photo by Fotini Chora
Sarah Psalti, known as Sarah P., is a singer, songwriter, actor and model from Athens. She was the frontwoman of the duo Keep Shelly In Athens. In 2014 she relocated to Berlin to start working on her solo-career, we first came across her via the wonderful “Dirty Sunday” have more recently have been bewitched and enthralled by her debut LP “Who am I”. As well as going it alone she is a frequent collaborator, working with artist like Glitters, MMOTHS, The New Division, Sundayman and The Bilinda Butchers. We were overjoyed to catch up with her and find out a little bit more about her music and her world. Check it out!
We love “Who Am I”, are you happy with the reception thus far?
Thank you! I’m very happy, yes! I have received the sweetest messages from listeners & loved ones- I’m so humbled. “Who Am I” is not an easy record. I think one needs to spend some time with it to understand my intentions and get familiar with the way that I structure my compositions. I’m really grateful to all those who took the time to listen to what I have to say.
It’s pretty personal, as reflected in the video for the title track also, is it difficult to expose yourself like that?
I have to admit that it’s becoming easier and easier. It’s very important to speak up and talk about things that matter. I see it as part of my job to offer something authentic and real. I don’t want to sell art that’s contributing to the mass sedation of our cultures and societies. There’re enough soulless products out there – products that are easy to reach and destined to numb our brains. I see my art as my contribution to the revolution against the main stream of indifference. There’s a general promotion of lackadaisical notions in music and whatever’s labeled as “pop music” must be rather positive, uplifting & better performed by some alarmingly skinny, white kid. If people who have things to say shied away, subsiding to this common nonsense, we’d lose the battle with intelligence – thankfully nothing’s lost quite yet.
Is it nerve-wracking to release you debut solo record?
No, it’s not nerve-wracking, but it’s not as easy either. Here I have to say that I’m used to the process of putting out a record – I’ve been releasing music since 2011. The difference is that back then, there were other people involved, so my job was just to write lyrics, sing the songs and look pretty on stage. Nowadays that I release everything via my own structures, I have way more responsibilities and decisions to make. It can be stressful at times, but hey – I’m doing what I love, so there’s no reason losing my mind to the mundane.
Why did you take the decision to move to Berlin?
It was back in 2014 when I needed a great change in my life. Berlin seemed like a cool, humane city and I decided to try my luck there. I wasn’t disappointed!
How different is it to operate as a solo artist as opposed to being in a band?
I value very much the experience I got while in the band – I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t experienced the ups and downs that come with being part of a group. However, taking down the solo route opens you up to a whole new level of adventure. You’re your own boss and on top of all creative and business decisions, which is very empowering, as well as formative. It gives you the opportunity to develop skills that you didn’t know you had. I highly recommend it to young artists, and especially to young women who are not as likely to be given equal opportunities and blossom in music as their male counterparts. Music business is an ever-changing field of occupation that’s becoming more and more blurry. Having control over your art, working with people of your choice and under your own terms is a very big deal.
Photo by Christoph Neumann Photography
What’s your favourite thing about the new record?
Probably the fact that when my team and I showed it to some “powerful” men in music, they didn’t like it.
Did you have a firm idea how you wanted the record to sound while you were writing the songs?
Not really. “Who Am I” was written in a time span of two years. Imagine that two or three songs were considered to be part of my FREE EP. I love how they all came together during the recordings and now fit as a whole, considering that some of them were meant to sound completely different. What you’re describing though, I’m experiencing it now for the very first time in my professional career. I’m currently recording my next record and I have a very specific idea of what I want to say with it and how I want it to sound.
How are you feeling about the state of politics in the world today?
Umm, distressed. I’m coming from a country that’s been down on its knees for many many years now. I’m sure that you guys in Ireland can relate to that. We’ve experienced hardcore situations due to the fundamental public mistrust of our governments and the system. Seeing the misery and despair expand to all over the world is far from pleasant. I’m seeing Greece as some obnoxious (political and financial) tastemaker who later on bequeaths to the rest of the world all the bad, the good and the ugly. And lately, it’s been mostly ugly stuff. There’s a hope for the future of the Greeks since we just returned to bond markets, which is a majorly happy news contrary to the disaster scenarios that some love to paint.
But you know, in our western societies that are driven by capitalism, there will always be corruption and unhealthy transnational relations based on the capital and economic interests. History’s always repeating itself and we’re not taking notes. When we realize that life is not a reality show where the loudest and most controversial wins and start taking matters into our hands, chances are good that economies will flourish again, as well as the confidence in people’s hearts and smiles.
What’s in your fridge?
Haha, unexpected question. It’s kind of standard, actually. Cheese, mustard, very many cherry tomatoes, fruits that my husband and I will most likely forget to eat, an opened wine that we’ll use for cooking at some point.
What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?
It’s very hard to remember because I grew up in a family where music played a lead role in our lives. It was probably some song written by Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis, but I can’t remember which exactly.
If you could change one thing in the world right now what would it be?
Hah, I’ve been asked again this question lately and I said that I would change nothing because even if I did, we’d go back to madness in the blink of an eye. However, I’m not feeling particularly cynical today so I’d say:
PEOPLE 👏 STOP 👏 KILLING 👏 OTHER 👏 PEOPLE 👏.
Very basic, but weirdly keeps on happening. I mean, wtf?
What is your favourite song that you’ve written and why?
Instead Of You. It’s about all those senseless wars – the financial interest put before the human soul and sanity – all those things that we can’t explain to our children. So many people have lost their homes and families in the past years, but weirdly there are not as many songs talking about the collateral damage of war, nor enough influential people of the arts and culture condemning senseless killings. It’s definitely not enough to wear a T-shirt and be part of a social media campaign. Why not make a formal statement through your work?
What musicians would you consider to be your biggest influences?
Definitely John Lennon – I have always loved his innocent and honest approach as a songwriter. Post-punk bands like Joy Division, Bauhaus, Talking Heads have also influenced me in the way I write and sing.
What’s exciting you on the German/Greek/Anywhere else music scene these days?
The polyphony. There used to be music trends, but that’s not the case anymore. Most artists express themselves in the way they feel without following a pattern – I like that. Up to one or two years ago, it was all about EDM, but even that trend wore off. I find it great that musicians are not looking at other people’s projects and successes anymore, in order to make something that will sneak them in a scene for the sake of fame or money.
If you weren’t a musician what would you love to do?
I’d love to be a sci-fi/fantasy screenplay writer or a wedding planner.
Can you recommend a good book?
I’m currently reading Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Guest”.
What question would you like to be asked that you never are? And what would be your answer?
How do I cope with the daily sexism of the music industry? By doing my thing, avoiding the bad apples and being as independent and self-sufficient as possible. Something that I recommend to all music industry minorities – do as much as you can on your own, be your own boss. Don’t let anyone exploit or push you in the corner. It isn’t worth it!
Sarah also did the wonderful self-portrait for us. A woman of many talents.