Sarah Pierce, a singer/songwriter from Texas, has a gift for telling a story through her lyrics and music. Pierce recently released her latest album Barbed Wire on Little Bear Records. It was recorded at the Cribworks Ditigal Audio studio in Liberty Hill, Texas, and produced by her husband/drummer/singer/engineer, Merel Bregante. Barbed Wire is a great mix of thirteen songs that Pierce says was “musically influenced by her family’s heritage in the cattle business” and can be seen as a “follow-up to my autobiographical Cowboy’s Daughter CD.”
Pierce and her husband pulled together a great team of musicians for this project which resulted in a mix of raw, emotional folk songs and soulful ballads.
When Pierce isn’t filling her days with working on the farm, writing music, and strumming her guitar, as a graduate of the Emory School of Medicine, she spends her time devoted to her other passion – medicine.
Learn more about this fascinating musician, her music, band, gear, and what inspires her in our in-depth Q&A.
So nice of you to take the time to fill us in on your latest music.
I am honored that you asked me!
Tell us about your newest album Barbed Wire. It was heavily influenced by your upbringing on a cattle farm and the name came to you when you found a piece of rusted barbed wire on the farm. Can you elaborate on the meaning behind the name?
Actually, I was clearing land on the ranch my husband and I own, outside of Liberty Hill, Texas, and came across some old barbed wire. I had been in a song writing slump for two years…could not finish a thing. When I held this old, rusted, hand pounded, barbed wire that had obviously weathered a great deal…and was still doing its job…I thought “this is me”! All of the sudden 16 songs came out of me in about 3 weeks. The barbed wire and the land brought me to a place I was looking for, I just did not know it!
“The beauty of my band and guests…we are family. Extended ~ AND ~ family.”
Tell us about your band and the special guests that contributed to this project and the collaboration for the music and songwriting?
My band is great!
Merel Bregante, my drummer, singer, engineer, and producer…well…Merel is amazing. There is nothing else to say! We just try and keep up with him. He came out of retirement to play with me. He played with Loggins & Messina, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Chris Hillman, Gary Morris, on and on and on. From a Lear jet to a Ford van and a trailer…that is commitment!
Mike Dorrien, my guitar player, is simply great! Mike took the lyrics, chord structure and melody and created the musical hooks along with creating the overall flavor of the CD…surely that which I had heard in my head. I have never had any musician do that on a CD…another amazing player and singer.
Carl Loschiavo played electric and acoustic bass.
Doug Hudson played acoustic guitar and Mandolin, and banjo. Doug has played with me off and on for over ten years. He is a great player and wonderful singer.
John McEuen, founding member of the iconic Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, popped in and played some of his typical world class banjo…as only John does.
Cody Braun, multi-instrumentalist of Reckless Kelly, played all the fiddle and most of the mandolin.
Wiily Braun, writer, lead singer, Reckless Kelly, wrote “I’m Sorry” with me and we sang it as a duet. He is just a GREAT songwriter and singer. Anytime we get the opportunity to tour with Reckless Kelly it is great fun!
David Pearlman took a break from making those amazing Pearlman microphones, which I used for this CD, and played some kick butt lap steel.
Robert Anderson played mandolin on “Daughter of A Cowboy’s Wife.”
Brian Kalenick played co-wrote and played acoustic guitar on “Mackeral Sky.”
I played acoustic guitar, mandolin, and a little Gretsch guitar, too.
The beauty of my band and guests…we are family. Extended ~ AND ~ family.
You really have a knack for telling a story through your songwriting. I was really drawn in to the first single on the album “Small Town.” Where do find your inspiration for songwriting?
Life. As I said earlier, I have to feel it, I am very visceral. I just write about what happens in the day to day and hope to find a little magic in it all. I believe that we are all innately good and when we come together we can do anything. I love the common man/woman. As I have seen it, no matter what country I am in, we all want the same thing…peace, our children to be safe, educated, to have a dream…hope. I think that each of us are working on this in our own way.
Barbed Wire is said to be a follow-up to your autobiographical CD Cowboy’s Daughter. How do you feel your music has progressed over the years?
My guitar playing has grown, though slowly. My writing has improved. Honestly, co-writing in Nashville has made a big difference. I cannot follow the format, but, the re-writing aspect for me has become a bit of a machine and I think that this has yielded better songs.
Cute story I read in your bio about singing to the cattle in the fields after getting kicked out of choir in elementary school. What is your musical background, when did you first learn to play guitar, and how did your family help inspire you?
My family was not musical. I learned to play piano as a kid and did not really play guitar until I was in my early 20s. Then I fell on love with my guitars and am so grateful for the songs they bring me. I loved to sing; I did sing to the cattle. I was kicked out of the 5th grade choir for singing too low. I hid from that point on, never letting anyone hear me. Unbeknown to me, my step father was listening through my bedroom door. He was a bass player in a country band. One night he asked me to sing. I thought he was crazy! I went to the gig. Sang “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” When I started to sing the room stopped, everyone starred at me, all I could think was “Oh my God I am so bad that they are scared to death!” After the song they all clapped and yelled. I did not believe it…and…I kept going from there…I had no choice.
“What makes me a good musician…I work hard and I do my job.”
Who were your early musical inspirations that helped mold you into the musician you are today?
The people who made me want to sing….Karen Carpenter, Patsy Cline, Emmy Lou. It is funny when you say “the musician you are today” I think of depth of heart…Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline. When I think it is hard…can you imagine those women and how big those hurdles were? What makes me a good musician…I work hard and I do my job.
“I do not like to pull the ‘girl card’ so I don’t.”
I actually saw you perform at MEOWCon several years ago. It was a great conference for women in music and I find it promising to see so many organizations available today that inspire and motivate women interested in the music industry. Have you faced in challenges in pursuing your career, and if so, how did you overcome them?
I do not like to pull the ‘girl card’ so I don’t. Having said that, it seems that in many…maybe most…careers we have to work so much harder than the guys to get our feet in the door. Texas has been tough. More so than L.A. or Nashville for me. Competing with the Red Dirt guys is never ending, climbing with bloody fingernails is what I always say…I guess that’s gross and, for me, it’s pretty accurate. Please note, I am not complaining as to women being in this predicament, I believe that we simply have to work harder and be OK with it! Also please note…I am not a male hater. I love some of the Red Dirt guys. Reckless Kelly is my favorite. They are amazingly talented and good people. They work hard and deserve everything they get.
From your experience, what’s the best piece of advice you would offer to an aspiring artist?
As a female be sure you can hold your own, practice, practice, practice. As soon as you can, stop chasing the dream, and live it. Be OK with what you are and love it! That is when your fans start to really identify with you and become those beautiful ‘die-hards’ that you are so honored to have.
Not only a musician, you also attended Emory School of Medicine. Do you still find time for work in the medical field and how do you balance your time between music, medicine and family?
When I am not on the road I do practice family medicine. I love my patients and I am blessed to have the opportunity to be part of their lives. They are also some of my most devoted fans. Luckily for me the doctors I work with…Paul Keinarth, MD and Steve Margolin, MD, have believed in my music since we first met. They have never held me back and are great fans. My family, well, I am the luckiest girl in the world. My husband is my drummer, Merel. My kids are all fuzzy…2 horses, three dogs and a cat, and, I have a great babysitter which allows us to tour.
Top 3 songs on my playlist are:
Etta James, At Last.
Phoebe Snow, New York Rock and Soul Review…all of it!
Emmylou Harris, Ballad of a Runaway Horse
One album I cannot live without is:
Patsy Cline, The Collection
I would love to collaborate with:
I wish I could sit down with Maybelle Carter. Hear her stories and write a song.
One thing people don’t know about me is:
I am a fly fisherman, catch and release of course. My ‘meditation guide’ is a trout in the Colorado River at Lees Ferry, AZ.
In one word, music to me is:
Sarah Pierce’s Gear:
Alvarez Yairi. Signed and numbered by master luthier Kazuo Yairi…all the songs on Barbed Wire came from my Yairi A Collings D1 acoustic guitar, a Gretsch Nashville, Tonebone acoustic guitar/mandolin preamp, Michael Kelley mandolin, Fender Deluxe Reverb, Vox AC4, handmade Mogame Platinum cables with Neutrix jacks, Fishman Spectrum, saltine crackers, and a song list with a cheat sheet so I am sure of all the lyrics and I know where I am on any given night in the road.