Perserverence Pays Off For Sarah Buxton: The Roughstock Interview

In this interview with Roughstock, Sarah discusses her long and winding road to the release of her self-titled debut album and how she and her label kept at it and are now being rewarded with a well-reguarded (and hit) single in "Outside My Window."

Now known to many people for her inspiring and fun single “Outside My Window,” many fans do not know that Sarah Buxton also has been working hard at getting her music out to the world and actually released three singles (in 2006, 2007 and 2008) that each made the Top 40 at country radio before somehow falling off the charts.  During that same time, Keith Urban recorded “Stupid Boy” and made it a huge hit. With an unusual loyalty to her, Lyric Street Records sent out “Window” and it has struck a chord with audiences and given Sarah her biggest hit to date.   After long delays, she’s about to see her self-titled album get released  and to spotlight the release she recently talked with Roughstock about her slow-building career and some other topics.

Matt Bjorke: What inspired you to not only be a singer but to also write your own songs?

Sarah Buxton: It’s a very simple story.  At my high school, a group of my friends sang “The Chain,” which is a Fleetwood Mac song and I came home raving about it and my mom went to the record store and bought me Rumors, which is something she never did so it was very strange, I heard the album and immediately was like “Oh my God! That’s way better than what I just heard at the talent show!” I’ve always been a lyric reader and I guess it was the way they wrote the lyrics on there and just a name in bold at the top and I saw “Dreams – Nicks.” So I thought, wow, “Stevie Nicks” wrote that.  There was something about the way she puts a melody with a lyric that made me just realize the personalness of it and realized that I’ve been writing in journals and poetry my whole life so why not put music to it?

Matt: Was it the songwriting community that drew you to Nashville instead of LA or New York?

Sarah:  No! It was my mom! Actually I really wanted to move to Boston, and go to Berklee School of Music. But my mom said Boston was too big of a town for me to move to so she said you can go to Nashville and if you’re there two years you then can go to Boston.  But I never left because I love Nashville, made a bunch of friends and Here we are!

Matt: Your first single came out in 2006.  Did you think it would take nearly four years for your album to come out?

Sarah: No! I don’t know. If I knew it was gonna take four years to come out, I would’ve done a lot of things different.  I kept thinking it would come out but it never did.  But there are reasons it didn’t come out.  The label felt so strong about the project that they didn’t want to just release it without having a hit on their hands. They wanted to make an impact.  They tried single one and then single two.  You’re not releasing the record? No, we’re going to single three.  And then I said, “No give me a moment to try something different with my sound because maybe there’s something wrong with it and that’s why it’s not gonna get it up the charts.”

So I made a track that I really believed in at the time and I had a different manager at the time who was terrible about communicating with my record label and I was out of town when he sent it to the label and told them that I didn’t need to be there when they played it.  The label then thought “we work with artists and they always want to be here when we play their songs for the first time and she isn’t so obviously she doesn’t like it very much” but I did like but then it puts a sour taste in the record label’s mouth and there went another year with nothing. But I have a new manager now and pow! Everything is happening!

While you may not have gotten an album out, your label has stuck by you for quite a while, something that not many labels do nowadays.  How does it feel to have the support of a label like Lyric Street, as you went looking for the right songs to send to radio? 

Sarah: Yeah, I’m amazed! Just amazed!  I can’t believe they didn’t drop me.  I feel like Geez, they keep going and going.  They’re like ‘we’re not gonna drop you because we know you’re gonna make it so if we drop you now, somebody else will sign you and they will get all the credit without all the early support.’ It’s crazy! I don’t know…

Matt: Well it must feel good to have them stick by you…

Sarah: Well, it feels good now because we have a plan because before with the old manager there wasn’t somebody to communicate with the label about the direction and plan. Ahh, I love plans.

Matt: There are few albums that I’ve heard that reveal an artist’s personality better than your record, was that always your goal?

Sarah: No, it wasn’t a goal.  It kind of is just the way that I write.  I am writing with more now with other artists too and have learned to write from other people’s prospective, but I just picked songs that were my favorite songs and they just happened to reveal who I am.  I did notice that as of late I am writing love songs, which is different because the first record didn’t have one love song, literally not one.  I was like, “this is weird…” but now I am in love and I have lots of love songs so now there’s that side of me and I wanted to show everyone that kind of stuff because that’s really where I am now and that’s where my music is heading.  It’s heading to a more organic and real place than it was before and I think that the people that did like my music, that’s what they liked about it.  So there’s going to be more of that. 

When Keith Urban recorded “Stupid Boy,” did you ever imagine that it would become one of his singles?

Sarah: Actually, I did. I felt like the day that he was cutting it I was like ‘Oh my God, this is gonna be huge!” And bit by bit, by God, it just kept happening, it was on the record then it was it was a single and it went to number one, or number two depending on what chart you look at…

Matt: (Laughing) I got into a discussion with a ‘chart watching fan’ on a message board. I said “go and try tell an artist and label that a song isn’t a number one.” They’re going to have a party to be thankful for the hit so sometimes they don’t understand it…

Sarah:  Well, you have to get to a place where you figure out what is this about. Is it about  number one or quality of life or something else because basically you make the same amount of money whether a song is Top 5, no matter how far it goes.  So I mean, why does anyone care?  For me, all I want to do is perpetuate more of this lifestyle, I love making music and I love singing so my goal is that, even if I don’t get to the Top 5, I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had.

Matt: I heard Hal Ketchum say “as long as you can record a Top 20 every year or two, you can keep touring and do what you love to do.”

Sarah: Exactly, It’s true.  I’d love to go straight to the top, I’d love for that to happen but more of everything I’ve had would be fine by me too.  I’m happy with the way things have gone.


Matt: What inspired you to write “Outside My Window?”

Sarah:  well the only thing that really inspired me to write the song was a redbird that kept on running into my window and the same thing on the mirror with my car.  I thought, “What’s it thinking?”  So I walked into a writing session with these three characters, Victoria Shaw, Mark Hudson and Gary Burr, they’re as crazy as I am so as you can imagine, the co-write was just wild and everyone’s just throwing ideas around and I just said “I think we should write this song about this bird that keeps bangin’ it’s head into the window.”  Then they came up with (sings) “Outside my window.” Then we thought, “What’s this song about” and as it developed it became about how change is inevitable.  You have no control over how life gets constantly in flux.  Regardless of whether things are going good or bad, you have to take care of yourself and your people.  That’s kind of what makes your life wholesome and happy, not just the things in your life or outside your window.  It’s about making yourself happy by not ignoring the things closest to you.

Matt: How did you and one of your co-writers, Mark Hudson, create the music video for only $80? 

Sarah: Well I didn’t create it, I just starred in it. 

Matt: How did it come together so quickly then?

Sara:  Well, Mark and I are very kindred spirits. (laughs) I feel like if I was an older man with a colorful beard who was crazy about women, then I’d be Mark Hudson.  So I feel like we have a lot in common and he likes to do videos like this for himself as an artist and Victoria was like we gotta have Mark do a video for “Outside My Window.”  So he came to town and said “OK, this is what we need, we need to paint a redbird on a piece of paper, we say rainbow so many times we’re gonna have a field be a rainbow, my beard be a rainbow – because his beard is rainbow colored- and we’ll have these gangsters jump roping but they’ll look like they’re fighting, we’ll need a church and a flagpole. So basically in one day we went around town, found these things and he directed me to do these things like “for this scene you need to come at the camera and run like this ‘ahh’” and we did it all in one day and he edited it and it’s all his brain child, from his brain.

Matt: Your record features the amazingly talented Jedd Hughes on three tracks? How great was it for you to be able to work with him on your record, like you got to do with people like Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley? 

Sarah: Oh man, that was the reason. It’s really fun to work with your friends and people that you love, not to mention that Jedd Hughes is a virtuoso who is amazing, an amazing artist and guitarist. Not to mention that we’ve worked together in Nashville for a long time.  We’ve written together, sung together and even have done sets together as Sarah Buxton and Jedd Hughes.  So I wanted to reflect that on my record a bit and “Big Blue Sky” was kind of me paying homage to him and everything he’s bringing to my life right now.

Matt: You’re now part of the Shine All Night Tour with Martina McBride and Trace Adkins, how amazing is it for you to be on this tour?

Sarah: It’s incredible.  I cried my eyes out the first night, I couldn’t stop crying (tears of joy).  Martina is a female headliner which is so rare these days and I feel such a connection to this tour because she has a Foundation called “Love Is Respect” which is a whole website to teach young girls about respecting themselves and noticing all kinds of domestic abuse, emotional physical, etc.  And as for Trace Adkins, he is one of the most loving, kind men you could meet and I feel so honored to be a part of this tour.