Entering Orbison’s Orbit

Allow me to set the stage for you. It was a hot day in June, 2013, when I received a phone call from Chuck Turner, friend and engineer at the Cash Cabin studio.

“I just wanted to let you know that you might get a call from John Carter Cash,” he said. “John Carter is producing an unreleased Roy Orbison song, “The Way is Love”, and he wants string parts on it. I threw your hat in the ring.”

Needless to say, I just about fainted. (If you are interested, here is the full story about how the song came to be discovered.) The call came in mid-September, and I set to work, trying not to think too hard about what I was doing.

Fast forward to October, 2013. After a few days of frenzied composing, recording day had arrived. I headed to the Cash Cabin with a knot of trepidation in my stomach. Fortunately, the parts sounded great, as did the lovely ladies who played them with me.

Kristin Weber, Sarah Wilfong, Betsy Lamb, and Emily Nelson on the steps of the Cash Cabin

Roy’s son, Alex Orbison, co-produced the session with John Carter Cash. Both of these fine gentlemen were wonderful to work with, and put us at ease. A few hours later we were finished, and the enormity of what had just happened finally came crashing down on me. I had just written parts for a Roy Orbison song. I HAD JUST RECORDED WITH ROY FREAKING ORBISON. I spent the next week walking on air. (And the very next day, I performed with  Michael Bublé. But that’s another story!)

Fast forward again, this time to May 19th, 2014. I received a text from Emily Nelson, the cellist from the session, inviting me to go see a documentary about Roy Orbison at the local artsy theater the next day. Now, I had known that the release date of the Mystery Girl album (which “The Way is Love” was a bonus track on) was May 20th. How I didn’t connect the album release with the documentary, I’ll never know.

In any case, I blithely arrived at the movie theater to meet Emily and Kristin Weber (the other violinist from the session) wearing an old sundress, sweaty and sticky from chasing my daughter around at the park. Imagine my surprise when I saw the red carpet and the photographer next to the door. My surprise was mirrored in Kristin and Emily’s faces when they arrived moments later. Undaunted, we took a selfie on the red carpet.

The documentary was revealed to be about the making of the Mystery Girl album, track by track. It really was fascinating, and all the while a little voice in my head kept asking, “Are they going to play The Song? Are you going to hear your string parts on the big screen?” I told that little voice, “Shh!–I am trying to pay attention to Bono talking about
writing with Roy!” And then, Wesley, Roy Jr., and Alex Orbison were on screen talking about “The Way is Love”, and what a magical experience it was recording with their dad, albeit posthumously. It was an incredibly sweet segment, and a snippet of a rough version of the song pre-strings played in the background. And then they were on to the next track. The little voice in my head sighed in disappointment, and I told it firmly to get a grip, the strings were clearly not the most important thing about that song!

The credits rolled. The credits ended. The theater stayed dark. And then four lonesome piano notes sounded, and I heard the violin parts Kristin and I had recorded clear as day as this video started.

Emily and Kristin grabbed my arms, and the three of us strangled squeals of shock and delight! A few tears ran down my cheeks as I heard the finished song for the first time. It was one of the most magical 4 minutes and 11 seconds of my musical life.

We left the theater, and stopped to pose in our cool shades.

Kristin, Sarah, and Emily pose with Roy

There are a few lessons I’ll take away from this experience. First, magic happens in unexpected ways, at unexpected times. That’s why it’s magic. Second, always brush your teeth and hair before you leave the house, because you never know when you will end up on a red carpet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Postcard from the past

I used to perform at Renaissance Faires, coffee houses, pubs, and Chicago-area music festivals with my mom and sisters with our group, O’Carolan’s Daughters. We had a good run, performing throughout most of the 90′s and into the early 2000′s until I moved to Boston to go to college. (By the way, rumors of my attending Julliard are greatly exaggerated. I did, however, have a great experience at Berklee College of Music.)

Newspaper clippings, circa 1996-98

So when my mom recently came to visit me in Nashville and brought a box with O’Carolan’s Daughters memorabilia, it was like opening a time capsule back to 1998. There were old set lists, press releases, and newspaper clippings with our faces on them. There was also a folder with a huge mailing list, from back when sending postcards via USPS was the way musicians communicated with their friends and fans. Flipping through the folder, I saw names that I remembered and thought, “Gee, I wonder what ever happened to that guy? Does that lady still play music?” And then the brainwave happened: I should send postcards to these people! Maybe it’s a little kitschy, it’s certainly old-school, and there is a good chance that people don’t live at their old addresses anymore. But it’s worth a shot.

So if you received a postcard from me and it led you here, hi! (If you received an email newsletter from me and it led you here, hello to you too! And congratulations, I know you reside in the 21st century. Postcard people, the jury is still out on you.) On my postcard, I made lofty promises of filling you in on the events of the past 10 years. A daunting task, but I’ll do my best to give you the highlights.

 

The ladies of Mustang Sally. Can you find the fiddle player?

 

Berklee was awesome. I learned lots of stuff, played lots of different kinds of music, and made some great friends, a lot of whom I still make music with now. From there, I was invited to join the all-girl country group, Mustang Sally. I moved to Nashville, and traveled the world with them for 8 ½ years, from the rolling hills of Ohio to Korea, Japan, and Switzerland. I never tallied the actual mileage, but I suspect I accumulated enough to have gone around the globe at least a dozen times. We landed a record deal, recorded an album, made a music video, and lost the record deal. Someday it will make a great made-for-TV movie. We also played a lot of pranks on each other, the details of which are outlined in this article.

I continued to write and record my own music as well, culminating in two solo albums. (So far. Don’t worry, I have lots more ideas!) The story of the creation of my most recent album, Facets, is here. It was an incredible experience.

 

Kira's first time in the studio. Background vocals, anyone?

 

On the personal side, there have been a lot of changes as well. I cut my hair! I married a Canadian juggler! And in January, I had a baby!! Life is crazy beautiful, I tell you.

And to bring things back full circle, I’m playing at the Bristol Renaissance Faire on the 27th and 28th of July. I look forward to seeing old friends and new friends, and to introduce the next generation to the wonders of the life of the wandering minstrel.

So I encourage you to poke around the site, join the mailing list if you haven’t already, and maybe check out some tunes. Thanks for visiting!

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An album, a workshop, and a concert!

Sarah is pleased to announce that her latest project, a collaboration with songwriters Candace Corrigan and Janne Henshaw, is now available for digital download. O’Carolan, Songwriter features the little known Irish Gaelic lyrics of 17th century harpist and composer Turlough O’Carolan translated into English song form. Sarah wore many hats on this album, including producer, arranger, and performer- both on fiddle and hammered dulcimer! Click here to download a copy in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

Of course, no album is complete without a release concert! The crew of the O’Carolan, Songwriter project is performing a launch concert on Sunday, March 10 at 4:00 pm at the Fiddle House, 1009 Clearview Ave, Nashville, TN. Tickets are $10, reservations are encouraged.

Arranging for the Irish/Lever Harp

And because she has harp on the brain, Sarah is co-leading a workshop with harpist Aislinn Gagliardi on composing and arranging for for harp. The workshop is scheduled for Saturday, March 10th; click here to register.

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Featured interview in Performer Magazine

Sarah is thrilled to be ringing in 2013 with a fantastic feature interview in Performer Magazine! To click here to see the online version- Sarah’s interview starts on page 26.

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Facets is available online!

Christmas is around the corner, and what could be better than giving a shiny new fiddle album to the music lover in your life? Visit CDBaby.com for physical discs, or check your favorite online music store for downloads!

Click here to pick up a copy now!

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