Sarah Khan – The Mind Behind the Voice

Sarah Khan

It is one thing to hear an artist singing on their albums, but it’s another thing entirely to have a conversation with that artist. Last week, I discussed New York pop singer Sarah Khan. I praised her powerful singing voice, with its powerful, mesmerizing charms. However, this week I received the chance to talk to Miss Khan, which gave me much more to praise, as you’ll see down below. 

CC: Why did you get into the music industry? What drove you into this career?

SK: My parents introduced me, actually. Besides my music education classes in elementary school, my parents had me take piano lessons in third grade. Later, I learned violin. One time, my third grade teacher asked my class to write down what we wanted to be, I wrote down “singer.” It just seemed like an innate answer within me. My parents were really supportive, as were my teachers. At the same time, I had loved music since I was little. When I was five, I watched Madonna’s music video “Like a Virgin” on MTV, and I was so intrigued. I really got into that channel during third and fourth grade. I watched videos of artists like Janet Jackson, Poison as well as Madonna. During High school, I would spend hours keeping a list of every song that was aired during the year end top 100 countdowns.

CC: Where do you think you would be right now if you weren’t doing music?

SK: I can’t really answer that because I can’t see myself doing anything else. I was shy and quiet in high school, because my family moved into a new district at the time. The other students there weren’t into music; there were only twelve people in my orchestra class. I could have been like the other teens going to parties, but attending private music lessons instead helped give me something that was my own.

People have told me over the years that I should not get my hopes up in pursuing music. However, I’ve chosen not to care what others think. Music is my passion and I am so grateful for it. Music is something everyone can connect to. I want to inspire others with my music just like my favorite artists inspired me.

CC: That’s really cool! I read you were a multi-instrumentalist. Besides piano and violin, what other instruments do you know how to play?

SK: Viola for starters. I also learned cello during grad school. I’ve been a private music teacher since 2004. I went to grad school for music education at NYU because at the time I thought I wanted to teach in public schools, but I decided that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I also know a little flute and clarinet.

CC: What was growing up on Long Island like?

SK: Well, I was born in California, but my family moved to Queens when I was little. I enjoyed it in Long Island because music was encouraged there. When we moved out further west in Long Island to where I live now, all the other students were into fashion and who had the biggest cars. I was really shy in high school and I went through an awkward stage. On one hand, I was one of only a few non-white kids in school. Things are much more diverse now, but at the time, I felt lonely. As well, so few of my friends were into my kind of music, it made me wish I lived in the UK. I feel like I would have received more encouragement for my preferred genres there. However, I’m really grateful I didn’t give up and for my amazing violin teacher. She was strict, but I learned a lot from her as a performer and a teacher.

CC: I read you graduated from New York University in 2008. What did you study there?

SK: About that. I read that in your article last week, but actually, I first graduated in 2003. I performed and taught music lessons in voice, piano and violin since then. In 2012, I then got my Master’s degree in Music Education.

CC: Whoops! That’s my bad! I’m glad we could amend that mistake now! Sorry about that!

SK: It’s no problem! Just trying to help!

CC: Well, now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can move on to the next question. Out of all your past performances, which one was your favorite and why?

SK: I’ll have to think about this one. Hmm… I think my favorite was in November 2008, at the Rockwood Music Hall. It’s a venue in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I had a good turnout that night, including my family, a cousin, and friends. I also wore my favorite pink shirt and did my makeup really nice. I played with a full band in acoustic. I’m actually playing there again on June 4th for the first time eight years. I’m really excited because they’ve expanded since I last played there. It used to be just one stage, but now there’s three stages. They’ve also booked me on a Saturday, which they’ve never done for me before, so I’m interested to see what it’s going to be like.

CC: Interesting! I hope it goes well! Anyway, as a fellow writer, how would you describe your song-writing process? How long does it take and what are some methods you use to think up song ideas?

SK: Honestly, I don’t really have a process. The ideas come when they come. Sometimes, I’ll write something, often using voice memo on my phone in the car or I’ll hum a tune. However, I don’t always use what I write, but then there are times a melody will just suddenly appear in my head. “It’s Not Enough” was written in twenty minutes, inspired by Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone.” I wanted to write something similar, then the words and melody came all at once. However, I don’t always write by studying and hearing other artists’ songs. Often, I’ll just go with my instincts.

CC: Is there any song you’ve written that you consider your favorite?

SK: If I had to pick one, it would be a recent song I wrote called “Finally Free.” I’m in the middle of recording it for my next EP. One thing I like about it is that it’s really positive. It’s about believing in yourself and I feel like it’s a nice change from the anger in some of my past songs.

CC: Awesome. Speaking of your next EP, what can we expect to hear in it?

SK: Including “Finally Free,” all the songs experiment with different methods. “Finally Free” is more of a rock and roll song, while other songs use styles like dance pop.

CC: Huh, I’m looking forward to it. All right, now for my final question: who is your favorite artist right now? Do you have a favorite song they’ve written?

SK: I’m a huge fan of Coldplay—they’re one of the main reasons I’m into music. They seem so grounded and humble. I especially love their lead singer and songwriter, Chris Martin. He’s my musical hero, I’d love to collaborate with him someday!

As for my favorite song, I don’t think I could choose one. It changes so often. I think it’d be easier if I gave you my top five. In no particular order, my top five songs are “A Message,” “In My Place,” “Amsterdam,” “Viva La Vida,” and “Square One.”

CC: Wow, that’s something! Thank you so much for talking to us, Sarah. We’re all looking forward to the future of your music!

Note: This interview has been updated from its original posting to clarify certain points.

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