BY JESS BECK | Go Venue Magazine
10/16/2019 – the Slowdown, Omaha, Nebraska
Sawyer Fredericks is currently on a mini tour of the Midwest, stopping in Omaha, NE on his way through. Having won season 8 of the smash hit television program “The Voice,” at the age of 15 in 2015, Sawyer has been on quite the journey since. Signing immediately to Republic Records after his incredible win, flying to Los Angeles to work on his debut album, living in Upstate New York on his family farm, and ultimately making the decision to go independent.
Sitting outside The Slowdown after his sound check with the ambient sound of Beth Bombara in the background and a slight, albeit brisk Nebraska wind in the air, this was the conversation we had before he took the stage on Wednesday, October 16th.
You won The Voice…how did you get into that?
They have people scouting, and they found recordings of me performing at farmer’s markets and on YouTube, and they invited me to come audition after the open call which is where it’s a giant free-for-all, so it was the audition after that. Originally I said, “No,” because I was only 15, but I took it as a learning experience. And it was kind of terrifying because there were all these releases saying that you had to give away your rights to your original music, but once we (family) found out that it was all a formality, that took out a lot of the fear from it.
Did you form the band after The Voice, and if so, did you get to pick the members?
The band was formed after The Voice. Originally my cousin was my bass player, and two friends of the family were my touring band after the show. And recently the band members are friends of my cousin and we’ve been working together for two years. Over the past few years we’ve become more of a band than just Sawyer Fredericks which is kind of cool.
Did you begin touring right after The Voice?
After The Voice, I went to L.A. to begin writing with other artists, and my time was filled up with going out there to record, so I didn’t have much of a break. They have to get that album out as quick as possible to ride the wave so to speak. It was a very different environment for me having never released an album before. That was my first time making an album with the industry and record label around it, which was stressful because I wasn’t used to having so many other people being able to have their input into my music. I felt like that album wasn’t truly me, but I was happy with how it came out.
Where does your songwriting come from?
It’s picked up from other people. I’m an empath, so I pick up on other people’s emotions so I feel a lot of that, so I feel inspired to write about that. A lot of my lyrics aren’t super poetic, but the emotion behind the words is what makes them so powerful, and that’s what I want in my music.
Is there anyone that you would like to collaborate with or tour with?
There’s a lot of artists that I’d be interested in collaborating with. One artist is Brandi Carlile, and I’d love to do a duet with her. I’ve also toured with Gabriel Wolfchild who was on the same season, and recently played a show with Joshua Davis who was also on the show.
What’s an album that everyone should have in their collection?
Oh gosh, I don’t know! People listen to all kinds of things, so I’m sure my recommendations wouldn’t be for everyone, but one album is from the band “Adult Jazz” and the album is called “Just Is.” It has such a special place for me, and another one that I find to be very complete is Nathanial Rateliff’s first album “In Memory of Loss.” All of his first songs are just perfect, and each song you’d like if you liked the one before. And that’s what I like to focus on when I write. If you like one song, I want you to like the new ones.
Do you prefer smaller crowds or larger crowds?
I prefer both. I think my music caters more to a smaller crowd because it’s more intimate, but I love outdoor venues and festivals too.
Besides barbers, is there anything you’re afraid of?
*laughs for a few minutes* My childhood fear has always been wasps. I stepped on an underground yellow jacket’s nest and got stung 32 times, and ever since I’ve always been afraid of things flying by my face. I’m not afraid of them anymore when I see them, but I always flinch!
Is it tough being away from home for long stretches at a time?
Yes, and it’s harder now that I have a girlfriend and I don’t want to be away from her that much. It’s a lot of FaceTime and phone calls, and in the beginning it was like, “I’m a touring musician, so are you prepared for me to be gone a lot?” But when I’m not on the road I’m home and not doing anything, so that’s nice. We’ll be out for two weeks, and then I’ll be back for ten days, and then back out for two weeks, so that structure is kind of nice. We’re not out for three months at a time like big musicians, but I don’t think I’d want to be gone that long anyway.
Anything you’d like to promote?
We’re releasing a full length album in the Spring of 2020 called “Flowers For You,” and the single has the same title. We also have an EP available for tour shows only, and I just started a Patreon account, so if you’re a fan and you want to check that out, that would be cool! You can get the link here: https://www.patreon.com/Sawyerfredericks