Known worldwide as Postmodern Jukebox’s striking front-woman and for her solo YouTube music videos, Sara Niemietz has starred on Broadway (Carol Burnett’s Hollywood Arms), appeared in television and film (Akeelah and the Bee, Glee), released four albums, sang in Times Square before 50,000 people, and spent countless hours honing her craft singing and playing the guitar, bass and piano.
Recently featured on TIME Magazine and Mashable, Sara released her Postmodern Jukebox cover of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” for an upcoming feature with FELIX. After recently completing a headlining sold-out U.S. tour with the band, Sara is set to hit the road again on a 75-city international tour with Postmodern Jukebox.
In this one-on-one phone conversation (direct from Dubai), Sara provides some insights into her career and how she approaches singing and songwriting.
When did you first decide you wanted to write and perform songs?
Sara Niemietz: When I was four years old, I went with my Mom and Dad to a BJ Thomas concert. They wanted to familiarize me with the songs so I wouldn’t be bored at the concert, so they played them on my way to day-care and driving around Illinois. By the time we got to the concert, I knew all the songs and began singing along with them. At the concert, BJ saw me from the stage, singing along and invited me to join him — on stage. And I was hooked. I started writing songs in my early teens when I learned to play guitar. I sang and wrote a lot in high school. I released my first songs shortly after that.
How and when did you and Snuffy Walden start working together?
Sara: I first met Snuffy when I was nine. I was doing acting gigs in L.A. and he was doing the music for the show Providence. I had a guest star role on that show (as singer/actress), so I had to go to his studio to record the vocals for the show. Later, I was watching Friday Night Lights, for which he did the music, and I recognized the name. So I sent him an email with a video and we reconnected and started working together. He’s been my music mentor ever since.
Can you go into how your life experience formed the basis for some of your songs? Perhaps provide some more memorable examples?
Sara: Much of my music is influenced by what I’ve seen. When I was 10, I lived in New York for a while doing a Broadway show. I was struck by the hustle and bustle of the city, which influenced me to write the song, “Rooftops,” which is kind of an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. I got another song off my new EP that I just did a video for called “Taxi Outside,” and much of the imagery for that is the glitz and the glam of Hollywood, and seeing what lies beneath the gilded surfaces.
Your Dad played in a Rock band in Chicago and your Mom played in church choirs. How did that influence your musical style?
Sara: I grew up listening to a lot of different music. My parents loved classic rock – Stones, Zeppelin, Beatles, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Dylan, Randy Newman, Carol King and Steely Dan. There was lots of jazz too, so I got to know the great American songbook.
You said that music is the purest form of expression with no barriers. How does that apply to your work personally?
Sara: What you might not be able to say in conversation or in generally expressing yourself, you can with music. It’s art and saying anything you want to talk about is fine. With music the notes help express what you want to say.
You also said that music is a blank slate and a magic wand. So how do you wield that magic wand to create your music from a blank state?
Sara: I try to do it as honestly as I can. I love what music does. There’s so much civility in music. You can do anything, so you want to make sure you use that freedom the right way. I like to be deliberate and honest, and to tell my story. I try not to chase the coolest fad or be “in the club.” So I sing about what I see, which might resonate with someone.
What artists would you most like to collaborate with?
Sara: Oh, man. I’d love to collaborate with Andrew Bird, who is an awesome violinist and songwriter. Also Tom Waits would be a dream to collaborate with. And Steely Dan is my favorite band, so I would carry their microphone.
You’ll be doing a 75-city international tour with Postmodern Jukebox. What can fans expect in terms of new and old songs.
Sara: I spent a lot of time in the studio before I left. So there are lots of new songs and videos. I’m in Dubai right now. We went to the top of the Burj Khalifa and then on an off-road desert Safari.
So, you’re performing in Dubai?
Sara: We’ll be opening for Toto at the Jazz festival. We shot a new video for the next single off my new EP. And I’m still writing while on the road. I use my backpack guitar and I’m always writing demos and sending stuff back to L.A. I’m going to work on a new project when I get back. We’ll be posting short videos from the road.
Check out Sara’s unique new cover of Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” It’s awesome.