Lyrics Set to Music =
Exhilarating, Humbling, Surreal

Passenger Profile: Sarah Blue

By Kenny Kerner
taxi music success blue
Listen to 'Upside Down' by Sarah E. Blue:

This is the first time that Passenger Profile has had a lyricist featured. Sarah Blue does not play a musical instrument at all—she writes lyrics and can hear the melody lines in her head. This artist has had many successes thus far yet still joined TAXI for more musical exposure. Here is her story.

Professionally, you are a lyricist, but do you also play an instrument? If so, what and how long have you been playing?

I don't play an instrument. My writing voice has a pretty strong inherent rhythm, so when I write a song, I hear placement, emphasis, and occasionally the shadows of a melody line, but the actual composition and performance of the music falls to my collaborators.

As a lyricist, how do you write songs? Bernie Taupin writes a set of meaningful lyrics and sends them off to Elton John who puts music and a melody to them. How are your lyrics fit to music?

These days, my process varies a great deal from song to song, depending on a number of circumstances, including the dynamic I have developed with a particular partner. When I first started writing songs, I wrote exclusively with Amber deLaurentis (who remains my primary collaborator). Over the years, our process evolved as we 'found our feet' as writers together. At the beginning, we would sit down at the piano with nearly completed lyrics and Amber would work a part around them. As we grew, Amber began to bring me melodies, concepts, chord progressions, and partial lyrics, and I would try to fill them out. We eventually started to feel seamless in our expressions, and it's sometimes hard now for me to remember 'who did what' or how a certain song evolved. The level of intimacy we have attained in our writing has made it feel to me as if Amber and I are somehow independent extensions of a single voice. We have also been friends for over 20 years, so that much shared history brings a lot to a collaboration as well! When I write with musicians other than Amber, their needs pretty much dictate my process. Sometimes I will be sent a complete track with just a series of 'la la las' in the melody line and I will set lyrics to the tune and send it back remotely without even meeting in person.

Sometimes I will be called in when a band or their producer feels like a certain existing song needs to be tightened up or edited and I will do a re-write to an existing structure, keeping the tune's meaning and emphasis intact, but trying to hone the actual nuances of expression. When I have reached a certain comfort level with a band or a performer they will sometimes approach me with a concept and a basic song structure but no words and we'll fill it out together. And occasionally I'll just get together with musicians for fun to see if something sparks and we'll go in with no preconceived ideas at all.

Amber is still the one I work with on what I consider "my own" material, but I greatly enjoy working with others and I love the challenge of the craft of lyric writing. Every collaboration is different, each combination of souls sparks differently, and there is an exhilarating energy that takes hold when a collaboration really finds its rhythm. It's a truly incredible thing to leave a session and suddenly realize you're humming or singing something that didn't exist the previous day.

When the magic is there in a match with someone else, it is amazing to feel the boundaries of my own mind and expression expanding, and to see my writing being pushed to a place it wouldn't have reached on its own.

Did you do a lot of writing in high school and college? You know, poems, short stories, etc.

I've only recently begun exploring prose, but language has always come to me in internal bursts of expression. I wrote poetry from my childhood through college, where, through working with Amber, I began to make the transition to lyrics. I don't write much poetry anymore, as my internal voice seems to have evolved into a more lyrical one and somehow now naturally tends to seek out rhymes, momentum, narratives and closures more suited to songwriting than to poetry.

What have you learned from being able to collaborate with other writers?

That I'm not always right! The best part about collaboration is being able to extend beyond myself and surpass my own limitations. When the magic is there in a match with someone else, it is amazing to feel the boundaries of my own mind and expression expanding, and to see my writing being pushed to a place it wouldn't have reached on its own. Of course, there are also times when it DOESN'T click, and I've learned, too, to accept that some chemistry cannot be artificially manufactured. However much I might respect and admire someone's artistry, that doesn't always mean there is a place for me within it, and I have come to realize that that is a natural occurrence in artistic improvisation and doesn't denote a personal failing on either of our parts.

What does it feel like sitting back and listening to a set of your lyrics set to music?

It's exhilarating, humbling, and surreal. Even though my job as a writer is basically done by the time a song makes it to the recording process, in many ways, the studio time is the most magical of all for me. I get overwhelmed by a sense of awe and gratitude that such amazing souls feel compelled to give so passionately of themselves to help make something I am saying come to life. It is amazing to suddenly feel understood and that other people connect with my feelings and expressions and want to make them part of their own.

Who are some of your favorite lyricists?

Leonard Cohen, ani difranco, Patti Griffin, Paul Simon, Bernie Taupin, Heather Nova, Chris Smither, Lyle Lovett, Linford Detweiler, Lloyd Cole, Dave Carter, Adam Duritz, Randy Newman, Ellis Paul, G. Goffin/Carole King, Cole Porter, Fred Eaglesmith, Suzanne Vega, Joni Mitchell, John Prine...

With so many successes in winning and/or placing in major song contests, why did you decide to join TAXI?

Well, you can never do too much networking! It's always hard to get your songs out into the world, especially if, like me, you're not the one who performs them. TAXI has gotten my songs to ears in the industry (through forwards, but also, it seems, just through word of mouth or occasional enthusiasm of the screeners) who otherwise would not have heard them, and that's the only way they have a chance of making it anywhere, at least in terms of the tunes that aren't being actively performed or recorded by my co-writers.

How has TAXI helped you?

Well, aside from the obvious benefits of getting my songs heard by a wider range of industry higher-ups, and helping me to make some key connections through responses to songs I've had forwarded, I find the critiquing and evaluation process to be a helpful gauge of current industry trends. I had a much lower percentage of forwards in the late 90s than I do now (sometimes for the same songs!), and I think that is an encouraging indication to me that my work is starting to synch up with what's happening in today's music industry. Perhaps my time has come!

To date, of what achievement are you most proud?

I am proud and honored that artists have found me and my work compelling enough to want to delve into the intimate process of artistic creation with me.

What's up next for Sarah Blue?

My life is currently revolving around the final stages of the recording of Hey Sadie, the first, full-length studio release by the Amber deLaurentis band, which will be issued shortly. The CD is the culmination of years of work, and I am blown-away by how well it's been coming together. A lot of magical people have poured their souls into this project, and I am eager and proud to get permanent versions of these songs which sound as soulful and fully-realized as Amber and I imagined them the days that they were written.

Sarah is right when she exclaims that you can never do too much networking. And nobody lets you network like TAXI. Speaking about networking, better start making your plans to attend the TAXI Road Rally in November. You'll hate yourself if you miss this one!

See How TAXI Works

"I must recommend it to anyone I think is serious about songwriting."
— Dwight Nichols,
TAXI Member

"I just want a shot, and I feel that TAXI has given that to me."
— Roger Yeardley,
TAXI Member

"Thanks for your constant support of my work — I'm running out of compliments for you guys!"
— James Day,
TAXI Member

"The calibre of everything about TAXI and the Road Rallies contiues to climb. I hope it never stops!"
— Roy Flower,
TAXI Member

"I was cynical at first, but my wife convinced me to join and I'm very impressed."
— L.A. Van Fleet,
TAXI Member

"Thanks for creating and maintaining this great organization!"
— Angie Peckham,
TAXI Member

"I had the drive, and the passion. I just needed help, and you keep supplying it."
— Justin K.,
TAXI Member

"I received a giant BMI check from TV airplay that I probably wouldn't have earned without TAXI."
— Julie Ann Bailey,
TAXI Member