Easter Sunday Spotlight features composer Sarah Class, who has written music for TV, film and albums throughout her successful career. Sarah is a regular at DV Bristol, so manager Paul Wyatt took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her music and recording process.
DV: When did you first get interested in music and who were your greatest influences?
SC: My earliest memory of getting into music was from the age of four, when I wrote my first song! It was simple, but I still remember it to this day! My father taught me the piano from then on until I was nine, when I started studying with another teacher. When I was young I was torn between becoming a concert pianist or a jazz musician. I worshipped Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans and Fats Waller in my teens, at the same time as loving amazing composers such as Mozart, Bach, Chopin, Schubert and Janacek. From the age of 17, I also started getting into singer/songwriters like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon; however, my love of the Beatles underpinned everything!
DV: Do you do all your writing in your own studio?
SC: Generally, I write all my demos in my studio and all my TV work is mainly mixed and mastered there. When I work with an orchestra, the final mixes get finished in another studio. When I’m out and about, I either use a little recorder like an Edirol to quickly get down any ideas, or I use good old fashioned paper and pencil!
DV: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing set up?
SC: I use Logic Pro on a Mac with two displays with a Clavia Nord Stage as the main master keyboard. I’m still on version 7 but I’m upgrading to Apple Logic 9 soon! I previously used Giga Studio, but now I do everything in Logic. I use some of the Logic plug-ins such as Space Designer for ease, and have quite a few software plug-ins like Atmosphere, Stylus and Ivory. I use the Native Instruments Kontakt sampler with libraries such as the East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra. I’m about to update my system to incorporate new compressor and reverb plug-ins. I have a great Avalon 737 as my pre-amp and compressor, which is mainly used for vocals and guitars with a Neumann U87 mic. I still use Event 2020 monitors which have a fab all round sound for mixing. I used to have a Mackie 24 8 buss analogue desk, and have to admit I reckon my mixes were better and warmer – but you can do a lot in one small box – but who knows, I may go back to having a mixer one day!
DV: Do you have a favourite piece of kit?
SC: My Edirol R09 – so easy to get your ideas down quickly. I also like my mini Apogee Duet audio interface – portable and with a great sound!
DV: How do you think the ever advancing music technology has helped you in your creative process?
SC: It’s helped a great deal. For me, writing music is all about catching the moment and getting a great idea down quickly. I used to mess around with creating and editing samples with samplers like the EMU, but I don’t do this as often these days. For me, it’s all about getting great melodies together whether it’s a song or for a piece of film music. But yes, the new technology is amazing, it’s ever more powerful and speedy and I love the fact you can put everything into one laptop and write music wherever you are in the world. I reckon Mozart would have loved it!
DV: Can you tell us about your singing and song writing on your latest album?
SC: I wrote much of A New Dawn out in Los Angeles. I worked with a three different producers out there, and it was a kind of exploration really. I’m still finding my voice with regards to production, but I loved writing the songs and since then I have moved on more into Americana acoustic folk. I worked with some great top musicians both in the U.S. and the U.K. and it’s been an interesting journey to be continued. The album has been amazingly well received and in one big network journal was voted into the top 10 for Best Albums for Songwriting in 2010.
DV: Have you sung any of these songs live?
SC: Yes, I’m doing a lot of gigs around the UK at the moment. I’ve recently performed in Sheffield, Southampton London and Brighton and had some lovely audiences. I’m about to sing at the WAFA Festival in Malta end of this month which will be amazing.
DV: Can you tell us about any current projects?
SC: I recently wrote the score to the three-part BBC Series, Madagascar, and at present I’m working on its potential release as an album. The series – which was transmitted in February this year – was very popular and I’ve had great feedback and reviews from people about the music. Both the press and listening audience have been very enthusiastic, which is wonderful! I just did an interview for ‘The Making of Madagascar’, which you can check out at; http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00g89tj
Since A New Dawn came out early last year, I’ve moved on a lot musically with regards to style and written a host of new material which will be released later this year. I also have a new single to be released this summer accompanied by a new video which is exciting. I’m still working with one of the U.S. producers and we’re sending things to and fro across the pond – don’t you just love technology?
Thanks to Sarah Class. You can find out more about Sarah by visiting these websites;