The birthday girl instinctively stood up and acknowledged his attention. Some kids are just born to it, it seems. As she grew up, she was exposed to more great music and became fascinated with Etta James, Bonnie Raitt and Whitney Houston. She was in the studio with her father when he was joined by Bruce Hornsby, Jerry Garcia and Branford Marsalis for a Levi’s commercial directed by Spike Lee. Her mother took her to see Prince when she was 6 and that same little girl took in Madonna’s “Who’s That Girl” show as Bill Graham’s guest at Shoreline Amphitheatre.
Years later, it was at that same venue that she first performed professionally, sitting in with RatDog (Bob Weir and her father’s band) at The Further Festival in 1997. She followed Bonnie Raitt, one of her idols, and sang a song that had been written by her father and the late “Gentleman” Jim Capaldi of Traffic before a mesmerized crowd of 20,000. The song was “Solid Ground.” Twelve years later that same song would later serve as the title track to her debut album. Sara had begun to take vocal lessons at the age of ten and kept up her studies except for what she facetiously calls her rebellious period. At the age of 18 she first moved to New York and enrolled in the Neighborhood Playhouse to pursue an acting career but eventually returned to music and never looked back. Sara Wasserman’s debut album, Solid Ground, has been seven years in the making – a period that fully spans a quarter of her life.
It’s been a journey marked by both individual self-discovery and collaborative artistry. The yield of that quest is a brilliant piece of work that underscores the passion of a truly musical soul and highlights an amazing voice that is at once brilliant, vulnerable and haunting. Solid Ground is the result of a very human adventure that saw the artist travel wherever the music told her to go: from Southern California to New Orleans to New York to San Francisco and even to Peru. She realized that she was actually in the process of making an album about three years into it; she recorded, worked with others and grew her work most organically, like a gardener. The result is an album that reflects different times and facets of Sara’s life so it’s very difficult to categorize.
Certainly there are jazz overtones but her pop sensibility is strong and the girl also knows how to rock. It’s really not all that relevant to try to jam it into a given genre because Sara pays no heed to arbitrary labels. To her, music is its own reward, whatever you choose to call it. We call it brilliant. Sara offers a look into the songs of Solid Ground: Little Bird – “This is a song written by my father and Jules Shear years ago.
I met Christian McBride, the amazing bassist through DJ Logic and he’s become one of my dearest friends. I heard him – in my mind – on this song; I heard bowing on it and so did he. I recorded my vocals at midnight, on purpose, to enhance the vibe of the song. The second version of the song that closes the album was cut live; that was his idea.
He later told me that ‘Little Bird’ is one of his favorites of everything he’s ever recorded.” I Am A Song – “I met Aaron Neville for the first time when I was 8 years old; my dad and he were taping a segment of NBC’s Night Music. My first memory was being backstage and he and I managed to take every single candy bar from the dressing rooms and put them in our pockets. We didn’t see each other until years later at New Orleans JazzFest, pre-Katrina. That same day he gave me an unpublished book of poems and lyrics that he had written over the past 30 years; he said he thought I might appreciate them as a writer.
I wrote the melody to his words and recorded the song in Los Angeles. I wanted an electric bass sound and we recorded Christian’s part in the Bay Area on one of his tour stops while he was on the road with Bruce Hornsby.” Leap of Faith – “I wrote this at a time in my life when I needed to hold on to my own vision and have faith that I was on the right path. I’m telling myself that I need to trust my own intuition and keep pushing forward. We brought in DJ Logic and Alan Evans, the drummer for Soulive, on this one and my dad played bass; we recorded it in New York and California.” Fly Away – “I reconnected with Aaron at JazzFest in 2004, my dad and I went over to his house and I brought along a CD of my music that included a solo version of the song.
I had a strong instinct that he’d like it and I remember very clearly that he leaned on his stereo in silence listening intensely to my music. He giggled when I hit the super high notes on the bridge. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. He later asked me if I would write a song similar to ‘Fly Away’ that he could sing with me.
I thought my dad was going to fall over! When I got home it hit me to ask him to sing “Fly Away’ with me since he already loved the song. A few weeks later Aaron invited me to the Neville Brothers studio in New Orleans to record it.” Sara Smile – “I grew up listening to the Hall & Oates hit; my parents used to play it for me and the name in the title is spelled like mine (no ‘h’) so I decided to record it. The guitar part on this song is crucial so I asked Vernon Reid from Living Colour to play; I knew he’d do an amazing job. Mike Clark, from Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters is on drums; both of their parts were recorded in Brooklyn.” Fresh Out of Tears – “This is another song written from a poem from Aaron’s songbook.
After he gave it to me and we recorded ‘Fly Away,’ I asked him if he would let me choose another poem or two to write to. This is the first one I chose; the words hit me hard. My dad, (producer) Randy Emata and I wrote the melody together. After Katrina, Aaron lost everything but I had his book of words.
I asked him if he wanted me to send it back to him but he told me to make a copy and keep the original, which, of course, I treasure. The vocal was recorded in one take in Los Angeles.” Solid Ground – “This is the song my father wrote with Jim Capaldi of Traffic. I recorded this song on my very first demo years ago at Bobby Weir’s home studio. When I began working with Randy, I re-discovered it and he thought we should record it.
My father plays upright electric bass on it and Stephen Perkins (of Jane’s Addiction) is the drummer. This song is very close to my heart so I named the album after it.” Somehow Forever – “This was the first song I wrote and recorded with Randy Emata. I had the melody and some of the lyrics in my head and sang it to him during one of our first meetings. It showcases my voice in a different way dynamically than the rest of the tracks but shows my love and passion for soul, gospel and R&B.
Six years after it was recorded it was featured on Girlfriends, the CBS TV show.” Need To Know – “I wrote and recorded this in California with Randy Emata and Penny Framstad. This song has had many lives; a year or two after recording it, I decided I’d ask Lou Reed to play guitar on it. I went to see him in New York and played it for him and he said he would play on the song only if he could do exactly what he wanted. Of course, I agreed because that’s what I wanted, too.
We went into the studio in New York, just me and Lou and an engineer, no producer. He did an amazing passionate electric guitar part over the track and then said, ‘You’re the producer, what are your thoughts?’ I said ‘I heard acoustic guitar’ and he said ‘I don’t want to play acoustic.’ My answer to that was ‘Well, that’s what I hear; you asked me.’ He didn’t have an acoustic guitar with him but the engineer handed him one that was sitting in the studio. He picked it up and played; to this day, my dad still says this is amazing, as Lou never plays other people’s guitars. Lou didn’t like the programmed drums so we got Stephen Perkins to play; he did an amazing job and added a whole new dimension to the song.” Hindsight – “This was written by my father and John Wesley Harding.
Like ‘Solid Ground’ it was on my first demo and I also performed it at Shoreline when I was in front of all those people at the Further Festival. The song is very meaningfully to me so I knew it had to be included on this album. That’s my dad on bass and Randy Emata on piano.” Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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