Living Life to the Fullest
Jupiter Index, May-June 2006
By Sophia Castrillo
She is a performer, producer, public speaker, painter, and a children’s advocate. Sara Hickman has enjoyed playing music for nearly two decades. She also has spent most of her childhood experimenting on her guitar. Eventually, Hickman decided to study Fine Arts at the University of North Texas, and after graduating from college, her other interests outside of music continued to blossom, and she also began to incorporate those interests into her musical profession. Considered by many to be a humanitarian, Hickman has spent a good portion of her life supporting causes and uplifting the spirits of individuals with the encouraging and enlightening messages that define her music.
During her musical career, Hickman has released an assortment of albums that have served to console and speak to the hearts of her adult fans. With fun titles such as "Bowl of Stars" (which is featured on "Spiritual Appliances") to others that cover more serious topics about life like "Simply" (which can be heard on "Equal Scary People"), she reveals that she can successfully cover a wide range of topics in her music while still maintaining a primary theme: A passion for life. What’s more, other releases, particularly those geared toward children, have melodies that tickle the ears of younger fans with their lighthearted and brightly colored sound.
Sophia Castrillo: The non-fictional piece featured on your site, titled "My Hands Upon Your Feet: A Christmas Story," captures the way you view the world, both as an artist and creative individual, but how do you feel these qualities influence you as a musician?
Sara Hickman: I don’t feel that I am separate from myself or my life experiences when I write music…I don’t think any artist, dancer, poet or musician can be…or for that matter, how can anyone even speaking just in every day conversation not be influenced by what they have witnessed in life? However, I think what you may be implying is that I feel a heightened sense of service via my music and I am trying to share a sense of responsibility and great love (with listeners).
"My mistakes brought me to this place where the flowers replace the thorns… I’m a lover ready to dream, I’m a mountain waiting to be climbed… I’m a child waiting to be held": these are lyrics from "A Woman Waiting to Happen." This song presents a variety of themes, the images also establish a sense of unity, because you compare yourself to people, objects in nature, etc., do you feel this song represents your views on life in any way?
Certainly…much of the parallelisms are from Barbara K’s journal writings, however, I was sitting in my car when I realized that my mistakes had brought me to a place where the "flowers replaced the thorns," and that was where I jumped off into working up this song. I came home and sat in my room and when I finished the song, I was laughing because it felt like an anthem, and I was really pleased with the verses, the chorus, the leading up to the very long bridge…I didn’t care that the song would be deemed "long," what I was excited about was that the song expressed so much of what I feel as a woman.
In "I Wear the Crown," an upbeat, optimistic message combines with the happy-go-lucky mood of the song, but, in short, what does it mean to "wear the crown," and is this crown a spiritual one, because in the lyrics you mention being "heaven bound?"
Hmm. Good question! I had never thought about the fact this song could have Christian implications, which is funny because I am a Christian and so many of my friends have asked me to make a gospel CD. This song was just tongue-in-cheek about the fact that I get ribbed all the time for being so "happy-go-lucky" and I’m not ashamed of the fact that I find joy in being alive, being here in this world. The crown represents feeling on top of the world, to me.
Being that you are a mother of two children, do you sometimes find that the recording process is more of an arduous task than a creative experience?
No way! I love pre-production, I love scheduling rehearsals and recording times and planning the calendar, putting together finances. I have never thought of it as "arduous." The only thing I find frustrating is musicians who show up late or forget to show up at all. On my new album, "MOTHERLODE," I had one musician forget to show up for his appointed time to play keys because he was making love in the middle of the afternoon with his girlfriend. It throws the entire schedule off, but…you know…he was a happy fella! Hopefully his lover was, too!
Thus far, how have the memories you have created with your children influenced your profession as a musician, or more specifically, as a child advocate, the other title that refers to you?
Oh, it really enriches every aspect of my life. It has brought out a deeper sense of enthusiasm and it makes me feel more confident, overall. I love being a mother. Totally love it. I am grateful to my children for being so brilliant, whimsical, and funny. More than anything, my desire to bring relief to children around the world has been strengthened, and I feel a great sense of pressure to never forget how many are suffering every day.
What outside source, if any, fuels your energy and inspires you to live with such an active approach to life?
God and death. For one thing, I feel God’s whisper in my ear, sometimes God’s roar! I know when God is guiding me. I also am quite aware that being a human being has its limitations, specifically because at any moment, I could die. And that leads me to the daily conclusion that I need to spend my time wisely, and, hopefully, kindly. I try to be completely present in any given situation.
Though you cover many topics in each of your albums, they all offer a natural, folky sound. What new elements and styles do you plan on adding to your new record?
I have a rapper on one song…I have tried to push my voice in different directions, a return to some raw [like] elements using my throaty side. Also, more compressed vocals, right on the mic, with no reverb. Reverb blands out my voice, so I’m not a big fan of it. It seems to remove the subtle textures that my voice needs to express.
Tell us about the songwriting process for your new album?
I purposefully created two discs on "MOTHERLODE" – one is entitled "The Thread of Happiness" with happy, sexy, upbeat songs, albeit some of the lyrics are not always happy. And the other disc – "The Mirror Of Despair" – contains songs about domestic violence, war, insomnia, my mother’s hands, addiction – so you have two completely different vibes, and the listener is invited to "choose their mood." The project began when I sat down at the piano, feeling despair, and wrote a song called "Living in Quiet Desperation." I was feeling like I had nothing to offer the world; I’m just a mom, a woman who writes songs…how small and insignificant! But the song led me to a beautiful phrase: "And no one is as mean to me as me…" and it woke me up to the fact that many women (and, perhaps, some men) feel this way. I started writing, and finding songs of similar relevance, that spoke about being a mom/musician/lover/wife/human being and how we dance between euphoria and sadness about our human condition.
This year the Folk Alliance Conference was held in Austin, Texas, what was it like for you to perform at it?
My joy was in discovering other artists, like Zoe Lewis and Anna Wolfe. I truly enjoy sitting in their sphere and hearing what is important to them – it is so inspiring! And seeing Lowen and Navarro and Phil Parlapiano, old friends of mine, and getting to sit in with them…that was a blast! I’ve been in this business so long that the best part of the conference was turning a corner and running into a club owner or producer or the plethora of folks I know and getting to catch up and laugh about life’s doings. My showcases were rewarding, but to me, the best part is the flow of energy and smiles and music. I love getting to be a part of it.
What have you most enjoyed in your career as a musician, and is there anything you feel you have been able to discover about life that you would not have been able to learn about had you chosen another profession?
What I enjoy most about my career is deciding my own days. I enjoy dealing with the business side (I know, I know…what?!) and I still get pumped when I write a new song, or co-write with another artist. I feel certain that no matter what I had chosen to do with my life, I would be in this place now: happy and challenged.
Would you like to add anything else about your music?
I’d like to say this: that the people who buy and support my music are the ultimate. They have been beyond kind to me on this journey. Seeing faces at a show, eyes full of laughter and/or tears, man…it is the most rewarding gift. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my songs and stories with people who get me for who I am, who don’t try to change me or negate me, but just keep sending the signal: GO ON AND SHARE YOUR HEART. This is the best blessing of all. I’d like to say thank you to them, and thank you to you, too, for asking me about my songs. I hope that "MOTHERLODE" inspires and challenges people. I know the cover art will start dialogues, simply because the artwork is a Kama Sutra painting of a couple engaged in lovemaking. I wanted to discuss all the sides of being a mother, and how I became a mother to begin with! I am in love with my husband….that isn’t to say that we don’t have our own problems…but as a person I get to spend the majority of my time with, I love him very much. And he inspires me to be more patient. (And I hope I inspire him to take more risks!) This is why I think we are a good balance, and this balance is what I hope to share with listeners on the new album: that you can have love, you can have despair, you can have a variety of emotions, and it’s all still good. Really.