In May, I flew to Louisville, Kentucky for the Non-Commvention. It was a gathering of radio stations, complete with workshops and live music showcases. The featured musicians were either just coming onto the scene or trying to re-introduce themselves.
The Boston-based roots rock/rockabilly group Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles were one of the more notable acts there. Their new album, Diamonds in the Dark, came out last month. Sunday, they’ll perform at Creative Alliance at the Patterson. The show is sponsored by WTMD, which partnered with the Sun to send me to Louisville.
I sat down with Borges and talked about the new album, her songwriting process and the Boston music scene.
You said that it’s hard for you to write music in the van. Where do you write most of your music?
I usually write most of it at home by myself. It’s a tricky thing. The first version words that come out as sort of the foundation of the song often times are just terrible — just plain dumb. You rhyme “dog” with “log” or something — something you’d never want the general public to hear. It takes a few more generations before it becomes something that’s OK for public consumption. I try to do it at home alone and then bring it to the band so that they can kind of elaborate on the basic idea.
Do you know when a song is ready?
It never feels ready until everyone in my band has put their hand to it. When we get to a version where we get done playing the song and we all just feel so excited about it. I think that’s as ready as it’s ever going to be.
Do you keep them in mind when you’re writing it?
I didn’t used to. When I first started writing, I didn’t really have a band in place. On our first record, I got the guys as I was in the process of recording. Now that I know them as musicians and I know their styles of playing and the way they think about music, it’s easier to write songs. If I have a part I’m unsure of, I know that Mike our guitar player will certainly know what to do there. Rob our drummer will be able to arrange it in a different way.
Do you think it makes the music tighter too?
Yes, definitely tighter, but also a more accurate representation of what it’s going to sound like live. It’s something that was born organically from all of us coming together on a song and loving music the way we do.
Boston really didn’t have too much of a rockabilly scene when you were first starting there. Was it hard for you to find your footing?
There are a few bands that have come out of the Boston scene. There’s a lot of other bands that have a rockabilly attitude about them. Inherently, it’s the kind of music that incorporates a lot of different stuff. Buddy Holly was just writing American rock songs. People think of him as a rockabilly idol now, but he wasn’t that in his heyday. I think Boston does have a vibrant roots scene, and we found a place to be in that.
(Photo by Liz Linder)