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interviews: sarah hudson
I want it all. I want to have a career in music, and film, and I want a restaurant.  You know, I want everything

Why are you in the music business?

Why? Because I grew up in a very musical, entertainment family. There's really nothing else that I could do. I mean my parents would be probably shocked if I said I was going to be lawyer or something. So it's just, it's in my blood.

Tell us about your ambitions as a performer. What do you want to be? What do you do?

I want everything. I want it all. I want to have a career in music, and film, and I want a restaurant. You know, I want everything, everything.

How will you get it?

I know it's difficult. I know it's a tough business and everybody is a singer, and everybody is trying to make it and whatever, but it's just perseverance I think. You just have to keep going.

My dad, Mark Hudson, he's a record producer/songwriter. He was in a group in the '70s, the Hudson Brothers, and I've just seen his evolvement, his ups and downs. There was months or years where he didn't have a job. He kept at it, he kept going, and then all of a sudden he had like a number one single. So he was strong and he had so much perseverance and he kept going.

What is it about you that makes you think you have it?

I mean, I'm good [laughs]. You know, like, it's just something that I think people are born with. It's kind of unexplainable. But it's talent and it's ambition and it's just like this kind of cosmic gift.

photo of hudson

Sarah Hudson is a singer/songwriter who will release her first record, Naked Truth, in July 2004. In this interview, she talks about the making of her album and how she is trying to distinguish herself from other female singer/songwriters. She also recounts the lessons she learned from watching her father, record producer and songwriter Mark Hudson, navigate the business. "My gut, since I've been like three years old, has always said I'm going to be successful in something that I do," she tells FRONTLINE. "Hopefully it's going to be this." This transcript is drawn from two interviews, conducted on Feb. 9 and March 14, 2004

Have you always been good? Like when you were a little kid were you good?

I definitely was like, you know, out there, and unique, but I think definitely over time, and with experience, you get better and better. And I know I have a long way to go, but I feel like I'm pretty impressive.

How does the audience, from your point of view, judge whether you're worth spending $19 on, $14 on?

If they feel a connection. It's all about connecting with the audience through your songs, through your lyrics, and through your performance. You have to feel that spark with somebody onstage. I definitely felt that with performers that I've gone and seen. That's what's most important, because it's the fans and it's the world and your audience that's going to support you and make you who you are as an artist.

Who do you like?

So many people. Madonna is a huge one for me, I love her. Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Janet Jackson, like so many people, Tori Amos. Lots of different variety. But they're all people that when I go and see live, they bring something to me and to my life, and I feel an emotional connection with them as well as watching them and being entertained by them.

How much have you wanted to be paid to be a performer? I'm not talking about millions of dollars, just to make a living and do it for a lifestyle.

It's all that I want. It's like the only thing that I want. Because, you know, everybody needs to make a living. Everybody needs to support themselves. And usually people do what they're best at. So this is what I think I'm best at, and it would be a dream to be able to support myself and make a living off of my art and my talent.

And getting rich?

It would nice. The success, or fame really, isn't a priority. It's not the first priority for me, because the music is what I love. And the writing of the songs, and performing, and connecting, that's what I love. But definitely if I can get rich from it, who wouldn't want that? [laughs] It's not a bad thing. I'd like to buy my mom a house one day.

Tell me about [making a record]. How did the idea of making a record get started? Who paid for it? How did you get a label? …

I went to music school for a year, after high school, and then after that I started really writing songs, and I met a publisher … and she signed me to an artist publishing deal. She connected me with amazing songwriters everywhere, in L.A., New York, London, everywhere. I just wrote and wrote and wrote and kind of found my own voice and, you know, what I wanted to say as an artist and discovered who I am, or who I was at that time.

And then I met -- my manager is David Simoné and Winston Simoné. They really loved the songs and they wanted to get behind it and try to get me a record deal. And so we did some showcases with me and a guitar player with tracks. It was very like, you know, slapped together, but I guess it worked.

And we had meetings and Joanna Ifrah, she signed me about, maybe two and a half years ago, to London Sire Records. And as soon as things started to kind of get moving, London Sire folded. So I was without a label and, you know, what was I going to do?

But Joanna was really supportive and she really loved the project, and me, and the songs, and so she took me with her over to EMI, to S-Curve/EMI and signed me over there. So that was about maybe a year and a half ago. And I continued to write, and she pushed me to dig deep and really write heartfelt meaningful songs to me.

And we just made a record. We found really great producers that I connected with, and it kind of all came together in about six months. I would say we finished it maybe four or five months ago. Mixing it and the whole deal.

What has to happen in order for it to be a successful release?

You release a single to radio, and the radio people have to be really into it in order to play it, and it just has to connect with the kids, or with the audience, or people that hear it. When they hear it on the radio they would request or they'd say, "Who's that?"

You know, so once the connection is made with the world, or with the kids, is when things start to get moving. But it's hard, because there's so many great songs -- and bad songs -- on the radio. So it's difficult. But you have to just believe in the single that goes to radio.

And then press, you would want to do lots of interviews and this kind of stuff just to kind of get your face out there and your beliefs, and what you want for this record.

So you'll go to on a tour? Many cities, many states, many radio stations.

Yeah, a radio tour. It's about a three-week radio tour and you go and meet with the stations, and kind of, you know, be memorable to them so they'll remember you and they want to play your song.

What is being memorable?

I don't know, like making an impression. I would go and perform with a guitar player, so hopefully it would be a good performance, and they'd get behind me as an artist, and the song, and want to put it on the radio.

Do you have a persona? Is there Sarah Hudson persona? Or is it who I'm talking to right now?

It's who you're talking to. I'm a little quirky. I definitely say what's on my mind. I don't know, that's not always a good thing, but-- [laughs].

What are the songs about? What's the music inside you that's coming out on this?

The songs are about growing up and all of the kind of baggage and emotions that come along with coming into adulthood, and finding your own voice and opinions. A few are about my relationship with my parents, and one with my dad, and the ups and downs of your relationship with your parents and realizing that your parents are people and they make mistakes, and how it affects you as a kid. That kind of stuff. It's very diary entry, self-revealing lyrics. And relationships with boyfriends, and that kind of stuff. Just growing up basically.

In a world of Liz Phair and Alanis Morisette and everybody else, what distinguishes you?

I think what distinguishes me is that I don't take myself too seriously. You know? I can make fun of myself, and I'm kind of carefree and like quirky. But at the same time, you know, on the record, I deal with real issues, with a relationship with your parents, or just things that you go through as like a young woman or whatever. It's just very self-revealing. I think that a lot of those girls have those kind of records as well, but I think I deal with issues like your parents, which I haven't really heard anything that deals with kind of growing up. It's more like boyfriend trouble, or like relationship drama, or whatever. …

Let's just talk a little bit about the money. Are you surprised at how little or how much it is? … Were you surprised by the deal?

I mean we definitely got enough money to make a good record. Because the people that we worked with were very behind it and into it and, you know, I don't think money was as much of an issue for them. So it worked. But it's definitely hard to support yourself, while you're in this kind of position. I mean you do get an advance from the record company and publishing money, but it's hard.

I think with the state of the record industry right now, there's not a lot of money floating around like there used to be. I think people used to throw out like millions of dollars to make a record or to make a video, but unfortunately I don't think it's like that anymore. Money's a lot more sparse.

Did you feel the pressure to create a single that would move and get a jolt, and get the thing going?

Definitely. We definitely had a handful of really good songs, but I felt like there wasn't that one that, you know, you could hear on the radio, or could get people interested right away. So I kept writing, and I wrote with Desmond Child who's just, you know, an amazing songwriter who's written everything from "Living La Vida Loca" to like the new Clay Aiken single. He knows what he's doing.

We wrote a song called "Girl on the Verge," which is the single. And I felt it. I felt it then. I was like, "This is it. This is the single. This is the song." The first song at least, to kind of get out there and get people interested. Hopefully.

People always decry the death of the album. That is, if there's a single everybody goes for it, but there's no deep cuts. Are there deep cuts on this record?

Definitely, yeah. I mean the single that we're going with is kind of the most, kind of light and fun and kind of fluffy song, you know? But the rest of the record is way more intricate and way more kind of heartfelt, and, you know, it's very edgy, the rest of the record.

So what we're hoping is to put out this single and get people interested, and then to kind of hit them with the deeper stuff. To show them like, I am a real artist, I'm not just manufactured or put together. That I do actually have something to say.

How important is it to you Sarah, to make it?

It's really important. It's what I want more than anything. Mostly to get the music out there, and to get, you know, what I have to say, and my beliefs and that kind of stuff, just out there, and out to the kids. Because I think that it's encouraging, you know, what I have to say. It's not like self-deprecating or anything like that. It's something that will hopefully motivate. But that's the most important thing for me. More than fame or any of that stuff.

But if you don't get it, if the record fails?

You know, I just have to keep going. I just would have to take it as it comes and whatever happens happens, and, you know, I'd have to keep moving. Because I believe everything happens for a reason. I would just keep doing what I know how to do, which is just write songs, and perform, and you know.

Back when your father was coming up, the business was great at artist development. Do you think there's development of you? It sounds like you've had a kind of good story so far.

Yeah, yeah.

But a lot of people got to make a record that sells 15,000, and then 50,000, and then 100,000, and then bam there's a blowup. And nowadays it doesn't seem like anybody gets a chance to do that.


Talk to me a little bit about that.

I don't know if I should say this, but I think with like American Idol and all the kind of TV shows, like the auditioning, like Star Search kind of shows, it's like making it less important. It's making it harder for someone to kind of do it the old-school way. Like I'm a singer. I want to get a record deal and develop as an artist, and actually have like a record label behind you in developing you. Because it's like, it's been made so easy. You know what I'm saying?

Kids can just go and audition and then all of a sudden they're like, the next big thing. You know what I mean? So it seems like it's harder to do it how it used to be done.

So I don't know. I definitely [feel] that the stress of trying to get people behind you and support you. And say your record comes out and it does only sell like 20,000 records. There's the fear now that that's it, they're done, you're going to get dropped, you're finished, let's move on. You know what I mean?

Whereas I think maybe like 20 years ago, or however, 10 years ago even I think, they stayed with it, and they kept pushing the artist and the record. And supported the record, which I don't know if they do that so much anymore. I think know it's kind of like, "Okay, we'll put it out, and see how it does, and if it doesn't do well then f---- it." You know? …

You have no idea yet what is going to happen, but there is all this buildup, and it's all sort of setting up for the day when [your record] comes out. What's it like? Is it tense? What's the feeling of the people around you, and how do you feel about it?

It's exciting. It's scary because it's my career and of course I want people to like my music. But it's exciting, you know, because everyone around me is so supportive and amazing. So I think whichever way it goes, if it takes awhile, if it blows up, whichever way it goes I feel like I have a really great, strong team behind me. So I'm excited.

What do you think the odds are that it's going to hit? I mean it sounds like from what everybody says that it's all going according to schedule. What's your gut say?

I mean my gut, since I've been like three years old, has always said I'm going to be successful in something that I do. Hopefully it's going to be this. So, I don't know, my gut is telling me it's going to go well for me, whatever that means, you know. I don't know if being a huge, famous person is what necessarily is success. But I just have a feeling it's going to go how it's supposed to go. And it'll be right. Whatever that means.


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posted may 27, 2004

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