We caught up with online MA Commercial Music Production student Sarah Carton, an award-winning singer, songwriter, music producer and theatre maker as she shares with us her biggest inspirations, and her journey so far.
So Sarah! Tell us about how you got into music?
I’ve always written music, I used to compose songs on piano and acoustic guitar when I was a teenager but would only play them for friends at school and do the odd cringe acoustic YouTube cover. I studied drama at university, so did a lot of musical theatre but always hated the way musicals had a formula for the music. I started my own alternative music and theatre company called “Rose Eye Productions” with friends from my course, which specialises in creating live shows that mix contemporary electronic music, spoken work and acting. Writing music for those has helped me to really find my own voice and style as an artist over the last couple of years and is the reason I’ve finally got the confidence to release my own tracks now.
Who are your notable inspirations?
A real mix – I love the spoken word styles of The Streets, Hak Baker and Kate Tempest, particularly in awe of Kate Tempest’s minimal production in tracks like Firesmoke. Also a massive fan of more emerging female UK artists such as Connie Constance, Tirzah and Arlo Parks.
Tell us about your Roundhouse Residency, how did that come about?
My mate actually sent me the post from the Roundhouse about the auditions, I had no idea before then that the Roundhouse had so many opportunities for young artists. The Residency was amazing, I was able to meet so many talented emerging artists and was given great opportunities, such as performing at the Roundhouse’s Last Word spoken word festival and as part of their Full Circle day festival. Having access to their recording facilities and advice from industry professionals was really essential for my confidence and development last year.
So you’re a musician, an actor, a spoken word artist, a singer, a producer? Did I miss anything? Which was your first love?
Haha, it’s been a busy few years… My first love was always singing and song-writing. It’s from singing that I got into musical theatre as a kid which got me into acting, and through my love of artists such as Kate Tempest and The Streets that inspired me to write spoken-word poetry to music. Production is my newest endeavour and I love it. For me, my music production goes hand in hand with the song-writing process.
What made you decide to study MA Commercial Music Producer with Tileyard?
I’ve been producing my own demos for a couple of years, having taught myself the basics of Logic and Ableton, but I was always frustrated that I couldn’t quite create the sound I had of the track in my head due to having a limited skill set. Having also worked on some freelance jobs as a sound designer last year I was getting to a point where I wanted to take my skills to the next level, get more experience composing & producing to brief, and really have full control over the sound of my music, without having to rely solely on working with other producers.
How has the course helped to develop you so far?
‘Beaches on the Thames’ was actually a track developed for the Foundation Module of the course, so without this course, that single probably wouldn’t exist. It was during this module that I was getting more confident with my own production skills. Getting great feedback from tutors about the track gave me that final push of confidence to continue developing the track with my friend and co-producer, Ancona. The course has definitely helped me to start thinking out of the box with production. I’ve always thought my production has been a bit minimal and not commercial enough compared to the current landscape of artists out there, but the course has helped me to channel the uniqueness in my production and turn it into a strength.
What do you think about the gender gap between male/female producers?
You’d think with the rise of female artists at the forefront of music, topping the charts and finally outweighing men for Mercury Prize nominations this year (yay), this would be relatively representative of the wider music industry and the work that goes on behind the scenes – but when you look at the teams of producers, engineers and mixers behind the hits, it’s a very male-dominated sight. Just go onto most recording studio’s website’s staff pages or look at the credits on the majority of hits and it’s pretty blatant how lacking the music industry is in female producers. One of the main reasons I’m doing this course is that I don’t want to have to solely rely on a team of male producers/mixers/ engineers to release one of my own tracks. It’s great to see organisations like PRS, Girls I Rate and She Said So championing female artists and producers – I just hope the industry takes note sooner rather than later of the lack of female producers behind the scenes, why that is, and does the work needed to seek out and nurture the female talent that’s out there.
How has lockdown affected your work?
Alongside being the inspiration for ‘Beaches on the Thames, lockdown’s actually given me a lot more time to finish tracks and work on my production masters. I work full time at Universal Music during the week, so now we’re all working from home, cutting out the commute to King’s Cross has added so much more time to my day to crack on with the masters. Having more time at home and fewer distractions has also meant I’ve been able to finally finish tracks I’ve been working on for months.
What can we expect from Sarah over the coming months? Any dates/things to look out for?
I’ve got my first London gig lined up for the 23rd of October at 93 Feet East in Brick Lane which I’m pretty excited for! Other than that, no set dates but I’m currently working on two new singles – just trying to decide which to put out next! Hoping the next track will be out early Autumn.
93 Feet East Gig 23rd October: https://bit.ly/sarahcarton93feeteast
Follow Sarah on Instagram here
Listen to Sarah on Spotify here.