Sarah Elizabeth is a musician who is defined by travel. Her song Gypsy is a perfect example of the ways in which her journeys have crafted her musical persona. Chronicling her time in places as close as Prince George, Vancouver and Victoria and as distant as Asia and Africa, Elizabeth’s muse has been the open road.
Making the long trip from her current home in Victoria, Elizabeth played her first set at Fort St. James’ Music on the Mountain Festival.
From the small town of Powell River, B.C., which despite being part of the mainland, still requires a ferry to reach, Elizabeth grew up in a musical environment.
“There is quite a large choral music scene in Powell River,” she said. “They have an international charcoal music festival every second year called Kathaumixw… It’s a big festival that attracts people from all over the world to come and compete.”
Elizabeth has been involved in music since her early years when at three years old she was enrolled in choir. It was choir that sparked Elizabeth’s obsession with travel.
“[Choir] allowed me to do some travelling as well. I went to Japan when I was 11 as well as San Francisco, Calif. and Hawaii when I was 15… I was very lucky to have that environment to grow up in,” she said.
Elizabeth performed on Music on the Mountain’s second day as an afternoon set. Performing with a band she had never played with before, there was no indication that the group had anything but near perfect fusion.
Elizabeth’s voice sometimes falls short of the deep and bellowing vocal performances of some of her peers but there is an honesty in her voice that listeners can’t help but identify and relate with.
A fairly new voice in the Canadian folk scene, Elizabeth has had her fair share of accolades, receiving a grant from the Council of Canada’s recording program to attend a songwriting workshop in Wells, B.C. with Canadiana legend Fred Penner.
“It was phenomenal, I had this sort of starstruck moment of being like ‘oh my God, it’s Fred Penner,’” said Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s songwriting process is multifaceted, she says that sometimes she feels she’s “vomiting” up her songs and other times the process can be painstakingly hard.
“Sometimes I call it vomitting out a song, where I just get a flash of inspiration and sit down and in 10 or 20 minutes the song is complete with very little revision and its this weird other world you go to and you’re like ‘woah, that just happened – I just wrote a song,’” she said.
“Then there are other songs that take painfully long times to craft,” she said. Adding, “I wrote a song about my grandparents and how they met and it took me years to write.”
Set to release her debut album, The Milkman’s Daughter, on September 18, Elizabeth is currently undertaking yet another journey. Travelling across country, Elizabeth is part of Via Rail’s artist program which gives artists the chance to travel across Canada. A great deal of The Milkman’s Daughter was written in Prince George, where Elizabeth credits the long, winters as giving her the time and inspiration to write.