Sounds Local: Katie Sachs misses us
Last year at this time, Katie Sachs was living in Greenfield. She had a boyfriend, a job and was an established singer-songwriter. She had just founded the Woman Songwriter Collective, a group that included Christa Joy, Wishbone Zoe, Lexi Weege, Carolyn Walker and Lisa Marie Ellingsen.
Life was good, yet she had a nagging feeling that something was missing. Last fall, she acted on this feeling and moved to Austin, Texas, a city known for its vibrant music scene.
“I was feeling stuck,” said Sachs in a recent phone conversation from her new home. “I’m from the valley and had been living there for the past four years and it was starting to feel really small.”
She said it’s been a challenging move and, while she doesn’t plan on living in Austin forever, she knows in her gut that right now it is where she is meant to be.
“I’m crazy homesick,” said Sachs, who at the time of our conversation was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the crowds that had descend on the city to attend the celebrated South by Southwest music and film festival. “I miss the collective a lot and think it’s cool to see them taking off. I can’t wait to see them again.”
Sachs returns to the area next week for a series of shows in support of a Kickstarter campaign she recently launched to fund the making of a new album.
Sachs’ tour of the Pioneer Valley will begin on Thursday, March 27, at Luthier’s Co-op, 108 Cottage St., Easthampton, at 7 p.m. On Saturday, March 29, she will appear with the Woman Songwriter Collective at the Thirsty Mind, 23 College St., South Hadley, at 7 p.m. On Sunday, March 30, she will perform at Mocha Maya’s, 47 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls, at 2:30 p.m. She will also be performing later that day with Dave Dersham at Deja Brew, 57 Locks Village Road in Wendell at 8 p.m. All shows are free, although tips are welcome.
Sachs grew up in Amherst, the child of two psychoanalysts. She was interested in music and social activism from an early age. She started writing songs and performing at 13 and released her first album, “Places Not on Maps,” in 2012. She was living in Greenfield and working at Community Action. The album, which has traces of everything from jazz to new wave, was inspired in part by traveling to places like Kenya when she was a college student. And it was traveling, this time to the Kerrville Folk Festival held each spring outside of Austin, that got her thinking about a change of scenery.
“I had been to Kerrville before, but when I went in 2013 it really blew me open,” Sachs said. “I met all these great musicians and songwriters and something said to me, ‘you have to come here.’ It didn’t make sense, but it was like the universe speaking.”
From that point on, she started removing herself from her life in Massachusetts and in the process sparked a songwriting spurt.
“After I left my job, I suddenly had the space to write,” she recalled. “And I had all this material since I had given up three major things — a job, a boyfriend and my apartment. Things just started pouring out of me.”
Once Sachs made the move to Austin in the fall of 2013, she started connecting with a host of musicians, many of whom she had met at Kerrville. The city provided an environment that nurtured her creativity and Sachs continued to immerse herself in songwriting. The result is 12 new songs that will appear on her upcoming second album, “The Giantess of Little Things,” a work that Sachs said deals with themes of biology, growing up and reckless abandon.
She launched a Kickstarter campaign on Valentine’s Day to fund the making of the record and the campaign will run through April 2. If you’re interested in learning more or in making a donation, visit her website at www.katiesachs.com or go directly to www.Kickstarter.com and type in Sachs’ name.
“I feel my reason for coming to Austin was to do this album,” she said. “I don’t think these songs would have come if I had stayed and kept doing what I was doing.”
Sachs admitted it’s an ambitious project as these songs tackle a wide range of subjects, from her fascination with biology, to 9/11, to exploring the sacrifices that individuals make in their lives. She has also set to music some poetry written by her father, a professor of social work at Smith College who passed away 12 years ago.
“I was nervous using his poems. I worried it wouldn’t work or it would seem forced,” Sachs said. “But I found out a lot of the poems connect with some of the lyrics I was writing. It’s been a powerful way to connect with that relationship.”
She has already begun recording some of the songs, working with some top-notch Austin-based musicians, including Brannen Temple, a drummer who has worked with Bonnie Raitt, Chaka Kahn and other notable musicians.
“The last album was more synth and produced,” Sachs said. “This one is all live instruments and has much more of an indie-jazz feel — my biggest musical influence — as well as some acoustic folk songs that are just me and the ukulele as well as some fun, sing-alongish songs.”
“This album feels like a baby growing in my body,” Sachs said with a sense of excitement in her voice. “My hope for this is that listeners will tap into some things within themselves that they are working on or are wrestling with.”
“The Giantness of Little Things” will be released in the fall. Afterward, Sachs hopes to come up with a plan that will allow her to divide her time between the Pioneer Valley and Austin. She also would like to do some touring, possibly with members of the Woman Songwriter Collective.
For right now, Sachs is looking forward to coming home and to playing these new songs for a local audience.
“It will be great to be back,” she said. “I feel like I have learned and grown and changed more in the past six month that I did in the previous two years. I can’t wait to see the collective ladies and all the other people that helped me through this transformation. There are some amazing people in the valley.”
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org