Sawyer Fredericks is a special act. The nineteen year old folk singer has a voice that is truly incredible. His voice ultimately leading him to compete in and be named The Voice on the NBC hit show at the age of sixteen. Since his time on the TV show Sawyer has completed two albums. His newest album ‘Hide Your Ghost’ is a project he wrote and produced himself. With deep lyrics in each song, Fredericks tells a story and makes you feel as if you are apart of it. Through his music he takes you on a journey to places you haven’t been before, and you makes you really feel. His voice and the stories he creates are ones that needs to be heard.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Sawyer prior to his show at City Winery NYC. It was a beautiful night at a beautiful venue with even more beautiful music. In our interview we were able to talk about the ‘Hide Your Ghost’ album, his creative and songwriting process, secrets from his time on NBC’s The Voice, and more. Read about it below.
Alright, I’m here with Sawyer Fredericks and Sawyer as I was prepping to meet you I found out we have something in common. We are both picky eaters.
Sawyer: (laughs) That’s funny that’s right I am a picky eater.
What is your least favorite food? Is there a food you hate?
Um probably well I wouldn’t say there is a food that I hate. I really don’t like the taste of wasabi. And the thing that people always laugh that I don’t like is I don’t like chocolate. I don’t like the taste of chocolate at all.
Chocolate in any form?
No. Well I like white chocolate but that’s not really chocolate. (laughs)
Wow that is funny. So a question I ask every interview is about karaoke. Does Sawyer Fredericks do karaoke?
I haven’t done much karaoke… if open mic nights count. Not really.
Okay, if you were to do karaoke or at a open mic night what would be your go-to song that’s not yours to play?
Um I would say like ‘Have you ever seen the rain?’ or something like that.
So I have been listening to your music the past few days, and you’re nineteen.
(laughs) I’m nineteen.
I couldn’t believe that as I was hearing your voice, but the most impressive part of that is your new album ‘Hide Your Ghost’ and you wrote and produced this all yourself at nineteen years old.
Well Thank you. Yeah that was a very exciting and difficult thing to do but I am very very happy I was able to do it and I’m very proud of the creation.
And what is the creative process like doing it by yourself than with a label?
Well my writing process is way different than studio stuff, studio stuff is kind of separate to me. But the writing process most of my songs or at least a lot of those on that album I wrote from a range of when I was fifteen to when I was nineteen. So um actually one of them I wrote when I was fourteen years old. But (laughs) a lot of my writing process is kind of I always start on guitar and I take a scenario and I try to put myself into that scenario and then kind of figure out what kind of emotions this person would be feeling and figure out how I want to tell the stories basically. That’s kinda what I do.
And a lot of the songs aren’t things from personal experience…
Most of the songs it’s just complete like imagination. All of them are inspired by a feeling that is just exaggerated.
I think that is one of the interesting things about you and your music is your ability to capture feelings and some being deep things that you admit you haven’t felt personally and to write about it. So as I wondered as I was preparing for this interview has writing always been something you were interested in? Creating stories and music with profound lyrics from things you haven’t experienced and the ability to portray it so well, has there ever been a goal to write things other than music?
Um I haven’t really thought about anything more and am probably just going to stick with music. But one of the things that I was thinking about doing at one point was maybe trying out like Broadway stuff because I have like a way of like tapping into the emotional things and kind of act it out in my facial expression on stage and that is something I have thought about doing because I could really get into the stuff.
So we talked about your album ‘Hide Your Ghost’ what was the inspiration behind the albums title come? And it has really cool album artwork and where did that come?
Oh the album art work is phenomenal. The album artwork was actually a fan. I started playing ‘Hide Your Ghost’ the title track on the album awhile back before the album was released of course or even made. And this lady Nina Pfeiffer heard it and did this drawing online that was inspired by it and actually one of the drawings is in the pamphlet I think of the vinyl record. So we asked her later when we started creating the album to do like full artwork for the album cover and she came up with that beautiful image and she actually sent in a whole bunch of other images that we put into the vinyl we just were like “We like all of these! Can we have them?” But yeah, she is phenomenal.
She is! It looks really good, I think that is cool and goes with my next question as I was noticing how big and loyal your fans are and much of them of course coming from your time on NBC’s The Voice and winning The Voice. I read how The Voice was initially something you hesitated about with it being a competition show…
(laughs) Yeah I did. Yeah.
You also talked about how this was your first time being around other artists and people that could sing in tune I believe you put it.
Yeah I um (laughs) the way I put it was like growing up I would only go to like open mics and I’d be like really happy “Oh he’s in tune!” But like once I got onto The Voice everybody can just sing their heart out and is amazing and it’s just like whoa!
Was it those open mic nights that you began to realize that you were pretty good at this?
Um I don’t really think I was really comparing myself to others. The first open mic night I did I… (laughs) I basically looked like I was going to throw up on stage. But I didn’t! But after I was done singing I went straight outside. I was so nervous when I was on stage but basically kept myself doing more of those because I enjoyed it and I wanted to get better for myself I wasn’t really thinking “am I good enough to keep playing?” I just wanted to get better.
And how old were you at that point? The first open mic.
Um the first open mic night I did I was twelve years old. I was really nervous. I remember I had a big old derby hat that I bought at an antique store that I got and it was way too big for me. It would like sit down almost over my eyes so I had to lean back quite a bit, I looked a little silly. But that is where the whole bowler hat stuff started.
Oh that’s where. That is a cool story. I wanted to ask about you being Homeschooled, or about unschooling…
Yes it is unschooling which is a type of homeschooling which is self directed learning and learning through life so anything you are doing is basically your school. And it really is just like learning through life. So you’re not doing any homework or any tests. If you want to know something you ask your parents or you look it up and figure this thing out. And you follow your interests and that’s what you learn about. So the first test I ever took was when I was on The Voice.
Oh there is a test for The Voice?
(laugh) I think it was just something to make sure you’re not crazy or anything and going to like mess up the show or something. A lot of like trick questions that I didn’t really understand.
So what were some of your interests that you gravitated towards from your schooling?
My interests, well my dad did construction so I was interested in that and I did a lot of going to his work and seeing what he was doing. I enjoyed like painting and stuff. But um, my interests I started getting into gaming, and I live on a farm so I also did a lot of farming. But it was mostly music and I like guitar I learned my first few chords when I was eleven years old.
What kind of roles did your parents play in unschooling? I imagine you’re pretty close, I met your mom tonight who was extremely nice. What role do they play?
Mostly they just make sure that we have I mean she supported me as I started getting interested in music she has been my biggest supporter my whole time. She brought me to my first open mic and allowing me to do all of this stuff. When I started doing farmers markets when I was thirteen years old. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this stuff without her. Or her help. So I would say parents helping unschoolers is just allowing them to follow their interests.
You talked about your nerves from your first open mic night and how has that changed over time since you have been doing this and what do you do to connect to a crowd?
For me when I am on stage what I am mostly thinking about is trying to get into the music and I’m trying to feel the emotion of the song. Because a lot of my songs are really really emotional so I try to connect to that as best I can or else I feel like I’m not putting on the show that I am happy with. But that is also what allowed me to get over my fears that I started just playing for my expectations. And I’m my worst critic. (laughs) I think actually some stuff that helped me get better at that was getting out and doing farmers markets when I was younger because you are playing for tips and you’re not maintaining an audience. The audience is just passing by it’s just like busking basically and you’re not supposed to be offended if the audience doesn’t like it, or if an audience walks away it’s just you kind of have to enjoy music regardless of what the audience is doing. Which that is what I try to strive to do, but I also love getting feedback from the audience.
That is really interesting the comparison and how you approach the two and that is the music that’s the most important. With your music as you are independent now, are you working on new stuff currently?
I mean I am always writing. For another album? I don’t have enough material that I am happy with. Because I want to make an album that all the songs fit well together. So if you like one song, you’re going to like all of them. Other stuff that I have been doing lately is we just shot the video for one of my songs on the Hide Your Ghost album ‘Should have known better’ and we just shot that on the farm. That video is probably going to be coming out early this year.
What is a story from The Voice or about The Voice that we might not know about?
Things that people don’t know about…do you mean like fun things or sad things? Because there is a lot of stuff.
(laughs) Can I hear both? Like a good news bad news which do you want first?
(laughs) Um alright so sad news, you know that video that is like the little snippet which is the thing that I was most nervous about when I first went on the show there is the snippet interview that is like “You came from this, and you live on a farm.” So that that interview was forty minutes long… and I had to do it twice because I was so nervous. What they do they put you on a pedestal and they shine lights on you and then they ask you questions and you have to answer them in forms of statements. So they’ll ask what is your favorite color? And you have to answer “my favorite color is blue” you cant just be like “Blue.” (laughs) So I had to do that interview again because I was so nervous and they didn’t get enough out of me. So that is a little bit behind the scenes.
And what was that fun story you mentioned?
The fun part is probably all of the jam sessions you have with all the other artists. They put you up in a hotel and you are supposed to say that you are in band camp for anybody that asks. Actually at one point they started telling us to stop having jam sessions because we were supposed to be keeping things a secret. But we were having like jam sessions in the parking lot and circles and it was super super cool.
Check out Sawyers website for upcoming tour dates.