Sarah McQuaid draws from various musical influences

Sarah McQuaid draws from various musical influences

Photo courtesy of Sarah McQuaid

Sarah McQuaid will be walking into Crimson on Sept. 6 as she plays from her new album "Walking into White" at the Bama Theatre’s Acoustic Night, her second time at the venue. 

"[The Acoustic Night] is a listening room, not a bar…with no smoking and no talking, so it’s really conducive to the artist being heard,” David Allgood, the manager for the Bama Theatre, said.

McQuaid, a folksy singer-songwriter, lists 1970s artists Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake as her main influences. She said that for Drake, the guitar and the voice were equally important and that's something she tries to emulate.

“It's almost like Nick Drake the singer duetting with Nick Drake the guitarist, and quite frequently the guitar is playing a contrasting line of its own, rather than merely accompanying the vocal line," McQuaid said

Allgood said McQuaid does this well herself, calling her an excellent guitar player and very talented. Reflecting the variety of places McQuaid has called home (Spain, United States, Ireland and United Kingdom.), her music is multi-faceted and covers a number of traditions.

“I recorded my first album, "When Two Lovers Meet," when I was living in Ireland and was surrounded by traditional Irish music, and that album consisted mostly of traditional Irish songs and tunes, plus one of my own songs," McQuaid said. "The second album, "I Won't Go Home ‘Til Morning," was recorded just after I'd moved to what had been my mother's house, and is focused on the American, particularly Appalachian folk music that she loved."

Drawing from various cultures, McQuaid has played a variety of folk songs over her career. On her third album, she recorded a southern French troubadour song in the old Occitan language, and at her live shows, she used to play a Spanish folk song she learned as a child.

"I've also learned to sing the Dutch happy birthday songs (there are three of them!) when touring in Holland," McQuaid said. 

In her more recent albums McQuaid has transitioned from covering traditional songs to performing original ones. This stemmed from a collaboration called Crow Coyote Buffalo with former pop singer Zoë, who she credits with turning her into a real song writer.

"Prior to working with [Zoë], I used to occasionally write a song, but co-writing all the songs for the "Mama" album with Zoë taught me a huge amount about songwriting and made me concentrate my energies in that direction,” McQuaid said. 

Regarding her covers, which include Bobbie Gentry's "Ode To Billie Joe," John Martyn’s "Solid Air" and Ewan MacColl’s "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Sarah feels that she has a lot to live up, but she said she feels she made the songs her own. 

"I hope I’m bringing something there that wasn’t already there in previous versions," she said. "That’s what I’m aiming for anyway!” 

McQuaid said she's eager to make more music in the future. With her new album, "Walking into White," which she worked on with her cousin and new producer Adam Pierce, McQuaid said, she's moving in a different musical direction that's a little more rock-and-roll. 

But for now, Sarah is content to play her vast repertoire. As according to her website, McQuaid's shows demonstrate her musical versatility: from emotive originals, 1930s Cuban jazz numbers, to 16th century lute pieces. Allgood said McQuaid's performance last year was great, and the audience really liked it.

McQuaid plays Sunday Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bama Theatre. 

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