SXSW 2023 Interview: Pop Singer-Songwriter Sarah Reeves (Exclusive)

Genuinely understanding and connecting with their listeners and fellow musicians is one of the most vital traits for any singer-songwriter as they strive for, and maintain, success. Talented pop artist, Sarah Reeves has effortlessly been doing just that since she signed her first record deal at the age of 18.

In addition to succeeding in her own singing career, the Nashville-based musician has also thrived in penning tracks for other artists for their television and film projects. Her music has appeared in Disney Plus and National Geographic’s six-part original series ‘Welcome to Earth;’ the international trailer for Disney’s ‘Raya and the Last Dragon;’ promos for ‘American Idol’ and UFC; and on television series across such major networks as ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and Netflix. Reeves has also been featured on tunes by high-profile DJs, including: Gattüso, Laidback Luke, R3HAB and Armin Van Buuren.

The singer, who’s signed to Curb | Word Entertainment, is finishing the production of her upcoming studio album, which she’s aiming to release in September. She unveiled the single ‘Wanna Be Here,’ which is the second new song she dropped this year previewing the LP, and also debuted other new music, at a showcase during last month’s SXSW at The Iron Bear in Austin. The release of the new music came after she kicked off the year with the premiere ‘Jealousy,’ the first single from her forthcoming record,

Reeves generously took the time to sit down for an exclusive interview in Austin, two days after she played her showcase at SXSW on March 14. Among other things, she discussed her experience writing and performing her own personal music, as well as her experiences crafting tracks and collaborating with other musicians.

The conversation began with Reeves explaining how she became interested in pursuing music as a career. “I grew up in music. All my siblings are musicians, and my dad is a musician and producer. So he built us a studio outside of our house. So growing up, I was always playing music and in bands,” she shared.

“I would play at my church at a really young age as a kid, and really grew and learned through that. From that, playing music professionally was something that I naturally fell into, as it’s in my blood,” the artist added.

Reeves then delved into what her inspiration was in scribing her latest album and putting the project together. “What’s funny is that I didn’t have a clear vision going into writing for my album. I’ve put out a few albums before this one, but for this one, I connected with some producers and other songwriters out in Los Angeles. I kept my crew pretty exclusive.

“We started talking, and I started sharing what I was going through and my heart. I want everything I do to come from an authentic place,” the songwriter divulged.

“So we just started throwing paint on the wall until something stuck. Then one day, everything clicked, and I thought, this is going to be the direction, sound and theme of the album,” Reeves continued. “From there, we just created the album.”

Further speaking about her experience working with other musicians, Reeves shared how she approaches the process of penning tunes with her collaborators. “I collaborate a lot while I’m creating my music. I started just writing by myself, and I love that experience, too. But when I started partnering with other people, I realized that there’s such a strength there with more than one person,” she noted.

“For example, I’m good at toplining, melody and lyric, so I like to partner with people who are amazing on the track side of things and making the music. I also like working with somebody who’s really good at lyrics, and then I fill in on melody. So it’s about playing off of each other’s strengths,” the artist explained.

“It’s all trial and error. Sometimes you go in to write and it’s not a perfect fit. Then when you go onto the next person, there’s a connection, and you realize that you can do something great with them. I’ve had some really great co-writers, and not so great ones, too,” Reeves admitted. “But that’s just how it works. Everybody’s making music together, writing and exploring, and it’s fun.”

The singer then revealed that when she co-writes tunes for other singers, the process is different than when she collaborates with other musicians to create a song for herself. “When I write for other artists, I tend to lean back a little bit and wait for them to really carry what they want to say. We’ll start talking, as I like to really go for the heart. I’ll dig deep to see what the person wants to say, and ask myself, what are they feeling right now?

“The first hour of a co-writing session is just about talking and getting to know somebody. I’ll take a mental note of when they mention something, so that when we start writing, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, remember when you said this? I think that can be a really great song or lyric,’” Reeves shared.

“So it’s really about getting to know someone. But a lot of times, artists know what they want to say, and I’m just there to help support their ideas,” the scribe added.

Reeves then delved into what her performance style is like once she finishes writing her tracks and shares them with audiences. “It’s so fun; I love performing and seeing the music connect with people face-to-face.

“I also always try to meet people after the show. It’s cool to look people who actually listen to my music in the eye and hear how it’s impacted them. That’s the reason why I do what I do,” the artist revealed.

“Also receiving messages is really fulfilling. It’s gratifying to know that the music that I release is actually making a difference in somebody else’s life,” Reeves added.

The singeralso shared what it means to hear to receive support from her fans on social media. “It’s amazing. I had a bad attitude about it for awhile because everything kind of turned into social media when I first started music. When I first started recording, it was Myspace – I’m showing my age now!,” she divulged with a hint of a laugh.

“At the time, making and releasing music didn’t require a lot of online presence. Everything was about live shows, and you had to go to a bookstore to buy a CD,” Reeves further noted.

“But now, you have to become a social media influencer and always push out content. Sometimes it can be exhausting, but at the same time, I’m starting to look at the positive side of it. I now realize that it’s a free resource that I have available to me at all times to get my music out there and see what happens and connects to everybody online,” the musician divulged.

“There are so many artists that are being discovered on social media now. So I’m starting to see the pros of it now, and really love it. I love interacting with fans on social media,” Reeves added.

The artist then delved into what her experience was like performing for, and interacting with, her fans at her showcase at SXSW. “It was awesome and really sweet. I just performed solo. Sometimes when I perform, I have a full band or an acoustic setup. But for this performance, it was just me on the piano, so I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she admitted.

“But I like to tell stories and connect with people while I perform. So it was really sweet that people came out,” Reeves shared. “I feel like it went really well, and I was able to perform some new songs. So it was really fun.”

Following up on playing the piano while she performs and records her music, the musician shared that playing instruments is important to her while she’s playing her songs. “Sometimes I like just singing and have a band of other people playing instruments. But there are moments in the right setting where I also like to play an instrument,” she revealed.

“I started playing music with just a piano and my voice in my bedroom. So going back to that is really nice because it’s really familiar,” Reeves divulged. But she also admitted with a hint of a laugh that “Sometimes it can be a little bit more nerve-racking and intimidating because I carry the whole thing by myself that way. But it always ends up being really sweet, and I think people really appreciate the simplicity in that.”

The Nashville-based artist then delved into how living in such a music-driven city, as well as performing in the equally music-driven city of Austin during SXSW, is beneficial to her career. “Nashville is amazing. I am right on Music Row, so I’m always surrounded by talented musicians,” she shared.

“Most of my friends and community there are involved in music inn some way, whether it’s on the business side or songwriting side or artist side. Everyone moves there because they want to make music – it is Music City!,” Reeves pointed out with a laugh.

“It’s really inspiring, but sometimes it can be a lot, as it can get oversaturated. But I really love it; I’ve been there for about 13 years now. Growing up, I always said that I’m going to live in Nashville one day. Now I’m there and doing my thing, and it’s fun!,” the singer added.

Reeves then delved into how, in addition to releasing her own records, she also scribes and performs music for movies and television shows. “There are a lot of songwriters in Nashville who specifically write for TV and films, and I became connected to that circle about five or six years ago. I started writing more music that wasn’t necessarily for my personal artistry, but supported films, shows, commercials, promos and things like that,” she explained.

“It’s definitely a different approach in songwriting because the lyrics have to be a little bit more vague. It can be hard because sometimes you’re shooting in the dark,” the songwriter admitted.

“Other times, there’s a brief about the movie, or they’ll say, ‘We really want this phrase in the song,’ so you’re just guessing and hoping that the song’s going to work with the project. But a lot of my friends and I have been doing that for a few years and have had some success,” Reeves also noted.

“I actually have a song (that was released the day after the interview, on March 17), and it (was featured) in a Hallmark movie (that premiered the day after the track’s distribution, on March 18). The movie’s called ‘A Winning Team,’” the musician also shared.

“My song’s called ‘Wanna Be Here,’ and it’s a love song…It’s actually my favorite song that I’ve ever written, and I’ve never said that about any song I’ve written before…The lyrics are interesting, and it can be a wedding song; I can see a bride walking down the aisle to it. So it’s definitely exciting!,” Reeves added.

The artist then shared that after the release of ‘Wanna Be Here,’ she’s finishing work on her personal LP that features 15 tunes and will be released in September. “Every six weeks, we’re putting out a new single before the album drops. I’m 99.9 percent sure that the album’s going to be called ‘Best Days,’ which is a song of mine that I’ve already released. It has so many mixed emotions of so many different themes, but at the same time, they all kind of work together. So I’m excited to put that album out soon!,” she enthusiastically concluded.

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