SJM editor Charlie Anderson spoke to vocalist Sara Oschlag about her latest album, My Little Boat.
Why the title My Little Boat?
“On February 19, 2013, five months after saying: ‘Living on a boat would be amazing!’, Dan Sheppard (double bass player and my other half) and I moved onto Vaquita, a 38ft Beneteau yacht. When I started gathering songs for the album, guitarist Matt Wall suggested My Little Boat. It was just the perfect song to celebrate my boat and my life aboard Vaquita. I’ve never felt more at home or more happy than I do here and now it’s immortalised with an album.”
How did the album come about? How did you choose the songs?
“On one hand it’s really easy to make an album these days and on the other hand it really isn’t. It’s easy because we can independently book a studio and a sound engineer. Book the band. Choose the repertoire. Put the package together and sell the CD on gigs and from our websites. It’s hard because you’re alone financially and you probably won’t make a profit. I was very lucky to get free recording time at a university studio and have friends provide their skills for little or no money at all. It was very heart-warming actually and I owe a few favours, which I’ll gladly fulfil. It just seemed the right time make a new record. Firstly, I managed to get the musicians I wanted. It actually started as a throw-together band for a date at The Verdict but the gig was so happening. I remember thinking at the time how great it would be to record with these guys. Secondly, I had just had a huge positive change in my life, finding our boat. It’s all been a big celebration really and I hope that comes through in the recording.”
“So far, the two albums I have released before have been about catering to the wider jazz audience, keeping it light and choosing popular, well-known standards and bossa novas. My Little Boat is about songs that I wanted to record. Some I chose because I’ve loved them for a long time, like Strayhorn’s Lush Life. Some to challenge myself (there were a few of those) and some just fit the theme beautifully. One tune I really struggled with was Blood Count. I heard Marian McPartland play it on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz Radio Broadcast with Shirley Horn. It’s an instrumental version and I just fell in love with it. It’s the last tune Strayhorn wrote. In fact, he wrote it on his death bed. The sound is so poignant and the melody so beautiful and full of thought. I tried my best to keep that in my version, keeping it sparse and focus on the melody. I really like the lyrics, which were written by Elvis Costello. I think they capture a feeling and a moment so well. Both celebrating and mourning, remembering and letting go. Like we do in life, in all its different stages. This stage of my life is very adventurous and so are the songs on this album.”