Spread out on a table at January’s Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) exhibition hall at the New York Hilton was one of the more intriguing tchotchkes: red kazoo’s with singer-songwriter Rachel Sage’s signature emblazoned in white.
They were laid out at the MPress Records booth, MPress being the label founded over a decade ago by the award-winning art-pop chanteuse, which also has albums by Seth Glier and Melissa Ferrick in its catalog.
“I play kazoo on my song ‘Hey Nah’ when I perform it live,” says the New York-based Sage, who’s currently on a Southeast swing following four shows in Austin during South By Southwest. “Hey Nah” appears on her latest album, Haunted By You.
"I was commissioned by my oldest friend--and former co-producer--Andy Zulla to write something festive for his wedding,” she continues. “Andy is a very successful pop and TV producer/mixer and has very theatrical sensibilities, so adding the kazoo to the chorus and the piano solo was my way of keeping it upbeat and quirky--which is exactly how I think of his personality and sense of humor.”
She adds: “I also was inspired to write the song--just in the nick of time for Andy's wedding--by seeing my friend and sometime studio bassist Will Lee record on another song of mine a few weeks prior. I hadn't come up with anything lyrically yet, and Will is such an exuberant personality who has such an infectious love of The Beatles--as a member of Fab Faux--and the music-making process in general, and is also just such a loving guy all around, that right after our session I immediately wrote the chorus. I had a kazoo on hand and in lieu of a harmonica it just became ‘the part.’”
Sage does indeed play harmonica, “enough to play this basic a melody,” she says, “but I’m no expert!”
Not surprisingly, fans started asking Sage at shows if they could have a kazoo to join in with.
“So I decided to press up a few with my name on them and also brought them to Edinburgh Fringe [Festival] when I played it a few years ago,” she says. “Everyone seems to love kazoo! Maybe it just makes them feel young--and it’s so easy to play. But it just caught on.”
And yes, sage Sage fans, the Rachel Sage signature kazoo is for sale, “but only at my live shows,” she says, “at least at the moment!”
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