Interview: Outlaw Country Artist and Soulful Singer-Songwriter Sara Petite releases LP ‘The Empress’

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Outlaw country artist and soulful singer-songwriter Sara Petite releases new LP ‘The Empress.’ You can listen to the album here.

‘The Empress’ is a raw, rough-edged version of American roots music, delivered by a five-time International Songwriting Competition finalist who’s spent nearly two decades creating her own boundaries and uniqueness. Sara has many accolades under her belt — including Top 40 success on the Americana charts, international airplay, and more than a half-dozen trophies from the San Diego Music Awards.

Produced by Grammy nominee Eric Corne, The Empress delivers Sara Petite’s personality and morality in a signed, sealed, and delivered package of passion. “Sara is a great lyricist and singer,” says Corne, who recorded the bulk of the album during a pair of inspired weekends. “She deals with real emotions, real stories, real feelings. It’s easy to understand why great musicians play with her, like piano player Bobby Fuego, who played with Leonard Cohen, and bass player Jorge Calderón, who worked with Warren Zevon. They’re the real deal, and so is she.”

Sara’s delivery is brash and badass, but her theming and lyricism are poignant and hold true to her authenticity.

G: Okay. So let’s just start out by talking about The Empress. And, you know everything that that embodies I, gosh, I love all the theming throughout this album in its entirety. But I wanted to start out by asking, how do you think that this record stands out from your previous releases? What do you think makes this a different project for you and your audience?

SP: I’ve really loved every release for different reasons. I just kind of felt like there was always growth as a musician. You know, but this one is just a very, very strong album. It’s pretty out there, but it’s strong and out there.

What do you want your audience to take away from this new album? When they really listened from start to finish? Is there really a true message that you would want them to take away from this body of work?

Well, there’s a lot of fun stuff in the album. But there’s also a lot of topics, yes. Kind of a mix of personal growth, but also discussing what’s going on in that world. It discusses the feminine. The balance of feminine masculine energy, that kind of world is exceedingly unbalanced. Our bodies can be exceedingly unbalanced. So “God Save the Queen,” and the song “The Empress” are definitely about the balance of masculine and feminine energy bodies. But when you see, like, if there was an overbalanced, female energy, it might look like helicopter moms. That’s what I think of. But like, the over-balance of masculine energy has led to misogyny, but it’s also led to, like, you know, kind of destroying the environment, toxicity and corporate greed, like power. The feminine has not been held to the same importance as a masculine. And it’s very important for men to have the feminine help as held to the same importance. Here. Sometimes men may not always realize that, you know, there was like a, the word feminist. I know, like, you know, there’s been harsh names that kind of get tagged on with it, which are really, really disgraceful, but I mean, it just means equal rights. 

SP: The album has a couple of relationship songs in there. “Forbidden Fruit” was really about claiming your own power. But discusses that through Adam and Eve, you know, the apple. Yes. And it’s kind of an ode to Wanda Jackson. Nancy Sinatra. ACDC. There’s just little things in there that pay tribute.

SP: “Bringing Down the Neighborhood” – My sister was a daffodil princess. And for years and years and years, I had this line in my head – “Jenny’s still looking good, but we’re “Bringing Down the Neighborhood” – it’s about how we’re a little bit redneck. Yeah. Not just hillbilly, more hillbilly, I guess, but from the mountains. So I always had that in my head – and then after one week there was just so much family drama, and then outside family drama. So after that it wrote itself.

SP: “I Want You So Bad” – It’s just a fun punk rock song and I really liked that one. There’s some truth in there a little bit but you know, not always worth going into (laughs).

G: I’m curious about the closing track.

And then the “Lead the Parade” – this song relates to my grandmother. She passed away, but when she was young and when she was raising us she did all the beauty pageants and all the town things. Me and my sister were like, “Heck no, I’m not wearing a swimsuit in front of people, but it was funny because she would have us in these talent shows. We didn’t really sing then. I didn’t really sing till after college, but it was kind of funny how she put us in those. After she passed away my dad was cleaning the house and I was with him, and I found this manual on how to make a parade float. So then, her funeral was kind of like a little bit of a procession. So  I ended up writing “Lead the Parade” and that was kind of about her. It kind of has a double meaning now, after my partner died 12 years ago. But then I thought about this whole thing. We had the Bluegrass version, but then happened this version of “Lead the Parade.” My drummer had a birthday party and he loves New Orleans music because he loves New Orleans, so we played with that. I made the song kind of like a, like a procession, a funeral procession. The beginning of it is steady, and then builds to the faster part which is kind of like the party, the celebration of life.

One of the questions I always ask in these interviews is what has your experience as a woman in this music industry been like, and what have some of the challenges been? Because it’s not always as easy for women.  Because like you said, before, you know, women are not always held to the same standard. So yeah, if you could elaborate on that topic.

You know, a lot of times, one thing I noticed was, you know, I go to a fundraiser, and I might be the only girl you know, and then a lot of assessed, it’s funny, because I’ve I’ve made seven albums, and I’ve been an independent artist, so not that easy. Yeah. A lot of times people said things about my looks. Like, I’ve worked. I worked really hard, but like, a lot of people even still, like, make comments about, you know, how I got things. But you just have to preserve and prove yourself as a human.

Is there one standout moment to you recently that you’re most proud of in your career?

I won Americana Band and Americana Album of the Year at the Americana Music Awards. It was really nice. As a woman, it was really, really nice. But just as a musician, it was really nice. And the best part was that my album was well received. It was an honor, ya know?

Listen to ‘The Empress’ here.

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Gabbi Calvert is a writer, publicist, and artist from Findlay, Ohio who now resides in Nashville, TN. Gabbi is incredibly passionate about all things pop culture, but her forever love is music. Following her passion for entertainment and music, she graduated from Belmont University in April of 2021 with a B.S. in Creative and Entertainment Industries with a minor in music business. Her academic endeavors led her to find a home working in music public relations and she is now a senior publicist at Publicity Nation PR. Not only does Gabbi work and thrive in the music industry, she is also a musical artist herself. She began singing and playing gigs at the age of 12 in her hometown and has an extensive background in performance. Under her stage name Gabrielle Vaughn, she has released two singles. Gabbi is also a member of the all-female cross-genre supergroup The Highway Women. In her free time, Gabbi loves spending time with friends and family, attending drag shows, and bonding with her two guinea pigs Queenie and Peach, and her cat Mitzi.