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Bios

SHORT BIO

Since founding her own label MPress Records two decades ago, NYC-based alt-pop artist Rachael Sage has steadily released a slew of vibrant, dynamic albums described by Goldmine Magazine as "mesmerizing...thoughtful, pensive and flush with an emotional flourish, all carefully and adeptly executed." She has toured with an eclectic list of artists including Ani DiFranco, Beth Hart, Howard Jones, and Grammy® winners Shawn Colvin and Judy Collins – with whom she also recorded a critically-acclaimed duet of Neil Young's "Helpless". In addition to being a six-time Independent Music Award-winning musician and producer, Sage is also a John Lennon Contest Grand Prize winner who has released over 20 diverse albums and EPs. Sage has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, SXSW, and toured globally from Japan to Berlin with her band, The Sequins. Sage is also a visual artist and former ballet dancer who performed with the New York City Ballet. She is additionally a philanthropic advocate who has raised money for a wide range of causes, including WHY Hunger, American Refugee Committee, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital and National Network For Youth (NN4Y). Her 2020 album Character yielded the Billboard-charting single "Blue Sky Days"; her latest project Poetica, an adventurous fusion of poetry with jazz, classical and Americana musical elements in the vein of Leonard Cohen and Laurie Anderson, will be released on MPress/Universal/Virgin in October 2021.

"One of music's most inimitable iconoclasts." BlackBook

"Her keen, ironic sense of humor and quirky sense of the profound is what makes her special as a songwriter" — Billboard

LONG BIO

Since founding her own label MPress Records two decades ago, NYC-based alt-pop artist and multi-instrumentalist Rachael Sage has steadily released 14 albums of vibrant, dynamic music with poetic, image-rich lyrics spanning subjects as wide as her inspirations. Often designing her own album artwork, costumes and musical instruments, Sage has toured with an eclectic list of artists including Ani DiFranco, Beth Hart, Sarah McLachlan, Judy Collins and Howard Jones. Raised mainly on classical music, doo-wop, 70s folk and British pop, Sage possesses a rare combination of musical ingenuity, visual dynamism and emotional insight. Her songs are cinematic and beautiful, and her production layered, lush and laced with orchestral surprises.

Sage's latest album Character is a song cycle written while the beloved indie artist was recovering from endometrial cancer in 2018. Throughout the revelatory 12-song collection, Sage reflects on such concepts as gratitude, compassion, authenticity and optimism, questioning what comprises character – and lifting herself up in the process.

Balancing the poetic lyricism for which she is best known with a newfound reverence for music as a healing tool, Sage is in the midst of a creative renaissance, merging her experience of survivorship with both music and activism. Character is a musical testament to the miracle and mystery of the human experience, in all its inspiring, painful and confounding glory. Sage muses: “I hope these songs honor just how resilient the human spirit can be, and remind us that sometimes ‘it’s ok to not be ok’.”

The album opens with the upbeat “Blue Sky Days”, inspired directly by the imagery in the popular Headspace meditation app, which Sage says she “relied upon religiously” to keep her focused and centered throughout her treatment. Propelled by an ambitious string arrangement and Sage's signature arpeggiated piano riffs, she hopes the gratitude-centric song will serve as a source of hopeful uplift to anyone going through tough times.

“Bravery’s On Fire” juxtaposes courage and vulnerability in a quest for gratitude. Rachael shares, “I wanted to write a declaration of my own search for strength and resilience in the face of the overwhelm that a cancer diagnosis creates.” All proceeds from the sale of the track benefit Women's Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan Kettering and Massachusetts General Hospitals, the two institutions where she received her treatment.

Sage’s fresh, string-quartet take on Ani DiFranco's classic "Both Hands" is both musically unexpected and a full-circle moment. Sage's very first tour was as an opener for DiFranco, and she's long been inspired by her fellow indie label owner; but in this case it was more vital. While receiving chemo, Sage listened to the song as part of a playlist that kept her determined and strong. A year later, it was a natural fit for her album. 

The title track "Character" ventures into edgier, alt-rock terrain. Propelled by Sage's grungy electric guitar playing, this timely anthem questions the definitions of societal cornerstones such as faith, integrity, authenticity and freedom – a fitting track for the beginning of a new decade. Sage confesses, “I don’t think I understood the full meaning of the word ‘character’ until I was suddenly required to redefine my own. I had to decide very quickly what kind of patient I wanted to be, and in the process I learned how resolute I could become.”

Compassion – toward oneself and others – is another theme that runs through much of Character. “Cave” was written by Sage in her college days, but it found its way back to her after she rediscovered an old lyric journal and recognized that the song meant much more to her now than it ever did in her teens. “During my recovery, I was also navigating my way out of a very codependent relationship in which I was sacrificing my own health and well-being in an attempt to solve someone else’s problems." The minor, Eastern European flavor of serpentine string and accordion riffs perfectly mirrors what Sage describes as “a complete loss of self” during this difficult time.

“When I Was Young”, a plaintive, intimate ballad in the middle of the record, finds Sage alone at her Wurlitzer keyboard, revealing some of her most intimate and heartbreaking lyrics. Reviewing the childhood origins of her lifelong drive as an artist, Sage chronicles her own youthful ambition coming to a head with the urgency of what she poetically describes as “complacency soon to be erased.”

Produced by Sage and Grammy® winner Andy Zulla and recorded by Mikhail Pivovarov, Character features her touring band The Sequins – drummer Andy Mac, cellist Ward Williams and violinist Kelly Halloran – alongside longtime collaborators cellist Dave Eggar (Coldplay), drummer Doug Yowell (Suzanne Vega), guitarist James Mastro (Patti Smith, Ian Hunter) and newly-signed MPress label-mate Grace Pettis.

For Sage, survivorship now means balancing her new commitment to staying healthy with a renewed sense of purpose: creating work that uplifts and empowers others in any way she possibly can. Currently on tour with Howard Jones, the former ballerina says she has "come to realize that music is the most powerful healing tool I have ever encountered. It has quite literally saved my life, and I intend for the rest of my career to be a long, slow dance of gratitude."

For a full schedule of online performances visit www.rachaelsage.com/shows