my arms for something to hold on to.

How did it work out?

I never really found anything. I started singing at open mics with all the country people. I was the little girl with a keyboard on her shoulder that came in every week to croon their hearts out. But they always just patted my shoulder and sent me away, not really getting what I was about.

My naivete for life also became apparent while in this town, being away for the first time, but that's another story. I'm just glad I got into all my trouble in Nashville instead of New York where I was soon to be headed next.

I needed to get out of that town, and one day the answer arrived. My piano professor, now turned New York jazz player tracked my number down and offered me his place in the East Village for the summer. I hadn't ever thought New York City and option really but it was obvious that this was a sign and a ticket out of my worn out life in the south.

  Sarah Lentz
Image © Sarah Lentz 1999

We were starting to wonder what led you to New York.

I moved and never went back. I fell in love with the city and it's energy. I started writing like I never had before and connected with people like me all of the city. I soon put together a band and recorded my first album.

Who are some of your favourite artists?

In college I discovered all the amazing songwriters that I still admire today. Indigo Girls blew my mind with their realness and harmonies, Tracey Chapman and Sarah McLachlan felt like sisters to me. My boyfriend knew a lot more about music than I and opened up the world of the Beatles to me and Motown and Billy Joel. Unbelievably I hadn't heard these people before! My family kept it simple I guess. We listened to oldies and Christian music and I remember going to the library and checking out Elton John albums. I still feel like I'm playing catch up with all that's out there to hear and learn from!

And at some point I discovered Bruce Hornsby who rocks my world. I try and figure out his arrangements but his hands are over twice the size of mine I think! In Nashville I got to see Patty Griffin when she was just starting out and Jonatha Brooke and Shawn Colvin. They are all really important to me and encouraged me to think that I can really keep on doing this.

Tell us about how your singing style evolved to what you do today.

Sarah Lentz
© Sarah Lentz 2002


How it has turned into what I do today is that my voice pretty much is the first thing that people notice. It's pretty deep and resonating, and not like my regular sounding speaking voice. Not sure how that all happened, but it's what comes out. I have a friend who's a jazz singer and he's coached me a little about believing what I am singing, about reliving my lyrics every time I sing them. That has really helped make my songs more of an art. You can notice this going from my first record to my second.

How would you characterize your style of music?

I just call it mellow pop music. But that's not really saying anything. Pop really started out meaning Popular Music and it's not that popular--meaning the likes of Britney Spears! It's more of a vocal- and piano-based song. Like Elton John or Billy Joel or Joni Mitchell and Carole King. I don't know what to call it really. Most people say the genre is singer-songwriter.

Tell us about how you write your material.

Writing songs and the process has been different for me at different times in my life. It used to come from a dark serious place, when I was down and out in Nashville for example. But it always came from me needing to work something out in my head. And writing a song about it was usually the best therapy for me. I almost always write the lyric and music simultaneously. I'll either get a couple words the I like and want to sing about and start matching chords to the emotion of that song idea or vice-versa, will find a chord that just moves me a certain way and find lyrics to match how it makes me feel.

But my life has totally gone 180 degrees this year. I was miraculously cured of lupus, a disease that was attacking every part of me for about a year and half, and then met a man that was soon to become my husband. So song writing is taking on a different face for me. I have been doing music full time for a year and half now and writing has become a neccesity.

And I don't need it for therapy anymore! So sitting down and writing is almost scarier now. It hasn't found a comfortable home in my brain yet again. My style is definitely changing though. I want to go less singer-songwriter and push the boundaries more. Learn some new instruments and just expand in every way I know. I'm ready for some more growing pains.

Where do you find the inspiration for the lyrics and the messages within the songs?

It comes from different places, but mostly it was love troubles and questioning God and His role in my life. I say never date a singer-songwriter unless you intend to treat them really well! You'll hear about it on a record at some point. But really, the art of it all is saying something that's already been said probably in a different way.

  Sarah Lentz
Image © Sarah Lentz 1999

And for me it's really important for it to have beauty. There's no point for me, if it's not original, understandable--no point in singing if you can't understand the words--and beautiful. And I don't mean beautiful as in every song is a perfect little ballad. Dissonance is one of the most amazing and beautiful things to me. And, catching the ear by surprise is a wonderful thing too. I think my choral and classical background have taught me to lead the listener in ways they aren't expecting. I love that.

And how does the material all come together?

Once a song is finished I usually try it out with a band and see what it morphs into. Once it sticks and I want to record it, it changes and grows up until the day it's down on tape. That's what is so cool about art. It's not stagnant. At least it shouldn't be! Both my albums were recorded in my bass player's apartment in New York City. Teeny places with an occasional rodent friend and more than occasional sirens, horns and screaming neighbor is the norm for recording for me. It makes it such an organic and fun experience though. I wish I could afford to record more. Next to playing live, and writing, that's where I'm happiest.

Ethan Eubanks has been my drummer for the last two projects as well as Mark Zubek the bassist and producer. We've really melded as a group over the years. I think that I won't use that combo again so as to see what happens with other people though in the future. Again, art isn't static. Other than that, I've just sung back-ups for myself and managed the projects myself.

We can hear a development of the music, arrangements and style between your debut album and the latest one. Please tell us what you think about it.

Yes I have definitely grown as a songwriter and Mark as a producer. This record should have happened a long time ago, but I was in the throws of being sick. So these songs were itching to get out. I really wanted to start the third album before the second was finished if that makes sense. I am really happy with how it turned out though. Mark is really talented. All of you writers out there should hire him. I've had friends spend five times what I have on a project and don't come close to what Mark can do. But it's a stylistic thing.

Sarah Lentz
Image © Sarah Lentz 2002


I want to simplify on the next record. We can't recreate everything that happens on it live and I want that for another record. For example, I can't make the piano play backwards like in the intro to "Angel"! And overall, I want the moods to not be as dark. My voice kind of makes me be that mood though so I don't know how far from home base I can really go without sounding out of place.

Do you have a career or work outside music?

I used to work in the city. I had a great day job working for a loaded investment company. That's how I financed the first record. But after the Internet bubble popped, so did that job. I've just been scraping by ever since living off of CD sales and touring colleges. I'll soon have to pick up temp work to get by and to start saving for the next record.

What about the your performances?

I should get some video together because my live performance is my best asset I think. I just love being up there. I have fun and it really infects the audience I think. I try and not have any sort of wall between the stage and the audience. I joke around and make eye contact a lot. And then when we go into a song, it gets pretty serious. It's sacred for me when live music is happening. And the songs seem to take on important things for people. The lyrics seem to ring true for people, and in their own personal way. I love that so much. And it makes me feel like I am serving a purpose out there in the world.

Understand you'll be gigging a bit with Rachael Sage. How did you two meet and what's it like working with Rach?

Yeah Rachael and I just did a big holiday show last week. It went well c onsidering I got really sick that day and lost my cookies several times! She's a genre in and of herself if I've ever heard one. Her presence on and off the stage is commanding. She is a woman with a ceaseless mission. She has a label of her own and actual employees which never ceases to amaze me. Every time I hang out with her I leave reeling with information and new ideas. She is all about sharing and growing as a community. We met through UrbanMuse and I am so glad we did.

Sarah Lentz
Image © Sarah Lentz 2002

How has the internet influenced your musical career and the promotion of your music. Do you think that your website will bring you many new fans?

Well, if there was no Internet, I would have no career. It has been the only way for me to get my CD out all over the world and the only way for me to research and learn about this crazy business I'm in. My website does really well. I get emails all the time from people that just happened to check me out there and then come to the shows. Seriously, there would be millions less independent musicians if it weren't for the Interent. I for one am thankful and don't think the timing of me getting out in the world and the emergence of the Internet is just a fluke.

  No Going Home
Image © 1999 sarahjoylentz music

No Going Home Review

Sarah's debut album (Self-Released (USA) UPC 70213 20572, 1999) is a ten track collection of well-produced singer songwriter material. Sarah does the lead vocals, backing vocals and piano. Ron Cahute performs accordian on "Sailor Song" in the middle of the album. Kevin Zubek performs tabla on "Forever Now" and "Nothing To Lose." Ethan Eubanks does the drum work while Mark Zubek provides guitar, upright bass, keyboards, percussion and some backing vocals to "Just Everyday." The album's artwork includes both artist photographs and full lyrics.

Sarah's debut album opens with the title track, a lightly arranged rocker with her lead vocal right up top, like the rest of the tracks, never overshadowed by the arrangements. Piano and guitar work well together; percussion is crisp adding to the rhythmic and hooking quality of the material. Sarah's vocals are low but neither deep nor raspy. One will immedaiately be reminded of Amy Grant in the vocal styling. Sarah's tender texture comes through in both lyrical and vocalise segments. "Man & Woman" shows off more of the band's instrumental prowess with various solos mixing with the storytelling style of the song.

The first of the album's standouts is the catchy tune "Just Yesterday." It is vocally strong--layers of backing vocals add a lovely texture to the track--instrumentally rich and crisp percussion provides great rhythmic quality. The guitar solos during the instrumental bridge are superb. Equally strong is the powerful tune "Disintegrate." The track rocks somewhat harder and Sarah's vocals are therefore even stronger; additional layers and and tempo swings during the instrumental bridge soften the edge along with a tremendous piano solo.

Lightly arranged story-oriented ballads are well-arranged and showcase Sarah's vocal range while giving the instrumental contributors a chance to demonstrate their virtuosity as well. Such tracks as "Hidden Story," "Sailor Song" and "Forever Now" each convey different emotions with supporting melodies. Another album standout is "Lion and The Lamb." More upbeat and crisply underscored by percussion, Sarah's vocals are sung very quickly, further demonstrating not only her talent--listen for the sustained vocals during the choruse--but that of her band, especially during the instrumental bridges.

The simplest arrangement and most singer songwriter track on the album is "Suzanne's Song." Sarah plays a lovely piano and sings an evocative lead vocal part with excursions to the top of her range. The album concludes with the powerful ballad "Nothing To Lose." Well-arranged instrumentals provide the energetic foundation for Sarah's lead vocal, again exploring the top end of her range in the choruses. The clarity of her delivery in the number is terrific.

Sarah's debut album No Going Home is a great introduction to her music. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from here. While Sarah's second album builds upon it instrumentally, this debut is clearly worth a journey. The album is a must listen!

Everything's All Right
Image © 2002 Marshmallow Music


Everything's All Right Review

Sarah's second album (Marshmallow Records (USA) UPC 28740 64942, 2002) certainly builds upon her debut project. With eleven tracks, the project was mixed and produced to a higher standard with vocal layers and richer instrumental arrangements that strike the listener from first play.

With all music and lyrics written by the artist, Sarah provides vocals, background vocals and keyboards. The album was mixed and produced by Mark Zubek and was mastered by Roman Klun. The band is Mark Zubek (guitar/bass) and Ethan Eubanks (drums). The album's artwork includes full lyrics and several photographs of the singer.

The album opens with "Too Late" an upbeat yet gentle rocker. Layers of vocals and rich instrumentals are perfectly punctuated by crisp percussion. The material develops further with the hooking edge of "The World," a highly accessible number showcasing Sarah's vocals and the virtuousity of her band and album producer. As we've come to expect of Sarah Lentz's material, the album includes several gentler ballads showcasing her vocal work.

"Angel," "Listen" and "All Right" are powerful Amy Grant-style numbers with lush arrangements blending guitar stylings and crisp percussion. Each have their own characteristic melody that will hook different individuals based on personal preferences. "Boomerang" continues to develop the softer sound of the artist with vocals offset primarily by keyboard and piano arrangements. Crisp percussion and guitar effects provide a foundation for Sarah's powerful vocal in "At The Heart."

"Come To Me" is a piano-only backed ballad that showcase Sarah's evocaltively performed vocals and piano playing talent. "Open Up" adds bass and percussion that continues to illustrate the artist's songwriting and performing skill especially as the song reaches its crescendo. Lovely layers of backing vocals and lusher instrumentals add to the texture of "Mirror" but neither over shadow the lead vocal and piano-underscored melody. The album concludes with the accessible, more electronically-arranged and hooking number "Erase Him." Light backing vocals add a lovely texture.

The additional attention to production and richness of this album demonstrate significant progress from Sarah Lentz's debut project. An album that was played extensively prior to the preparation of this review in Musical Discoveries' rotation, it is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is clearly a must listen!

Presently generally available from the artist's website links, you can also listen to soundbites there. A purchasing link with our affiliation will be provided here when they stock the album.

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