Sarah Dooley is the latest, and current favorite, in my existential love affairs with hyper-quirky NYC singer/songstresses. Dooley has been in the spotlight for a while now, albeit in a different capacity. When she left Indiana for NYC to attend Columbia University around 2008 she wrote and starred in a web series, entitled “And Sarah,” which was a comic, semi-autobiographical, mockumentary take on her time at the university that eventually came to be featured on the New York Times Freakonomics blog, turning her into, “kind of a big deal on Youtube.” (These are the appropriated words of Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture and not from Sarah, herself.)
However, from her teen years, Sarah has also had a love, and a knack, for writing and recording music. Although she’s been performing her music for crowds around NYC since her teen years, her debut album, Stupid Things, is scheduled to be released on February 11th. The sound of Stupid Things is as whimsically lovely as her video work, although slightly more heartfelt and sincere (not that it doesn’t include a plethora of lyrical silliness, with the title track including threads about “peeing in a stranger’s pool,” and “go[ing] gay for a day.”) It’s very playful, but in a way that would seem to add up to be ultimately profound. In a recent chat I ask her to characterize the album and she says that the particular collection of songs are actually a bit haphazard and tell her own, personal, and relatively brief, history more than anything.
“I think it’s very nostalgic. It’s hard to generalize the songs and the sound. I didn’t choose a subject and write all the songs about that. They span from highschool to like last year. It’s inspired by those favorite subjects of mine, like unrequited love, childhood, The Goonies… I was just a baby when I wrote some of them.”
When I ask Sarah about the inspirations behind her art, she tells me that they are as varied as its subjects.
“Regina Spektor definitely changed the game for me, musically. Other than that Woody Allen, red wine, little kids who wear glasses, dogs in sweaters. One of my favorite things about being here in New York is watching people on the subway. I call it ‘Train TV.’”
Sarah also apparently took great inspiration from Philthy’s recently-reviewed Fiona Apple, whose Extraordinary Machine inspired her to start writing music. Of Ms. Apple’s influences, Sarah tells me, “Well, I was in highschool and I had a lot of feelings… Her lyrics are poetry and beautiful and dark and confusing…”
And although she would seem to be most focused on her musical output, Sarah tells me that that is certainly not the only medium which she’s currently pursuing: “I like writing in all forms. I’m working on two screenplays right now. I went to school for playwriting.” But she is still, perhaps, most excited about her music: “Everything about my musical career has been a highlight so far. I mean, it’s still in the baby stages and I’m like a proud mom who gets so excited every time her child poops or something.” And when I ask what she thinks is most important that you know about her, she cutely and coyly admits, “I’m just kind of here to make friends and tell stories.”
I ask Sarah what can be expected of her in 2014 and if there’s a chance of a tour and she tells me that it’s all pretty up-in-the-air, but that she’s anxious for the possibilities.
“I plan to stand up straighter. That has been my resolution for the past ten years… Maybe touring. I have been so used to singing in my bedroom to a wall. It was so confusing when I was recording. It was weird to hear my songs all dressed up and being like, ‘Is that what I sound like?’ With the live show, it’s just me and a piano, so it’ll be like having the audience in my proverbial bedroom.”