Singer Sarah Burton represents something of what is so often missing in today’s music scene – a striking originality and the talent to fully back that up.
She performs at the International Beer Haus on July 22nd in support of her latest release Make Your Own Bed to be released this September.
Burton describes the CD as one she has wanted to make for a long time. And it marks a renewed emphasis on an old love – the piano.
“I was playing a show in an old town hall, and there was this beautiful old Steinway grand piano – one of the most beautiful pianos I’ve ever played in my life,” she recalls. She had been searching for the right place to record a new CD, and asked the sound guys if people ever recorded there. Turns out piano tracks were recorded in the charming locale often, so plans were nailed down for her to do the same.
“It was a natural choice.”
As an adolescent, her piano teacher inspired her love of the piano with the likes of Tori Amos, Vince Guaraldi and others. “She was young, hip and super talented. She was also an awesome entrepreneur and an accountant – a real go-getter.
“She also put in the extra effort to find the cool pieces to play. And she let me play show tunes, because I was obsessed with Les Miserables at the time,” she adds with a laugh.
Tragically, only a couple years into her lessons, her teacher was killed in an accident, and though Burton tried other teachers, she never found the same connection.
So the instrument took kind of a back seat for some years, but Burton eventually rediscovered the piano, letting the passion stir again gradually.
Much of that passion bubbles up consistently throughout Make Your Own Bed, which features compelling indie-pop and rock, while putting the piano in the spotlight.
Burton’s vocals have also been described as, “At their best in sync with the keys, and each song pulls out either the soulful or sassy sides of her style.”
From the moody, percussive richness of the title track, the catchy, sweet-natured tones of From the Start to the piano-driven simplicity and building momentum of So Long, Burton is truly the consummate artist/songwriter. Ocean Town reflects more of that intrinsic charm that percolates through so much of her music.
Listeners can also truly see something of her personality shining through the spectrum of songs, from the comparatively light-hearted cuts to the deeper, introspective moments.
She also revives Treble Charger’s Red, complete with Bill Priddle singing harmony vocals on the track and brings a new grit to Love to Love You which first appeared with a blues-rock touch on her 2012 release.
Burton’s career stretches back to her 2007 debut EP Love is for Pussies, recorded with Juno winning producer John Switzer and 2010’s follow up, Mayflower which was accompanied by two videos for singles How Good You Are (2011) and Gravity (2012).
In 2012 she also released Fire Breathers, which was also followed up with a video for the single Round Me Up.
Born in Ottawa and raised in Oakville, Ontario, Burton calls Toronto home though her career has taken her across Canada, parts of the U.S. and crisscrossing through Europe.
These days, Burton splits her time between her solo efforts performing with or without her band, and side projects such as Hot Peach, a power pop trio and The Ole Fashion – a roots tribunal of Toronto-based musicians. Rather than finding herself spread too thin, each venture fuels her sense of creativity for the others, she points out. She loves the fact that she can tap into all kinds of genres.
“I can write country songs for The Ole Fashion, write pop songs for Hot Peach and then The Sarah Burton Band can be a catch-all for everything else.”
Listening to Burton, it’s tough to believe she was once extremely shy. But with a songwriting gift surfacing years back and growing more polished as she matured, the time just unfolded for her to start performing and sharing her material with a broader audience.
She was reluctant at first. “I had thought of performing as something that other people do – not painfully shy people,” she says with a laugh. But a musician friend urged her to try and sing her tunes herself.
It was no easy feat but she did it at an open mic.
“I got up and sang my two songs and I was so nervous. But as soon as I started playing, I went for it. In some ways, I think it was the best performance of my life.”
From there, bookings were made and she really found her groove. Connecting with audiences, ultimately, is really the best part of her job.
“That’s what makes it worthwhile.
“It’s the best job in the world – super fun – and I get to see a lot of places I wouldn’t get to see otherwise. It’s pretty amazing what you can do – it’s a lot of work, but the rewards are so big.”