INSPIRED BY PROVIDENCE Azriel.
Add another incredible voice to the list of exceptional female singer/songwriters here in Rhode Island — Sara Azriel. Her self-titled EP is a superb introduction, and will be available starting Friday at her CD release show as well as saraazriel.bandcamp.com ($5 download/$8 CD).
Speaking of talented local ladies, singer/songwriter/promoter Jess Powers would be the one to thank for persuading Azriel to move here. Last year, Azriel had a long-term house-sitting gig for a friend's mother nearby and stopped by Fête to check out the Chanteuse Mardi Gras Ball.
"I was on the lookout for a place to plant my roots, and fell in love with the venue and the Fête community," Azriel recalled. "I met Jess and [Fête co-owner] Don King that night, and soon enough Jess was inviting me to participate in Chanteuse and introducing me to other musicians. She went out of her way to welcome me and create opportunities for me, and relentlessly encouraged me to move to Providence," Azriel continued. "I like to call Jess the 'ambassadress' of Providence."
Azriel was born and raised in Muskegon, Michigan with music in her bloodline; there are a number of professional singers on her mom's side, and her father pursued his musical career on both coasts as a guitarist and composer. She graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 2001 and performed regularly in the Boston area. A few years later she moved to Los Angeles, where she developed a major case of writer's block.
"I felt like an alien out there and that feeling shut me down," Azriel said. "Writing became more and more difficult, and eventually became painful.
"It was a dark time for me," Azriel acknowledged, despite having success as a voice and piano instructor (Ryan Gosling took lessons from her). "I met some wonderful people in the process, but it just wasn't a good fit for me."
Her adopted city has revived her songwriting. "Providence is such a creatively fertile place, and I am incredibly inspired by the musicians and artists in this city," said Azriel. "I love the feeling of community here. I also feel very happy and at home here, and those things encourage creativity.!"
Azriel cites Joni Mitchell and Jeff Buckley as major influences, and her truly dynamic vocals channel both Adele and Sarah McLachlan. That sparkling voice has won over some prominent industry folks; she worked with engineer James Wisner (Amy Winehouse) and got production help from Marc Friedman (Natalie Merchant) and Davy Nathan (Toni Braxton). On the local front, Tyler James Kelly (the Silks) handled guitar duties on the EP's final track, "Little Wilted One," and Boo City's Andrew "Moon" Bain (who just worked on the new Snoop Lion album) co-wrote and played guitar on the first single, "We're Alive," penned after Azriel set up shop here in Providence. The five-song EP was three years in the making.
"Sara has a very particular vision for her music," noted Bain, who will perform a solo acoustic set at the EP release show. "She is meticulous, extremely passionate and hard-working, and I was really impressed by how involved she was with every aspect of the process.
"She has a classic sound and her music is very nostalgic, in a good way," he said. "And her voice is huge."