Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Girls With Guitars (Part 2)

  • 2000 1 Jan
Girls With Guitars (Part 2)
Sarah Masen

%%Christian Musician%%: How old are you, what are your early musical influences and how did you discover your gift in music?

{{Sarah Masen}}: I'm 22 years old. We weren't allowed to listen to anything except Christian music when I was growing up, which was fine. That's just the way it was. But we listened a lot to {{Keith Green}}, {{Rich Mullins}} and {{Charlie Peacock}}. Besides that, I was really excited when {{Out Of The Grey}} came on the scene, but I'm afraid I'm going to date them or something like that. You know, they haven't been around that long and I've been around for even less time.

%%Christian Musician%%: How about some more current ones?

{{Sarah Masen}}: You know, a really big part of this last album has to do with the music that I've been listening to. First of all, I listen to a lot of Sam Phillips. She's probably one of my favorite artists. During the past year or so, I've also started listening to P.J. Harvey, Annie DiFranco and Patty Smith. I also started listening to Bob Dylan and got into U2 in a different way than I had been into them before. I was really interested in what they were saying outside of their music.

I've noticed a real freedom in all of the music I've been listening to. It feels very Christian. I feel affirmed and brought to worship and brought to remembering to love my neighbors in ways that I didn't think of before inside of the church. The music was a vehicle that started waking me up more. My eyes were sort of wide when I started listening to their music, and I was wondering, "Where did they get this freedom from?" I want to make music like that. I don't want it to be any less than that, because I don't want to add to the clutter. I think there's lots of clutter out there. At the same time, there is good, too. There's a lot of really, really good stuff out there. Just as much as there is of mediocre or bad stuff.

%%Christian Musician%%: Your lyrics read like an English major's poetry. We really like the fact that they're rich in metaphors, descriptives and observations. Tell us about your writing. Are you speaking to yourself or speaking to the Lord, or does it change with each one?

{{Sarah Masen}}: Yeah, it changes, it really does. It depends on where I'm going. Lately, I've been trying not to think too much and just write stuff down, and something coherent usually comes out. For whatever reason, if I think about it too much, I start tripping myself up and it looks like I'm trying too hard, which I am, basically. I'm trying to avoid that. There's enough going on in our lives, in my life anyway, that there's no reason why I shouldn't be inspired everyday. People are giving it to me. It's a gift, it's being given to everybody. Particularly, just thinking of my own situation, I certainly pray for better eyes to see those things. It's happening all the time and I'm trying to go in there and capture those moments.

%%Christian Musician%%: On the album, you play guitar on three of the songs and you also use {{Jerry McPherson}}, one of my favorite guitarists. He added some great touches, as well as Scott Dente (of {{Out Of The Grey}}). What did you do with the {{Sixpence None the Richer}} and {{The Waiting}} tour?

{{Sarah Masen}}: It's just me and a guitar. For right now and for whatever reason, I'm really enjoying just playing by myself. It is something completely different, but it's always something different when you're working with people and when you're doing something by yourself.

%%Christian Musician%%: The album has a lot of complexities to it and of course all of that gets stripped away when it's just you and your guitar.

{{Sarah Masen}}: That's right. I think that there's a real tenderness happening in the music when it's just me playing it, something that maybe isn't there when you hear all of the other stuff. It's interesting and good and creative, and I'm really happy with it, but there's a different kind of conversation going on with the acoustic sound. I don't think it's folk girl, maybe it is, but it's different and it's really tender. I think it works and even my voice sounds different.

%%Christian Musician%%: What are you using for on-stage gear when it's just you and your guitar?

{{Sarah Masen}}: I'm using an acoustic Yamaha APX 10. Somebody gave it to me awhile ago and it's my only guitar. I'm working on getting another one. I really like old Gibsons and I'm interested in Martins, too. I like the old ones with the deep, thick sound. I don't do a lot of finger picking. I do a lot of percussive, rhythmic strumming. And we're into alternative tuning, so I wanted something really full.

%%Christian Musician%%: What kind of tunings are you doing?

{{Sarah Masen}}: Well, I've been doing one that's C-G-D-E-G-D. I've been using that a lot. Another one I just came up with was D-G-D-G, then the B I tuned down to a G and the top I've left an E. That one has worked really nicely.

%%Christian Musician%%: What is your psychological approach to live performances as you're getting ready to go out there? What thoughts are going through your mind?

{{Sarah Masen}}: Mostly, I'm hoping that I can be interesting for everybody and really communicate well, because sometimes when I open my mouth, some really stupid things come out. I want to explain what some of the songs are about, but sometimes I just want to play. Along with being nervous about being clear as to what I'm communicating, I'm just excited to play. I love it so much. I love being out there and just singing and sharing something I've created with everybody and feeling that they're experiencing it with me. It's a real kindness that I didn't know was around until you just do it. I'm really grateful for that and I'm thinking about how thankful I am to be able do this before I go on-stage. That seems to make me pretty happy and excited.

%%Christian Musician%%: How would you describe your music? If I'd never heard it before how would you describe it to me? You said you're not a folk girl. If somebody asks you what style of music you play, what would you say?

{{Sarah Masen}}: I call it meta-modern folk. I was really into meta because I had just done a paper and I understood what the prefix was. It's a modern that's changing. Things are changing quickly, and that's a good thing. I'm changing quickly. Just today, I was watching a PBS special on Harlem Renaissance art from the 1920s and '30s, and one of the artists said that usually the later work of every artist is better than their early stuff. Their early stuff is good, but it's a process of the artist getting to the place where they can say, "This is what I do. This is uniquely me." That's really what everybody's trying to figure out. There are similarities, and we're respecting that, but there's a real uniqueness happening in everybody's life; where our place is, what our purpose is, what the knit pattern looks like. David said, "You knit me together in my mother's womb." It's changing because I'm figuring out what it is that I do. In a sense, I wasn't prepared for this. I didn't study music. I studied music in a particular way but it was music theory. In a weird way, it's a mystery to me how this all works, and I'm trying to figure that out so I'm not so insecure about it. I know I'm always going to be creating. Bob Dylan didn't necessarily have a formal education, but he did what he loved and he wasn't afraid, and I think that's the key thing there. It's modern in that there are a lot of things happening to the individual. Psychologically, things are becoming clearer in the sense that I'm understanding the modern world view that it's not just about me. It's about God, obviously, but also about people and redemption happening all over the place.

%%Christian Musician%%: It's a process, and there's constant change. It's like your song, "Season of Change." I thought it was great, because it's how to embrace the change. People say, "Oh, I can't handle one more change." Well, there's going to be several more changes in their life.

{{Sarah Masen}}: And you'd better be thankful, too. My brother said to me, "Sarah, we are not enduring life." We don't endure life. That's like a slap in the face of God. We get to live life. We are involved here. We're enjoying it. We need to be enjoying it. If we're not, then something is wrong and that needs to change. My music is folk in that they are stories. That's what we're doing: we're writing stories and telling the overall story of redemption and trying to help other people see that their story goes along with this one. So it is folk in that way. Maybe it is folk girl, I don't know. There are so many other girls doing it, but at the same time, you just do what you do. Someone once said that the hounds of self-doubt are always at your elbows.

%%Christian Musician%%: What is your philosophy about music in general?

{{Sarah Masen}}: Good art is part of what is waking us up to what the truth is. We're able to say, "Good shot." Giving us a standard to live by and affirming the things that give a standard to live by in the Bible, anything like this is good.

%%Christian Musician%%: Whether it's a painting, a song or a poem?

{{Sarah Masen}}: Yes. Right now it seems like music is really a big part of the voice of the people. Even speaking about politics, such as U2 in Sarajevo and the Tibetan freedom concert. Lots of these things have been happening for a while, but I've been noticing them and noticing that the artist really is speaking for the people. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote that the poet is supposed to write about what's going on around them, that they are telling a story. Anything that does that in a clever way is going to be worth spending your time on and worth listening to. The message combined with the medium, which is melody, is very strong. It may be one of the most strong forces or spirits happening right now. Socrates said that music tears down the heart's strongest walls, so this has been happening for a long time. It is moving us in places we haven't been before.