Sara Beck is all about the music; practically a Nashville native, she has played internationally with Kevin Costner’s band, Kevin Costner & The Modern West, as well as performing onstage with Stevie Wonder. Beck’s self-produced album, Music For Lovers & Fighters, is a testament to her skill as a songwriter. Beck sits down with Cristy Zuazua for The Writer’s Share to talk about the origins of her music, life as a couple of songwriters, and her most recent projects.
The Writer’s Share: What led you to end up in Nashville? Did you always have the goal of getting to Music Row?
Sara Beck: My parents had a band when I was a kid, and their mandolin player moved to Nashville when I was about ten. We visited a couple of times when I was a teenager and beginning to write songs, and yes, I knew right away that I wanted to be here. I don’t think I knew it was a country town, exactly.We went to the Bluebird and saw people playing their songs on acoustic guitar, and I liked lots of folky singer-songwriters, so it was just that songwriting buzz that attracted me. I felt really at home in Nashville right away.
TWS: How did you and your songwriter husband Park Chisolm meet each other – was it music-related?
SB: We met at Vanderbilt in a biology class! ….Which Park dropped because it was too hard. True story. Pretty quickly, though, we started singing and playing together….lots of long nights of covers with two acoustics and our dinosaur PA. It was pretty magical, actually. I got so much better on guitar during that period of time, and learning songs that you like is an education in itself.
TWS: What do you do to break songwriter’s block, when you have it?
SB: Writer’s block….I don’t really get it. But what I do get sometimes is that feeling of knowing my last bunch of songs were nothing special – almost like filler. It’s a bad feeling, but I do think that sometimes you have to write those to get to the good stuff.
TWS: What is one thing you think most people don’t know about the world of songwriting?
SB: One thing I don’t think people know about songwriters is that inspiration and hard work come together in lots of different ways and proportions. Sometimes it’s all one and almost none of the other – both ways – and I think that’s a beautiful thing. I try to work hard as a writer so that when the inspiration is there in a big way, the nuts and bolts are easy to assemble, if that makes sense. But I’ve written songs I love on days I didn’t feel inspired at all – it really does come together lots of different ways.
TWS: If you could choose any duet to sing with Park, what would it be?
SB: A duet with Park….there are a few I love that we’ve done live, but never recorded. I hope one day we will record a version of Mercy Street, by Peter Gabriel. And maybe Barroom Girls, by Gillian Welch. We’ve talked about those two at different points, so maybe they will suit a project one day.
TWS: What current projects are you working on right now?
SB: Right now I am working on two really different things. One is what I’m thinking of as sort of Sade meets Alison Krauss in Wonderland…Daniel Lanois pours some tea….yeah, I don’t know! Something like that! We’ve got a few tracks done, and I’m not sure yet if it will be a full album or an EP that I’ll try to get out next summer. It’s a bit moody, but hopeful, I think. And Park is doing some really vibey, ambient stuff with guitars and keys that is actually inspired by the Daniel Lanois school. I want it to feel spacious, but focused. We’ll see.
The other project I’m working on is related to our amazing kids (three and almost one!) and my ongoing graduate work at Vanderbilt. I’m creating an album of kids’ songs about kindness – kindness to self, others, the Earth, and animals. It’s inspired by a nonprofit I’ve worked with called The Children’s Kindness Network that tries to teach young children about kindness in an effort to stop bullying before it starts. Some amazing friends have contributed songs, and local kids will be singing on the recording as well. It’s being funded by The Curb Center for Arts, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt, and I’m working with another graduate student named Colleen Russo who researches children’s media. It’s been fun to try the tunes out in our daughter Magnolia’s preschool classroom!
TWS: Can’t wait for the show – thanks for joining us!