San Diego based singer-songwriter Sara Petite has been at this business of writing, singing, and touring for several years now. She has a new album out, her fourth in the last seven years. It's titled "Circus Comes To Town."
What you'll hear on this new release is a collection of songs that reflect her past, present, and future. As Petite says "My past is such a strong part of my present and future."
What you'll also hear is a lonesome road in Sara's voice; it's the same winding road traveled by the Carter sisters, by Patsy Cline, by all those who have stood up against the stabbing wind of pain and loss. She's the road we all must travel someday.
NewFolkRadio conducted an interview with Sara while she was on the road somewhere between Paso Robles and Salinas, CA.
NFR: Is is fair to say that the motivation for your latest album, "Circus Comes To Town" was largely driven by your loss of your partner, Johnny Kuhlken? (Readers: Sara's partner of six years passed away in 2011.)
Petite: Yes, some of the songs were inspired by Johnny's passing away, but songs like Scarlett Letter, Mama Ain't Happy, Circus Comes to Town, Movin On, Perfume, Someday I'm Gonna Fly and the Master were all written before.
NFR: The songs on the album seem cathartic. Have they helped you worked through the loss?
Petite: Yes especially Ashes, I think it was what he would've told me and his friends.
NFR: Were you on the edge of giving up music after his death?
Petite: I have wanted to quit a million times but I will never be able to.
NFR: "Drinking to Remember" sounds like a song you wrote for or about Johnny, is that right?
Petite: Yes, but I had come up with the idea six months before he passed.
NFR: What or who pushed you forward, or put another way, who or what pulled you out of that darkness?
Petite: I had a friend named Steve Poltz that had me play a few shows with him to get back in the swing of things. I had a lot of friends, family and musicians that were very supportive. I think if I had it to do all over again I would've taken more time off. I started doing regular life things right away and wish I could've known it would've taken a toll on me, physically and mentally. But being thrown back in the ring really pushed me forward. My twin sister was and is still there for me.
NFR: Does your songwriting talent come from your family roots or who exactly influenced you?
Petite: We have painters, potters, poets and writers in our family. I am from the Pacific Northwest. My great grandma, Jean Petite, was a painter, her son, my uncle Irving, was an author, a nature writer. My dad for a hobby did poetry and pottery. My twin sister is also a songwriter.
NFR: Who are your musical influences?
Petite: Kris Kristofferson is the king of sensuality. I like the idea of leaving a lot to the interpreter's imagination. I love Help Me Make it Through the Night. I grew up on Loretta Lynn and love her strength, the plight of being a woman. I love Dolly Parton and her use of words. My Dolly favorites aren't always the big hits. There is a story song of hers called These Old Bones that is just wonderful. I love Steve Earle, Lucinda and Todd Snider. My ultimate favorite is Bruce Springsteen. I love writers that write songs that are different styles: old time, bluegrass, country, rock n roll. And write from a range of different subjects.
NFR: Tell us about your songwriting process.
Petite: I write about things I go through or from stories other people tell me. I love humor, simple humor. I think I write about being human. It is thrilling, heart wrenching, gut tearing, happy, hilarious, sexy, sensual and silly. I love to make myself laugh and smile so I like to write songs that are funny. I have family songs that are like a photo album of people that passed away. I have a hard time letting go. I have a lot of imaging going through my head when I write. It depends on the song regarding the process. I sometimes write the lyrics first, I might have song title or be journaling or make up a melody in my noggin. I love phonetics.
NFR: Like many of us, there is probably a moment in time when you would like to go back and change something. What is that moment for you?
Petite: People often hurt the people closest to them. I do my best to be kind and loving but I have hurt people I care about and have been hurt by them. It is difficult to be human. Johnny left this world so fast I didn't get to say goodbye and I am sorry for anytime I may have hurt him. I know he knows how much I loved him, but after I remembered all the things I should've done better. Ouch! :-)
NFR: Do you like being on the road, or would you rather play venues around your hometown? Road life can take its toll, yes?
Petite: I love the road, but when I am home I love consistency. I love my sleep. Hard on the road. I love meeting people, I love seeing different cultures, I love changing landscape. America is such a vast and different country, I know so many people who haven't traveled much and I don't understand it. I know I have the gypsy in my bones but I love being home too. I have a dog named Ricky and I can't always bring him :-(
NFR: This is your fourth album in seven years; what have you learned about making albums since the first one?
Petite: I had no clue what I was doing the first album. Second album I thought it was going to be a breeze, it wasn't. The third and fourth were a lot easier because I had a producer. Experience makes a difference.
NFR: And your overall goal? Where do you want your career to take you?
Petite: Overall goal is to never have to get a day job. I want other artists do my songs. I think of myself first as a songwriter and I would love to make a living doing that.
Sara Petite and her band will be performing in Newport, OR on August 22, 2013, at Nanas Irish Pub. And she's a Featured Artist this weekend on NewFolkRadio.com.