We are all excited about - Sabrina & Craig - featured for the Songsalive! Pro member Spotlight for April/May 2015.
Album Review "GREEN"
Have you ever been to Nashville's Tin Pan Alley? I have. But recently, I felt it listening to Sabrina & Craig's GREEN album. I wouldn't call it folk. More like a motly of southern and all american sounds, stories and textures. Consider it, a lovely musical tapestry, that is Sabrina Schneppat and her musical and life partner Craig Lincoln. Coming from a dynamic musical duo marriage myself, I totally relate to Sabrina & Craig's creative journey, and this year marks a warm and heartfelt opus for them, in the arrival of their "baby" album - GREEN.
The album starts with a pulse and tension that brings you in immediately. When Sabrina starts to sing, you want to listen and listen just to hear what the story has to say. She is captivating. Like one of the song lyric details, "Indigo" is "haunting" and "enticing". Alongside the seductive female vocal is the rhythmic and exceptional guitar playing by Craig, with various layers added to build the tension of the story. I am taken back to the wild west, perhaps some Clint Eastwood movie, with pilgrims making their way across the country amongst gun bearing cowboys and faint towns in the desert. And yes, there is a wicked sense of humor in the vocal tones, story and that whip lash.
Guitar and mandolin ooze softly in the next number, the title track, "Green". Taken down a notch, and so is the mood, as it turns melancholy, thinking of past memories and unbroken hearts. This duo knows how to pull the heart strings, taking us across various emotional peaks and visual imagination.
By track 3, "Going Home" showcases Craig's vocals front and center, and a refreshing sensitive approach to male story telling. It is without a doubt that everything Sabrina & Craig do, its a real "marriage" of art and story. Whether one sings and other sings backup, or plays guitar or other instruments, you can tell that they are indeed mirroring, backing, connecting, supporting and lifting each other. "Going Home" is a good example of that with voices interweaved; instrumentation and rhythms artfully in tandem. This, like so many of the songs, are not over-produced or jammed with instruments. Indeed, we hear the voice and guitars easily, front and center, in semi-acoustic production. There is a lot of space, to hear the story in-between.
"If I Were A Lark" really expresses that 'space' well, with, literally an open start of just Sabrina's vocal, and then only tenderly, guitars supporting gingerly until the band comes in, delicately. It's sweet and tender, as is the story of freedom and comfort, and metaphors of clouds, storms and refuge.
Now just when I thought it was staying in that folk/Nashville style, I was completely sideswipped in a good way by "Man Behind The Song", which had a sensual soul combined Eric Clampton guitar groovy feel. Craig's voice and "vibe" made me want to slow dance and feel the "devil" inside of me.
Yes, this album crossed many emotions and asks the listener to be in touch with their own. This is a hallmark of the album: a call to action from us, who listen, to go inside and feel what we feel, and question our own lives, stories and path.
Sabrina & Craig's goal for GREEN was to "have each song stand up in musical and production quality to the best that’s out there, whether Indie or major-label." I think they have succeeded. The quality sonically and emotionally for both the songs and the production of those songs are high end, awe-inspiring, and timeless. Kudos. Very proud to have them part of the Songsalive! family.
Interview with Songsalive!
1: Where are you from, originally and what brought you to where you are?
Sabrina: I’m a buckeye by birth having grown up in Tiffin, Ohio. I came to Los Angeles in 1997 to pursue the performing arts, which at the time was acting. Shortly after I received my Screen Actors Guild Card and then went back to school to receive a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology. It wasn’t until after I met Craig in 2007, that I got back to one of my first loves, singing. It was at that point that Sabrina & Craig first began.
Craig: Originally from Minneapolis, MN. I moved to L.A. in 1985 as part of a new start and career change from athletic coaching (University of Minnesota, Diving) to business management training and organization development. My guitar came with me.
2. What style of music would you say you do?
Interestingly, one of our biggest challenges has been to come up with an answer to that question. While we’ve been called folk artists because our songs are acoustic-based and primarily lyric driven we are performing songwriters who cover a wide range of styles from jazz, pop, country, Americana, R&B, rock, Latin, Celtic, cabaret, to Hawaiian slack-key. We like to explore new territory.
3. What do you enjoy best - songwriting or performing and why?
Sabrina: I see these as two sides to the same coin. Ultimately, as an artist, I am trying to understand my place in the world and I do that by using myself as a conduit through which I experience my world. As a writer, I’m looking for ways to deepen the connection with myself but also the world around me. I strive to express what I’m feeling. As a performer, I take the messages that I have deciphered and attempt to share them in an effort to connect with other people -- to understand and be understood.
Craig: Hmmm, a forced choice! I’d have to say performing – the main reason to write a song is to express something, so it follows that I would then want to express it in performance. But finishing a song that I am happy with is a pretty wonderful experience!
4. Who are your musical influences?
One of the fun stories we sometimes tell in our performances is about the first time we got together to sing. We each had a stack of music that we wanted the other to hear. Sabrina played something for me and I said “ahh, that’s so diva, broadway.” And then Craig played something for me and I said, “ahh, that’s so hippie music.” Well, we soon discovered that out of the 250 plus CD’s that Sabrina had and the 600 plus CD’s and vinyl records that Craig had, we didn’t have a single one in common.
Sabrina’s influences growing up were classical, jazz, and show tunes as a child. Then she went through a very intense idolization of Elvis followed by top 40 radio in high school which transformed to country music when she discovered The Judds. Now her influences are fellow singer-songwriters. Sabrina says, “they seem so much more authentic and relevant.”
For Craig, his early influences were the folk artists of the 60’s -- The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul & Mary. Simon & Garfunkel were monumental. I spent hours listening and learning harmonies and guitar parts. Paul Simon and later James Taylor we huge influences in both guitar and songwriting. As far as my guitar gurus go, Leo Kottke, Pete Townshend, and Chet Atkins are my guys.
5. Describe your favorite song you have written and why is it so special to you:
Sabrina: My favorite song is entitled Dreaming of You. It was born out of a little ukulele riff, which had a very dreamy quality. From there the song emerged and I was thrilled because what developed was reminiscent of the tin pan alley songs of the early 1930’s or 40’s with a universal lyric that touches a deeper optimistic melancholy chord.
Craig: Cats & Dogs - one of my first songs, and one that has been part of our repertoire from the beginning. It always has an emotional response and I love the way it starts out silly, drawing the listener in with laughter, and ends poignant. The first time I performed it for a showcase, I could feel the audience with me, and I was deeply touched by the experience.
6. What are your goals for the next 5 years musically speaking?
Artistically we want to keep challenging ourselves to grow: our writing, our vocal flexibility and expression, our instrumental abilities, our arranging, and our performance. One area we’ve really started to look at is rhythm and groove.
On the business side of things, we’re focusing on how to connect with larger audiences and of course technology is opening up all sorts of new avenues for this so the challenge becomes how to focus energy in a few areas that are suited to our music and our audience. This is something that has been getting clearer for us as we’ve grown and developed more of our own voice and style. The danger is that with all of the growing possibilities it’s easy to disperse one’s energy and lose effectiveness. But the most important thing is to keep making GREAT music!
7. Tell us about your recordings and what's in store next for you:
We have recorded three albums. The first is a solo album Craig made several years ago – Cats & Dogs -- a straight-ahead recording with Craig accompanying himself on guitar, and a couple of harmonica overdubs.
Our first album together – One Home, One Heart – was more ambitious. Each song was recorded exactly we perform them Live and we did in fact record them nose-to-nose and live. We then complimented our performance by adding some carefully chosen and arranged parts played by other musicians.
Our latest album, GREEN, really is a leap forward for us in many ways. It is a ground-up studio recording. We spent time in pre-production to develop the basic arrangement for each song, and then brought in studio musicians to help us realize that vision, and sometimes enhance and develop it. The goal for GREEN was to have each song stand up in musical and production quality to the best that’s out there, whether Indie or major-label.
The scope of the album was made possible by our GREEN Team, a group of individuals who made our crowd funding campaign a success. It’s quite a different experience going into the studio with a team behind you. It’s a responsibility and privilege. As writers, we ventured into new stylistic territory with Latin, R&B, a couple of jazz “standards”, a pop spectacle, a Celtic number, a Hawaiian slack-key song, a folk-rock western number, and more. As instrumentalists, we’ve both grown. Craig is playing styles he’s never played before and getting more precise in his playing and I played on six cuts, which I would have never dreamed possible five years ago. And finally as vocalists, we’re both challenging ourselves. I sometimes curse myself after I’ve written a song only to find that I wrote myself a near impossible range to sing or left no where for myself to take a breath but it’s all about serving the music. The music comes first and then we do our best to serve it and make it shine. Next up, we’ve begun work on an all-original Christmas album. We’re very excited because Christmas is very magical time.
8. Where can we buy your music?
GREEN will be available on all the major outlets once it’s released on March 21. However, if you’d like to buy it, we’d prefer you buy it through our website (www.SabrinaandCraig.com) as a greater percentage of the money goes back to us which in turn gets reinvested into creating more music!
9. What are your views about where the music industry is heading in your community, or on a global level?
The term “music industry” to us is the axis of major-labels/commercial terrestrial radio/giant venue concerts. We feel the industry will rebound from the upheaval that the Internet created by learning to exploit social media to continue to develop huge audiences, both for unique artists discovered, and “cookie-cutter” pop artists created by marketing teams. Reports of the death of the music industry are overblown; it’s just that the model is changing.
With technology changing so rapidly these days, artists have to continually look for the best ways to use the current conditions to get ourselves and our art out there while not losing sight of the most important thing -- connecting person to person.
The Internet allows independent artists to develop and reach their own audiences, more slowly and methodically, but globally. The result will be that in addition to a few hundred major label artists that have millions of fans, none of whom they know, there will be millions of independent artists that have hundreds of fans with personal connections. Some of these will grow their audiences to thousands of fans, and have viable careers as artists. This is a good thing, and we aspire to that kind of success.
10. Anything pertinent you'd like to say about Songsalive!?
We’ve been Songsalive members for five plus years and we so appreciate the positive, enthusiastic people. Songsalive! creates community, a sense of belonging – that we are not just out there on our own, and that there is a place to appreciate and be appreciated for what we do. There’s always something to be found to help us move forward with our music both personally and professionally.