Ethereal cellist and singer-songwriter Sage has announced her debut single From Dust, a gorgeous, introspective meander made especially for soulmates, out now. Accompanying this stunning track is a beautiful, nostalgic video, shot in collaboration with director Hugo Rose (Cousin Tony's Brand New Firebird). From Dust is the first taste of Sage's upcoming EP Tethered, a collection of gentle yet striking songs for cleansing the soul, set for release on February 27.
For fans of Laura Marling and classic folk auteur Joni Mitchell, From Dust is a soft bed to fall into after a long hard day. Enchanting and delicate, this song allows space for Sage's elegant vocal to feature front and centre, while her adroit cello playing provides a warm glow that eminates throughout. Speaking on the inspiration behind From Dust, Sage says, "This song is about soulmates, innocence, memories, and endless love. It's one of those miracle songs that was written in no time at all by myself in my run-down apartment. When I sing this song, I think about the movie Stardust. At the end of the film the two star-crossed lovers, having lived a full and beautiful life together, pass away and become stars in the sky, their love living on forever and shining over everyone. There's longing involved, but also hope." The film clip for From Dust is a perfect visual representation of the track – pretty, graceful, and sentimental, with a '70s film-camera flair.
Tethered is an exquisite collection of songs from this inimitable artist. Like a nostalgic fairytale, these songs unfurl themselves flawlessly; from the pizzicato of All My Lost Loves, to the sweet, strings-infused pop of The Loveliest Thing, Tethered is a glorious, sun-soaked triumph of arresting folk-pop. Reflecting on the concept behind the songs on Tethered, Sage explains, "This EP was a cleansing process of feelings I wanted to get out of my system through music. The concept behind Tethered was to write a collection of songs about things that can hold us back and keep us tethered to our place in life, in the hopes of understanding these experiences and learning to let go. Feeling stuck is a terrible thing so I always try to change and improve." Fellow cellist Richard Vaudrey (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Sammy J, Anna Cordell) was the producer and audio and mix engineer throughout the recording process, and was a gem in the studio, as Sage notes, "I knew I had to work with Richard because he embodies so many things I wanted to do as an independent artist. Having an engineer who is also a singer-songwriter-cellist like myself was so useful in the studio and nothing ever got lost in translation between us."
Question: Can you tell us about From Dust?
Sage: Sure! It's a total Nicholas Spark vibe, like if The Notebook were a song; super sweet and dreamy, but it will pull majorly at your heart strings when you realise what the story is about! The lyrics talk about the people we love as if they become stars once they are gone from the world. Love is pretty magical and unexplainable, so I went a little fantastical with this song.
Normally the music I write is super lush and indulgent, but when I wrote From Dust I'd just come back from a trad folk music camp and wanted to put everything I'd learnt from that week into practice. So I decided to treat the cello almost like a mandolin or guitar, and found the opening lyrics "Oh, darling where've you been?" It sort of just rolled out from there, but I managed to keep that ethereal sound I love even with the driving rhythm beneath. I'm really excited about this song and the response it's had!
Question: Where did you get the idea for the video, for From Dust?
Sage: I'm absolutely in love with this artist Fleurie, and at the time of me planning the video clip for From Dust she'd semi-recently put out this super simple home movie-esque music video for her song Out Of The Blue. I felt like I could make that style work for me by shooting a bunch of aesthetic material and piecing it all together as if they were the memories of the characters in the song. I had this other conceptual idea to have the love interest feature in frame without ever seeing their face, referring to the lost love of the song that isn't around anymore. Then I found the videographer Hugo Rose through a friends referral, and once he was on board it came together so easily.
Question: How would you describe your music?
Sage: Pretty, nostalgic, story driven, folk-pop. Even my classical music friends who've heard my music love it because they hear a bit of my trained musical upbringing in there. So far every song I've produced has featured the cello in there somehow. It's such a warm beautiful sound and brings a rich colour to everything. My lyric writing is pretty poignant and considered; I try not to use any throw away words and spend way too long trying to find the perfect rhyme or alliteration until it sits just right. It's all worth it and flowing more easily now than it used to.
Question: What can you tell us about Tethered?
Sage: It's pretty personal. After I wrote the first two songs From Dust and Fault Lines, I realised I was writing about things that had been holding me back in life and stopping me from being my best self. I thought if I continued to write in this way that I could get to know myself better and figure out who I was supposed to be. Even though I haven't experience all of the stories and scenarios I set up in the songs, all of the ideas rang true; missing someone (From Dust), the confusion of blaming someone for so long that you can't remember who's fault it was to begin with (Fault Lines), feeling insecure in your own skin and second guessing yourself because of rose colored glasses (The Loveliest Thing), letting go of all the boys I liked who didn't feel the same (All My Lost Loves), or wanting to start somewhere new and feeling excited by that journey (Wanderlust). The plan was always to end on a positive note and come out the other end with my head held high!
Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?
Sage: If you'd asked me this even a year ago I would have said I prefer recording, hands down. But I've been lucky enough to play for some stellar audiences over the past year with phenomenal musicians by my side, and I've realised how absolutely special that is. There's something so great about getting to recreate those studio moments again and again, but slightly different depending on the room and how I feel that night. Recording is fun but it's hard work, and performing is like saying to the world "Hey, look what I've made!"
Question: Which is your favourite song to perform live and why?
Sage: I have two favorites. Fault Lines is a joy to play because I get to show off my skills as a cellist - I think that level of multitasking really catches people off guard. The arrangement is really interesting to me and I love that its the most cinematic song in the set.
The Loveliest Thing is my favourite song to sing though; it's so anthemic and it feels good to really commit to the lyrics in that big bridge! No matter how much I've been in my head beforehand, when I get to that moment I give everything to the music. It's euphoric!
Question: If you could have anyone, in the world, attend a show, who would it be?
Sage: Ellie Goulding! I've idolised and adored her from the beginning of her myspace days. I love how she started in this very sweet and quirky folk pop style, singing these beautifully unique trill-like embellishments here and there, but then took it to a whole other level with her latest folktronica albums. She's a wonder woman! I've seen her live with my sister and best friend, and it was one of the best shows I've ever attended. She had me dancing and frozen still caught up in the magic. I certainly covered myself in a lot of glitter for the occasion.
Question: What motivates you most when writing music?
Sage: Recently I went to Banff in Canada for three weeks to write new music as a follow up to Tethered, which was the first time I let myself take away the pressure and deadlines to just see what would happen naturally. It was so nice to work without everyday life and responsibilities looming close behind me. In the beginning it's either a lyrics idea or a chord progression that will grab me. I asked someone in Canada about what they do with songs they haven't finished which may have been sitting in their voice memos for too long, and she said that if she can't finish a song that she's not ready for it yet. I'd never thought about myself being ready for a song, I'd only ever thought that if there's a will there's a way and to force it out, but the danger there is you could compromise it's potential. Just let it be and strive for some balance in your workflow.
Most of the time I write on cello and arrange for string quartet. It's a unique way to approach songwriting and there's a lot of creative problem solving involved. Sometimes I'll write on the piano or guitar; switching instruments every now and then stops me from getting into a creative loop because each of them pull different stylistic elements out of me.
Question: Which music/artists are you currently listening to?
Sage: On the regular I'm listening to Vera Blue, Sigrid and Fleurie. Recently I also set myself a listening homework list that had everything from Bon Iver, to Aurora, to Purity Ring and beyond. I love a lot of genres of music, and just eat it all up. There's always something to learn or enjoy about an artist, and never enough time to get through it all.
Question: What or who was your inspiration to go into the music industry?
Sage: Probably my parents. Music has been a part of my life since I was born as my Dad is a talented self-taught songwriter, pianist, and guitarist, and my Mum knew the importance of music. I've been told though that in the beginning I wasn't so convinced of it myself, as she'd pick me up from piano lessons and I'd be so mad that I would sit in the back of the car pouting and giving her the silent treatment. I still practiced hard though, and remember writing my first songs in primary school. Once I got my flute at 10 and cello at 13 I was really hooked, so much so that after high school I continued to study music at University and dedicated everything 24/7 to the craft. Getting through a classical music degree was hard core and nothing will compare to playing Shostakovich Symphony 10 at Hamer Hall, but there's something so creatively fulfilling about pouring your identity into original music and being the benchmark for how that song should sound. After that whole journey I feel like I've finally found my sweet spot where I can thrive and make a name for myself.
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Sage: Ooh… that's a tough one. I'd love to sing a duet with a beautiful male voice like Matt Corby, or work with a producer like Lanks. I love their sound and the heart they put into their music. Hit me up, guys?
Question: What is the biggest challenge you have faced along the way to your musical success?
Sage: Insecurity! If you don't believe you can do something, it's hard to want to try. I tend to trick myself out of this thinking by just saying "yes" to everything and figuring it out as I go. Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew, but on the whole it's opened up a world of opportunity for me. Fitting into a mould instead of making a new one.
Question: What's a typical day like?
Sage: I recently moved back to the Mornington Peninsula and am in a bit of a holiday mode down there, but building up my routine again. Holiday mode for me still involves balancing endless side hustles and projects, but when you can do it from a cafe and break it up with a walk on the beach it's nothing to complain about! Monday for example starts with breakfast, fussing with my cute cat, jumping straight onto email and admin before I'm up and dressed for the day, maybe a day of work at home or maybe a day of practice and music, then going to Pilates, having dinner, and watching a show like The Expanse with my fiancé. Right now I'm planning my wedding too which is super exciting!
Question: Can you share your socials?
Interview by Brooke Hunter