Mary Sarah Endures Heartache for ‘Without You': Interview
Competing on a singing show is never a guarantee for success. For Mary Sarah, it's merely a footnote in her burgeoning career.
Long before she even competed on The Voice (and ultimately finished in the Top 8 in 2016), she teamed up with some of country's most prolific legends, from Dolly Parton to Willie Nelson, for her 2013 studio album, Bridges. During her run on the show, though, she staked her claim with versions of such hits as Carrie Underwood's "So Small" and Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man." She may not have snagged the crown, but she became a household name, nonetheless.
A year later, Sarah continues to hone her songwriting craft, displayed masterfully with her Pasty Cline-esque new single, "Without You."
"That’s the most amazing compliment I’ve gotten so far. Thank you. Patsy is my idol. I’ve looked up to her since I was nine," the singer gushes, bubbly and utterly endearing.
The young star grew up in Richmond, Texas, so her roots run far and wide: She has enough pop sensibility to garner mass appeal, but she glows with the ethos of country tunes past. "I love to write, but I always like to find other writers to work with in Nashville. I had the honor of getting to write 'Without You' with Mike Walker, Bart Butler and David Garcia," she shares. "Each of those names has so many credits behind them. To get to sit in the room with them and explain to them how I felt about the story and where it came from was incredible."
"I told them 'you know what, I really need to go for something that has a much more positive vibe.' I was really trying to mix styles of country. I think we did that really well. It’s super funky, and you can groove to it. The song is not bitter, but it’s more like, 'Hey, I’m positively good without this person,'" Sarah adds.
While the accompanying music video is "in the works right now," the singer says she has one exciting "specific idea" for what she wants to do with it. "It’s pretty awesome. I would tell you what it is if I knew we could accomplish it," she teases. "Right now, we’re trying to figure out the details. Everything has to fall into place for this to happen. Timing is everything."
Despite her sunny disposition, Sarah talks honestly about the pain that led her to this point in her career. Below, she opens up about how she struggles with social media, rediscovering herself through songwriting and the next single she's considering releasing.
In "Without You," you detail finding room to breathe. How did writing this song help you rediscover yourself?
Man... With the whole story of getting over this guy, it was a twist. I had to choose. It was in a time of my life when I really did not need a breakup. There were so many positive things going on around me. This big, big negative was like, "Hello, I’m here to greet you at the front door!" It helped to have that going on but it was definitely difficult. It’s more about understanding perspective and other people’s views. I was in a different place from the guy I was with. And that’s okay. People aren’t always on the same page. Writing this song, though, was a way to release all of that. I was done, and I was good. That’s the blessing that comes with it every single time. To be able to write in depth about it was a stress ball. It relieved that stress.
How do you manage heartache or pain and still focus on your career?
I am an average person. With heartache and pain, it’s good to look at it and take a second and look back on it—maybe you should have done something different or learned some lessons from it. Nothing is ever a regret. Everything has a lesson to it. You have to take the time to find that lesson. I am so blessed. I have a family around me, too, that has been continually supportive of everything. I know some people don’t have that. That’s why I always try to be that person for people, to be that shoulder to cry on.
Since The Voice, how did you discover what you wanted to do next in your music?
I have been writing and exploring myself. I’ve been spending time with friends, too, and learning. I really needed the time. A lot of people and fans were like, "Hey, we want your new music…" I was just not ready. I had songs but it didn’t feel right. I took time to also find people I wanted on my team. Releasing music isn’t an easy thing for an artist. It’s not just, "Hey, let’s record a song and put it out." It’s a whole team effort. Taking the time I did was very important.
During a recent Facebook live session, you performed another new song called “Just Go with It.” How did that come together?
That was, obviously, after “Without You.” [Laughs] I was getting back into the dating scene and getting comfortable with that. It was just about having an adventure with life, not crazy-crazy. I wrote that with Jimmy Robbins and Jon Nite, also two incredible songwriters. It was a fun time to get to write that song. I love songs with positive feels. It’s definitely a candidate for the next single.
You’ve said you’re not sure if an album is coming next. But are you writing to stockpile as many songs as possible for when that time comes?
I am really just writing as many songs as I can. Not to write to stock up or anything, just writing about what I go through. A lot of people feel alone in what they go through, and most of the time, there are other people going through the same things. The idea of an album is amazing, but I’m just writing right now. I’m looking to release a couple singles before we decide to do an album. I want people to get to know me as I go. Usually, albums take a long time. With singles, it’s a whole lot easier to release them every three to four months.
Have you found it fairly easy to open up about personal aspects of your life?
I love being able to share a lot with my fans. But I do have a love/hate relationship with social media. The one thing I love about it is I get to connect with all my fans and have relationships with people all over the world. I truly am blessed with that part. To have freedom from it for a little bit is nice, too. I’m pretty open especially when asked about things that could help others get through things. I’m not ashamed of who I am. I’m a real person. That’s what I want people to know, and I’m perfectly imperfect.
If you could collaborate with another legend, dead or alive, who would it be?
I’d have to go with George Strait. Who wouldn’t want to sing with him? Garth Brooks is in there, too. He’s done some amazing things for country music. He’s incredible. I’m jealous because my parents talk about his Vegas show all the time. I wasn’t old enough to see him when he was in Vegas. They said it was one of the most amazing things they’ve ever seen. If I meet him one day, I’m gonna have to sit him down and say "Okay, give me a personal performance right now. Go!” [Laughs]
What is one show you are most excited about in your upcoming run of dates?
I would have to say the Fort Bend County Fair. That’s my hometown, and I went to Foster High School. I’m actually going to the fair I used to go to for years and years. Now, I’m headlining. It’s weird to think about. I went to see so many artists play there. Going home, people freak out more than they ever did before. It’s cool I can brighten up their day and put a smile on their face. On September 29, I’m the parade marshal, so that’ll be really fun, too.
Do you approach such events as the Iowa 80s Trucker's Jamboree any differently than a proper tour?
When it comes to shows, I always take advice from Mr. Ray Price. When I did the Bridges project, he said, "You always want to make sure you know your fans." I always make sure to look at what area of the U.S. I’m in and really play to the fans and what they like. I got to make my fans happy. As an artist, that’s what I’m called to do.
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