||As cliché as it may be, absence makes the heart grow fonder couldn’t be a more genuine statement for singer/songwriter Sarah Borges as she embarks on her next musical adventure, the release of her new album, Radio Sweetheart. After a year away from pouring her heart and soul into her music, penning her emotions into powerful lyrics, and leaving it all on the stage during rivetinglive shows, her love for her craft grew that much stronger.
“After seven years, the Broken Singles had run its course. It was an amicable breakup. After a year, it hit me like a ton of bricks – I didn’t have to stop doing music,” says Borges, who under the name Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles released four critically-acclaimed records (with Blue Corn Music and Sugarhill Records), toured nonstop, and drew praise from the most elitist of music scribes from Rolling Stone, The New York Times, USA Today, Creative Loafing, The Boston Globe, and others.
Among the supporters were Rolling Stone magazine, which described the artist as “friendly pop–rock with bits of twang, rockabilly, and ’50 pop”; and The New York Times who described her as “a modern-minded honky-tonker with a retro streak.” Paste magazine hits the nail on the head when they wrote, “she has all the good parts of Sheryl Crow’s sound without the L.A. pop suckdom.”
This time out, the singer/songwriter/guitarist took the more daunting, yet more courageous, route of going it alone. “It’s scary and freeing at the same time to do a record where I don’t have anyone to answer to but myself. A big driving force for this record was to find myself again and remind myself how much I love music after being away from it. I had felt this sense of loss and didn’t realize how integral music was to me,” says Borges, who began her musical journey in musical theater at Emerson College before making a name for herself in the vibrant rock scene of Boston.
The Taunton, Mass.-born artist got a boost of confidence when she ran a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for Radio Sweetheart. “Within one month, I received more than 150 percent of the money I needed. I couldn’t believe it. Donations would come in and there’d be $1,000 from someone I didn’t know, and donations from China. Holy cow! It was heartwarming and it gave me my confidence back,” says Borges, who is newly signed to Booneville, Kentucky-based Lonesome Day Records, home to her frequent touring mates Girls Guns and Glory.
Having a few of her musical heroes in her corner for Radio Sweetheart worked wonders to get her musical mojo back as well. The 10-track album was cut at Woolly Mammoth Sound, which is owned by Dave Minehan, singer/guitarist of Boston rock legends the Neighborhoods. Steve Berlin, who played saxophone and keyboards with Los Lobos for 30 years, produced the record.
“They were so encouragingevery step of the way, especially with my guitar playing – making sure it was loud in the mix and making me realize I’ve really grown as a guitar player,” she says. “I think, as a singer, I’ve learned to convey emotions through my voice better. And, I’m just not insecure anymore. I own what I say in my songs even if it’s silly.”
While Borges says that the record isn’t really autobiographical, it does explore many of the little nooks and crannies of her personality. “I think others have similar nooks and crannies they can relate to. ‘Start Again’ is a good expression of where I am in my life right now. It might not be totally autobiographical, but there are elements of that and of the idea of a fresh start – ‘crying over lost time,’ and the wish that ‘the road that was long and hard would be short and silver.’”
Another standout track is “The Waiting and the Worry,” which includes a clever nod to one of Borges’ favorite bands, NRBQ. “I’m a huge fan of NRBQ and we sort of checked a chord from their song, ‘Ridin’ in My Car.’ So it was an honor to have their piano player Terry Adams play on it. When I’m writing songs I always like to think of how it’ll play live and this is one I really like to perform. It makes people happy. Lyrically, it tells the story of a girl driving in the car, listening to music, and thinking about a boy,” she says.
Known for delivering memorable live performances, the artist strives to capture that live feel on the record and succeeds most on “Record on Repeat.” “This is the closest to the live show out of the all of the songs. It has lots of energy. I went over to Ryan Hedgecock’s house when I was out in L.A. one night. His band, Lone Justice, was instrumental in mixing punk and country, and I am so enamored of them and him. We drank some tequila and ended up writing this song that’s just a vignette of a rock and roll; fast girl and guy get together in a burst of flames, personified in the record they can’t stop listening to. It was a really fun and natural writing experience,” she says.
“Girl With a Bow” represents another side to Borges. “Lyrically, it’s pretty quirky. It tells a story, which I try to do in every song instead of just writing a lot of ‘ooh babies.’ It’s about what if you found a ribbon on the sidewalk – did it once tie up some beautiful letters or maybe it belonged to a girl and she wore it in her hair and what that would mean from the finder’s perspective. There’s a sense of romantic nostalgia that I find so endearing,” says Borges.
The record also includes one cover, “Heavy Dreams” by Lloyd Price (a wise and welcomed suggestion by Berlin) and the title track, Radio Sweetheart, a song she wrote just out of college that never had a place on a record until now. “Radio Sweetheart is about unrequited love and I used the metaphor of how on the radio there is this voice that you can hear, but you can’t see or get them to do what you want. I titled the album ‘Radio Sweetheart’ out of hopefulness about this record. I decided to call myself the radio sweetheart in hope that it comes true,” she admits.
“I’m really proud of this record. It’s so gratifying and it was important to me to do what I love and I’m not going to stop again. I don’t care how it does; its something I had to do to make myself feel like a whole person again and I think there is a song on here for everyone. It doesn’t feel like a new me, but it feels like the old me is finally back,” she explains.