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Interview with Sick of Sarah’s Jessie Farmer and Katie Murphy

Whether the statement that women have to work twice as hard as men to get respect holds true or not, the band we’re featuring, Sick of Sarah, have, in the last 10 or so years, earned the respect of fans the world over thanks to a hard-driving rock sound that has also given them distinctions ranging from a top emerging band award back in 2008 when they played Milwaukee’s Summerfest, to an incredible-for-its-time 1.7 million BitTorrent downloads of their album 2205 back in 2011.

Cover photo (L to R):  Guitarist Jessie Farmer, Lead Singer Abisha Uhl, Drummer Jessica Forsythe and Guitarist Katie Murphy of Sick of Sarah

The core members of this fantastic Minneapolis-based band–lead singer/guitarist Abisha Uhl, guitarists Jessie Farmer & Katie Murphy, and drummer Jessica Forsythe–are joined on their current cross-country “Place Your Bets” tour by bassist Alexa Wolfe, who’s out of Austin, TX.

Between stops on their tour, we put some questions to Jessie about not just the tour itself, but also how their fandom has helped their longevity.  And we also asked Katie about how a popular mid-1990s album made for a rather easy guitar lesson.

GGM: First, let me begin by asking you, simply, how your recent tour went?

Jessie: We had an absolute blast on tour!  We loved the band we toured with, The Last Year.  They’re so great and their music is so catchy and fun.  All of us were dancing and singing along during their set.  It was great to catch up with all our fans as well. 

GGM: Since Sick of Sarah have been around for just about a decade, would your longevity, as a band and a brand, be attributed to how your music has resonated with, and has been appreciated by, a fan base that has grown through online marketing and constant touring?

Jessie: We have the greatest fans in the entire world. They are so dedicated so loving and so loyal. So I would say yes, a lot of our longevity is a direct result of all of those wonderful people.

GGM:  Following up on that, how did your Warped Tour appearances in 2012 and ’13, as well as opening for the likes of The Bangles and Joan Jett, help in terms of growing that fan base even more?

Jessie: Doing Warped was a great experience for us. It opened up a whole new younger market for us. And touring with The Bangles and opening for Joan Jett also opened up a new demographic as well.

GGM: As with any band, being on tour has moments that are both good and bad.  What have been your best or worst touring experiences thus far?

Jessie: Our best tour experiences are always fan related. Like when fans come up to us and tell us how much our music has saved them/ changed them/ helped them get through a break up. That’s what makes all the sacrifice worth it. And on the flip side of that are the bad experiences.  Usually, it involves the van breaking down and getting stuck somewhere for days. Or bad weather.

GGM: Way back in December 2008, the Twin Cities Daily Planet led off its story about Sick of Sarah with a statement that “women rock musicians have always had a notoriously hard time being taken seriously–and that’s still true today.”  More than 6 years later, do any of you think that statement remains so, or do you think more and more people are getting what you’re about musically?

Jessie: We don’t experience as much sexism as we did then but it still happens from time to time. We just handle it in a different way. A more fun, articulate way.

GGM: You’ve been described as having a “strong-voiced punky girl rock” sound, but when you get positive comments from male fans, or male rock bands, does that render the above description an understatement?

Jessie: We generally get way more positive reactions from our male counterparts.  They don’t really bring our gender into it.

GGM: What was the first major concert you went to?

Jessie: The first concert I ever went to was Hole and Veruca Salt at First Avenue in Minneapolis. I think I was 14 and that was when I got addicted to the live show experience.

GGM:  If you weren’t rock stars, you’d be….?

Jessie: If we weren’t rock stars? Hmmm. I don’t know. This is all we have ever wanted to do. If you have enough passion and drive you can make anything happen.

GGM: Of the guitars you have owned or currently own, are there any that stand out as favorites?

Jessie: As for myself, I am an American Standard Tele kind of girl, and Katie is all about them as well, even though she plays an SG.

GGM:  My next question is about when you played bass with another great Minneapolis female band, Babes in Toyland, during its last few years from 1997-2001; the original members of Babes in Toyland, of course, have done a couple of reunion shows in the past few months.  How did your time with Babes in Toyland prepare you for what was to come with Sick of Sarah, at least in terms of touring and recording.

Jessie: Playing with Babes was a dream come true as they were and still are one of my faves. I learned so much from Kat [Bjelland] and Lori [Barbero], in which I am forever grateful.  I was only with them from ’00-’01 though. I always wanted an all-female band of my own and well here we are.

GGM:  As for you, Katie, since your bio on Sick of Sarah’s website mentions that you learned an entire Jewel album after you got your first guitar at age 16, which album would that have been, and how easy was it to learn?

Katie: The album was called Pieces of You [1995].  It taught me how to finger-pick and read tabs. So I picked it up pretty easily.

GGM:  You’ve been successful without needing a major label to validate you.  But has that necessarily meant you’ve been offered any major label deals?  And if it hasn’t yet, would you consider that a good thing, given how the music industry has been these last few years?

Jessie: We are really focused on doing as much as we can ourselves so we know exactly what’s going on and where and with whom. In this day and age, it’s important to educate ourselves more with the business side of the industry.  We are learning as we go.  It is hard to make a living out of being a musician with or without a major label.

GGM: Finally, since you got an EP coming out at the end of June entitled Anthem, what was your reaction when you found out that the magazine Entertainment Weekly decided to feature one of the songs from that EP, “Rooftops”, on its website?

Jessie: When we got the news about Entertainment Weekly we were so stoked! That is some major publicity!  Wish us luck with that.

As a follow up to what we asked Jessie about good and bad touring moments, Sick of Sarah posted on their Facebook page about one of those unfortunate moments that can happen to any band on tour.  Their trailer blew an axle coming out of Albuquerque, which resulted in their cancelling a show in Dallas, but they managed to secure a new trailer before too long, and then managed to head back out on the road to complete the tour.  You’ve got to admire their courage in the face of adversities like that.

While Sick of Sarah’s “Place Your Bets” tour concluded, for the most part, on Memorial Day weekend in Pensacola, FL, they are scheduled to appear at the Chord Brewhouse in Knoxville, TN on Thursday, June 25, followed by an outdoor concert in downtown Lexington, KY on Saturday, June 27.

You can pre-order Anthem before its scheduled June 30 release at www.sickofsarah.com.  Also, you can follow Sick of Sarah on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, all @SickOfSarah.


Steve Byrd

Born in Houston, Texas, and currently based in St. Petersburg, Florida, Steve's careers have ranged from restaurants to media production. He has also written online columns about entertainment and technology, as well as how musicians don't need a major label to be empowered. The first major rock concert Steve attended was Heart back in 1977.

Steve Byrd
Born in Houston, Texas, and currently based in St. Petersburg, Florida, Steve's careers have ranged from restaurants to media production. He has also written online columns about entertainment and technology, as well as how musicians don't need a major label to be empowered. The first major rock concert Steve attended was Heart back in 1977.


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