0
Posted July 28, 2022 by Jeff in Tunes
 
 

Sarah Borges Embraces DIY Approach for Latest Album

Sarah Borges
Sarah Borges

For her new album, Together Alone, singer-songwriter Sarah Borges sent her home-recorded guitar and vocal demos one by one to producer extraordinaire Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, who would listen carefully to the tracks and then sort out who might play what, when and how.

Borges wrote the tunes between the hours she spent in the job she took as an airport courier during the pandemic.

In a recent phone interview from her Boston home, she spoke about the album.

Talk about your background a bit. You grew up in the Boston area. What was that like?

I went to Emerson College but grew up about 40 miles outside of the city. At that time, it was the ’90s. It was indie rock central. It was the Pixies and Buffalo Tom and Morphine and Throwing Muses and all these bands that I loved. I could see them play locally when I was a teenager. That gave me the mindset that anyone could be in a band. I thought I could be in a band. The other thing about indie rock is that everything is couched deeply in metaphor.

Do you remember the first song you wrote?

It was “Wisk” — spelled like the laundry soap. I can’t remember what the words were, but I know I was trying to be super evasive and serious — some dumb crap.

How’d you develop your country side?

Most people don’t know this about Boston, but it has a thriving roots music scene. I think it has to do with the huge Irish population. There’s the oral tradition of sharing songs. I saw these country bands at the clubs in Boston. It wasn’t the records I was hearing but it was the bands I was seeing every night. I knew I wanted to do that. When I was writing songs in that vein, it was way easier than writing indie rock stuff. I could just speak plainly and tell a story about a murder or whatever, and it was completely acceptable.

Did you get your record deal after a SXSW gig in 2004? But you were playing in bands before that, right?

I was playing in indie rock bands in Boston, all of which were terrible. I started doing that when I was 18. It was before I could drink. I didn’t start legit playing Americana music until I was 21 or 22. We had just started a pick-up band. On Sundays, we would hang out and drink beer and we would play old country songs or the Old 97s. We loved the Old 97s. We went to SXSW and the label that signed me is the one that I’m with today. I left them for a little bit, but they took me back, and now I’m never leaving.

It’s amazing that it was your first SXSW.

I know. I was too young and dumb to know that that didn’t happen to everyone. I just thought that was the reason you go. So much of the stuff I’ve done or was lucky enough to do, I was too young or drunk or too stupid to be properly grateful.

I’m 43 and sober now. So this time around, I love the truck stops and the shitty motels.

Sarah Borges

The pandemic was really tough on independent musicians. What was it like working as a courier?

It was nuts. I have a son who is 10. I’m no longer married, and he lives with me, and you never want your kid to go without, so I felt pressure to earn money somehow. It was a Craigslist ad that I answered. I can listen to music and plan my world domination. I’m trying to walk the fine line between being a responsible parent and doing what I love to do.

At what point did you put the Broken Singles together?

That was my Boston band. I’ve had them for so long, and people have come and gone, but I’ve always had this wild and crazy bass player, Binky. This time around when we made the newest record, we had to do it remotely because of the pandemic. I used all different people. Not everyone is set up for remote recording, especially if you play drums or something. This is not a Broken Singles’ album. This is a solo album.

Was it weird to make this record without them?

There’s been a lot of permutations of the Broken Singles. At some point, I had to make a little bit of a fresh start. Rock is a hard row to hoe. People do it for 20 years and then they have to get a job or raise a family. A lot of the guys I’ve played with have aged out of it, but I’m still going. It’s all just part of the growth process of doing whatever I’m trying to do.

At what point did these songs begin to come together?

We talked about making a record right before the pandemic started. We were jazzed about that. And them, we weren’t going anywhere. I was sad and worried like everyone. I started writing the record during the first summer. I would write a song and make a demo on my phone and send it back to Eric Ambel. He would send me it back with a drum loop. He used people that he knew. John Perrin from NRBQ plays on a few tracks.  

What made you start singing in the closet?

Eric Ambel told me to do that. I didn’t know anything. He told me to put a lot of clothes in the closet to make it more sound proof. My son’s clothes closet was the vocal booth. Real glamorous.

What made you want to work with Eric Ambel?

This is our third record together. I know him a producer and a guitarist and we have toured and I’m lucky to call him a friend. I trust him for good advice. He knows what’s up. He has a studio in Brooklyn, but the pandemic kind of made that impossible. We did three songs in the studio during a brief window last summer. There was that brief window when we thought everything was cool. .

“Wasting My Time” serves as a good centerpiece. Was it the first song you wrote?

It’s the first one I wrote, and the last song on the record is the last song I wrote.

Are all the songs in the order in which they were written?

I’m not that good. I got lucky twice, and the other eight songs were whatever. But I got to watch the record come together. I did the vocals and acoustic guitar and we had drums. I lived with the mix of that for a while. With some of the stuff, we got lucky. I recorded on my phone with a special microphone. You can’t edit your track. You have to do it in one take. It has to be one continuous take. I had to sing them umpteenth times, so I got really good at some of them.

Did you write “She’s a Trucker” about yourself?

That’s me. A lot of it is autobiographical. I used to make some bad decisions. It was Roscoe’s idea to write a song about a lady truck driver because there are no songs about lady truck drivers.  

I found myself turning the album up as I was listening. It naturally rocks. What will the live show be like?

It’s super loud but not scary loud. We have small amps. If you get the right ones, they’re perfect. It’s like when spaghetti sauce is just right. I just want everyone to come to the party. We’re so grateful just to do it. Right now, the world is so hard. Just for that 90 minutes, we’re all going to commune and have a good time.  


Jeff

 
Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.