Sarah Peacock has a rabid fan base, a voice that could stop hearts, and a bad ass new album full of songs that could burn your house right down. Unafraid to tell the stories of powerful women and the kind of heroes that the world needs now, she is an inspiration to musicians and fans all over the world. Recently I got a chance to talk to her about witches, community and country music.
Cindy Emch: Hey Sarah – It’s great to get a chance to talk to you about your new album! The title of the record – Burn the Witch – conjures up a lot of different imagery. What brought you to that title?
Sarah Peacock: I was getting ready for a cowriting session with my friend, Sheena Brook. She came over to my house, and when I asked her what she felt like writing about, she said she wanted to write a song called “Burn the Witch.” At first, neither of us knew where we were going with the idea. But as we began to research the Salem Witch Trials, the message of the song and the delivery of it became increasingly clear. We decided to recreate the experience of the Salem Witch Trials and hope that listeners would read between the lines. We don’t burn people at the stake anymore, but centuries later – people are still afraid of what they don’t understand. We continue to dehumanize, demonize, ostracize, and marginalize entire people groups. Music is a medium to express opinions and evoke positive change. That’s what Sheena and I hoped “Burn the Witch” could do when we wrote it.
CE: What themes do you explore on the album and what is the core message that you’re getting out there with these songs?
SP: This record heavily leans on a lot of social justice issues. My hope is to inspire people to love each other just a little better. We are all a lot more alike than we are different. Everybody has a gift and a dream that they can use to be an agent of change in the world. Every voice has value, and we have to find that within ourselves. It should also be our joy and privilege to empower one another as we continue to carry that message of love forward.
CE: You seem to have an incredibly devoted fan community. What has that journey been like and how has that community of support shaped the the direction your career has gone in?
SP: There is no shortcut to building a community that is based on authentic relationships. For me, it’s something that developed over time. I’ve been touring almost 15 years now, and I’ve met so many incredible people along the way. Some folks have been here since the beginning when I used to play 3-hour gigs in BBQ restaurants singing for $150 and a meal. I know most of them by first and last name. For years, I picked up handfuls of fans like this across the country and eventually all over the globe. We’ve been through a lot together. And, they take an incredible amount of ownership in my success. When my tour bus burned down in 2016, they showed up. I’ve done several Kickstarters including one for Burn the Witch, where we raised nearly $50,000. I try to be real with them; vulnerable. I don’t sugarcoat the rollercoaster. I share the downs as much as I do the ups because that’s what a friendship is. To me, there is no relationship in this business that’s more important than the relationship I have with my fans. It’s a relationship that cannot be manufactured or diluted. I haven’t always done things the easy way. But I’m grateful that sometimes the hard road results in longevity and creates a tribe that will stand the test of time.
CE: What is your songwriting practice like? Do you have a favorite place or time to write?
SP: Touring is the worst thing for my songwriting practice, and I do a ton of it. When I’m home, I tend to be in recovery mode in between tours. So I have to be very intentional about my songwriting practice. When I write for an album, I prefer to go away somewhere and completely unplug. I love to go to a beach house or find a cabin in the mountains by a lake. I quiet my
mind, unplug from all the distractions of tour life, and let what needs to be said begin to bubble up inside of me. It’s such a freeing feeling to be unbridled with my thoughts and creativity, and I love it when I can sit in that sacred space.
CE: The title track of the album has such an Old West vibe to it, even though it’s about (in part) the Salem Witch trials – how did those elements come together?
SP: I feel like the song just kind of told us what needed to happen. The lyrics inspire a certain feeling, and the rest just kind of followed. I can’t explain it, but it doesn’t really feel like I had much to do with it honestly. The muse took over, and my hands and voice simply became a vessel.
CE: Since the last presidential election, there seems to be a prevalence of witch imagery out there as part of the resistance. Do you identify as a witch personally or is it more of an ‘inspired by the outspoken / rule-breaker woman’ sort of thing?
SP: If you’re a member of a marginalized community like myself, I think it’s easy to identify as the witch in this story. I know I do. Let’s think back to 1692 and the types of people who were being burned at the stake. Any person who didn’t fit the “norm” at the time was fair game. Today, we continue to ostracize and oppress people who don’t fit “the norm.” People of color, the LGBTQ community, women, and the list goes on and on and on. It’s not okay, and I hope this record makes people think about what they can do to love a little better.
CE: You’ve played an incredible number of shows – when did you start playing out professionally?
SP: As soon as I graduated from Belmont University in 2005. I couldn’t wait to hit the road!
CE: What inspired you to become a musician?
SP: Believe it or not, it was Amy Grant! I grew up in a very conservative household, and we weren’t allowed to listen to “secular” music. Amy was the Christian rock n roll star, and I just always thought she was the coolest. As I got older, I discovered Led Zeppelin, Heart, country music, and all the classic rock stuff. All that music has a heavy influence on my music today. But Amy Grant is who first made me want to pick up a guitar and start writing my own songs.
CE: Who are your bucket list people to perform with?
CE: What are you looking forward to in the next year musically?
SP: I’m really excited to see what doors open up with this record release and the 5 song covers EP (also social justice-themed) that’s coming later this
year. And, I’m really excited to get back on the road with my all-female ensemble.
CE: What impact do you think being a queer country artist has had on your
SP: I support the community by using my voice to plant seeds of positive change, but I’ve never been about waving a big banner everywhere I go. For me, it’s really about the music more than anything. But if anything I’m happy that part of who I am can inspire diversity.
CE: What are the last four albums you bought / concerts you saw (that you weren’t performing at)?
SP: Brandi Carlile, John Prine, Heart, and I don’t remember the 4th. We all
work the same shift! Haha.
CE: What other LGBTQ country / Americana musicians should we be talking to?
CE: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
SP: You can get a free 5 song unreleased EP if you sign up for my email list on my website (sarahpeacockmusic.com)