'Begin Again' with Sarah Lentz at Public Assembly
By Meredith Deliso
(Published in the 3.26.09 issue of 24/Seven and 3.27.09 in the Williamsburg Courier)
Last spring, Sarah Lentz thought she would be celebrating the release of her long-awaited fourth album, six years in the making. After some setbacks, from financing the album to engineering it, she finally gets to do so this month, with a release party at Williamsburg’s Public Assembly on March 28.
“Begin Again” is a work the musician more than once refers to as a miracle album. For without the help of fans and friends, it may not have seen the light of day.
Putting three of her previous albums out on her own label, Lentz has been trying to get her latest out, full of material written since 2002. When a deal with a label fell through for her fourth album, Lentz thought that might be the end, until she reached out to her fans for some help. Asking them to purchase the as-yet unfinished album in advance, and then from generous donations in addition to that, she was able to secure enough funds to continue.
“Right when I was ready to give up, they came through,” says Lentz. “I had tears in my eyes for days. I felt so encouraged and inspired by these people that believed in me so much.”
Then, determined to continue to do everything herself, Lentz was stalled in the recording studio, where she didn’t have much training in.
“I had some friends from music school that I kept calling for help – how do I work this machine?
Where do I plug in this thing?” remembers Lentz. “They took me out for a drink one night and said, Sarah, it’s time that we helped you with this record.”
And so, with the help of her friends, Lentz was able to finish the album itself.
“It was an amazing gift,” says Lentz. “It’s my little miracle record.”
Coincidentally enough, while recording the album, Lentz realized there was another miracle of sorts at work – she was pregnant with her first child.
“It was kind of cool to record while I was pregnant – he was getting to hear my voice,” says Lentz, who gave birth last spring. “When I play it for him now, it seems like he really recognizes the songs.”
Lentz wanted to release the album before her son was born, but the timing didn’t quite work out, and now feels ready to release it.
For all those reasons, Lentz found it fitting to call the album “Begin Again,” taken from the name of a song on the album.
“I felt my music’s beginning again in a whole new way with all these people behind me who supported me for 10 years,” says Lentz, who pulled the name from a track on the album. “That song became clear it should be the title track. It symbolizes so much.”
Though that track, a bare, piano-based anthem, became the album title, the one that means the most to Lentz is “Jericho,” written after a trip to New Orleans a year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city.
“I wrote that song to honor them [the people of the city],” says Lentz. “That’s the one song I hope most that people will hear and remember that that’s still going on and they will need help.”
Lentz also thinks it came out the “coolest,” too, with its mimicking of a New Orleans-style funeral march, with instruments slowing joining in with a solo clarinet in the “procession,” until culminating with all the voices and instruments playing together.
“I want it to lift up and remind people of the joy that was in the city for so long,” says Lentz.
The rest of the album showcases the musician’s steady piano work, pounding out songs influenced by folk, pop and soul, under her mature voice, in the tradition of female songstresses like Tori Amos and Tracy Chapman, but without any excess.
Lentz’s CD release show on March 28, the day the album’s officially out, came to be at Public Assembly rather by accident. Arriving at 70 N. 6th St., the Greenpoint-based musician was looking for Galapagos Art Space. In its place, having claimed into the space after Galapagos moved to DUMBO was the new venue.
“I kept thinking, wouldn’t it be so nice to play somewhere in my neighborhood because this is where I love to be anyways,” says Lentz. “I wanted somewhere that had a good happy vibe.”
In addition to Lentz on piano, she will be joined by her band, comprised of drums, bass, electric guitar and accordian, as well as some brass for songs like “Jericho.”
Between piano lessons, working as a musical director at a church on Manhattan’s Lower east Side and her 8-month old-son, that hasn’t left Lentz much time to devote to writing new music, though she looks to be able to sit down at her piano more.
“I’m hoping that not another seven years goes by before the next record,” says Lentz. “I have at least one more in me that I’d like to get out.”
Sarah Lentz celebrates the release of her new album, “Begin Again,” on March 28 at Public Assembly (70 N. 6th St.) at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Kelley McRae Band is also on the bill. For more information, go to www.publicassemblynyc.com or call 718-384-4586. For more on the artist, go to www.sarahlentz.com.