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Sharon Little

Perfect Time for a Breakout

by Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 14, 2009. 

Just two years ago, Sharon Little was waiting tables.

Now she has released her debut CD.  One of her songs has been chosen as the theme song to a television series.  She was personally picked to open a tour by this yearís biggest Grammy winners Ė former Led Zeppelin leader Robert Plant and popular bluegrass singer Alison Krauss.   

Itís pretty heady stuff, but Little refuses to let it all go to her head. 

In these two years, the Philadelphia-based Little met her musical soulmate in singer/songwriter Scot Sax, who had been one of leaders of Wanderlust, a popular Philly band that broke out of the local scene to score a contract and a serious buzz in the 90s for their self-titled debut album.  Sax wrote and sang that bandís biggest hit ďI Walked,Ē but eventually the buzz on the band cooled off a bit.

After years of the LA music scene Ė time which led to the dissolution of his band followed by lots of soundtrack work, solo recording and songwriting jobs Ė Sax returned home to his roots.  Since Sax and Little met they have become musical and personal partners Ė together writing and conceiving of Littleís acclaimed major-label debut, Perfect Time for a Breakdown.

Soon after the end of the Plant/Krauss tour, Little Ė who was fighting off a cold Ė was nice enough to call us and tell us a bit about her exploding career.

How did you get involved in music?  What inspired you to take up singing? 

It wasnít necessarily singing that I got into.  It was more so music.  Iíve always sang Ė ever since I was born, pretty much.  I was two years old and performing for my family and singing in the grocery store for all the customers.  All that stuff.  I was more inspired to write music when I was sixteen and actually turn it into my life.  I was sixteen and Iíd lost a close friend of mine.  She died in a car accident.  Her mother gave me her guitar and I started pulling at the pain that it had caused and using it as material.  It just kind of became my life and has been ever since. 

How did you hook up with Scot Sax as a partner? 

I was working on my album in a studio Ė not the one thatís out right now, this is a different thing.  I was singing jazz and blues for a while.  I had an investor that decided to invest in me because he thought I could be something, even though he didnít really know what he was doing and I didnít really know what I was doing.  That ended up failing, but through that I was working on the album at Milkboy Studios in Ardmore (Pennsylvania Ė a suburb of Philadelphia).  Scot had just moved back in the neighborhood from LA.  He was just walking around the neighborhood one day and decided to stop into Milkboy Coffee shop and ask when they had open mic.  They said, ďyou have to ask the owners, who are over at the studio.Ē  He went to the studio and introduced himself and all that.  One of the owners said, ďYou know, thereís this girl working in our studio right now on an album and she needs help with some of her songs.Ē  So he gave Scot my number.  Next thing you know, Scot calls me and we ended up meeting at the coffee shop.  I went back to his house that day, recorded a song in his studio.  That year we started getting together two times a week.  The connection was so strong that it was pretty undeniable.  At that point my investor had backed out, so I didnít have any connections to anyone else.  I was very dedicated to making it work between Scot and I.  Thatís how it happened. 

About two years ago you were waiting tables, now you are opening for Robert Plant & Alison Krauss and Chris Isaak.  How surreal has the last year been for you? 

(chuckles)  Itís been quite an interesting time.  It definitely has been surreal, but Iíve always been in either strange or tragic or amazing situations.  I feel like [they] always end up falling into my lap.  Instead of actually getting overwhelmed with all of them, I just look at them and take them as if they are anything else.  Itís kind of like I just accept everything as the same thing.  In other words, if someone says, ďOh, youíre going out on the road with Robert Plant,Ē the way I respond to it would be the same as if somebody says, ďBy the way, you just won the gift set from Macyís.Ē  You know?  Itís like, oh, okay, cool.  I donít know how to explain it.  I guess itís kind of like what Iíve trained myself to do to handle shock. 

Like you said earlier, you used to sing jazz and blues.  One thing I love about the new CD is that you mix in lots of styles Ė you have rock, soul, pop, folk, even a touch of country.  Were you looking to experiment with styles on Perfect Time for a Breakdown or is it something that just comes naturally to you as a singer/songwriter? 

I wrote the entire album with Scot.  So his influence is there.  A lot of the stuff that youíre hearing, like the rock and the poppier stuff Ė that is Scot.  More of the soul, bluesy, jazzy kind of vibe is mine.  I made it a point; I was like I donít really care whether the album is perfectly placed Ė where every song vibes into the other.  I just want it to be a record of songs that Scot and I came up with through experience and a lot of stuff.  Some of the times when you hear the darker of the songs, that is mostly my writing.  Like ďChild in a Storm,Ē I came up with the music for that Ė obviously with Scotís help and direction Ė but for the most part and also a lot of the words.  Whereas like ďFollow That Sound,Ē Scot came up with a lot of that song and itís a lot more rock.  I really enjoy doing a lot of different voices.  I donít like just singing one way or one style.  I like to experiment with my voice.  Thatís why I kind of like the schizophrenic kind of style that weíve come up with.  (laughs) 

Perfect Time for a Breakdown was the name of your last indie EP as well as your major label debut Ė even though the albums shared only a couple of songs.  Why does that title speak to you? 

Well, I really like that title.  The EP that we had Ė as much as I love everything that weíve done Ė weíre not going to [widely] release it to anybody.  I came up with the name, but Scot was like, ďThatís a great name.  We should use it for an album.Ē  I didnít think about using it for an album, I just said it.  I really wanted to use it on a bigger album, but at the time we were just shopping for record deals and we didnít have anything lined up with that much leverage.  So when the actual album came out I was like, you know what?  Letís just name this one Perfect Time for a Breakdown. (laughs)  Whatever, thereís no rules. 

Youíve been recording for a few years.  Was it hard deciding what would go on the debut? 

Oh, yeah.  Iím extremely happy with what happened, because it happened and thatís just the way it is.  I trust fate a little bit.  There are definitely a couple of songs that I really wanted on this album.  But I also understand that Iíll do other albums.  Itís not like Iím going to stop. 

I know Scot has experience with recording for a major label, but this is your first opportunity.  How is it different working with label backing rather than an indie?  Is it better?  Is it worse? 

Itís really no different.  Itís better actually, because Scot and I basically are doing what we always have been doing, but we just happen to have backing behind us.  Thatís it.  With CBS Records, they are such a great record label Ė even though itís CBS, itís not really a major record label.  Like it is, but itís not. 

Itís a smaller part of a bigger company [Sony Music]Ö 

Exactly.  They donít have a huge budget.  I didnít get this ridiculous advancement.  There was nothing like that.  It was just like, ďWeíll place your songs in TV shows and try to get you the best tours possible.  Thatís all we can do.Ē 

ďFollow That SoundĒ was chosen as the theme to the TV series The Cleaner.  How did that come about?  Is it cool hearing your song on the show? 

Yeah, well, you know what?  I donít really watch TV.  When I was on tour I watched TV more, obviously, because you try to calm down at the end of the day.  (laughs)  I mean, Iím so grateful, because itís a constant thing.  Itís happening every week.  Itís constant exposure of that.  But, I guess what Iím trying to say is because I was only a waitress two years agoÖ or a year ago at this pointÖ and all of this has happened.  Iíve met people from Vince Vaughn to Fran Drescher to Robert Plant to John Mellencamp, Alison Krauss, T-Bone Burnett, all of these people and I also have had four TV placements.  Iíve been on The CBS Early Morning Show.  A lot has happened.  If I get a little, even like an ounce more excitement than I should, Iím going to become blind.  I want to remain realistic.  I do make a conscious effort not to get excited as other people do.  Sometimes it takes people off guard.  (laughs)  Actually a lot, because they are like, ďOh, my gosh, I canít believe you did this!  Arenít you so excited?Ē  Iím like, yeah, itís cool.  (laughs again). They look at me like I have five heads. 

I noticed your lyrics have a lot of little details Ė almost like a short story.  For example, my favorite song on the album is ďSet You Free.Ē  Do you try to tell a tale with your songs? 

Yes.  Actually, ďSet You FreeĒ is a song that Iíd written like five years ago.  I never had words to it.  I was like, Scot, what do you think of this melody?  He was like, ďOh, I really like it.Ē  I [said] cool, letís write something.  I just started streaming.  When I write I do a lot of stream of consciousness and stuff just comes out.  Sometimes it makes sense, other times it makes no sense.  (laughs)  Scot usually takes that raw material that I put out and he gives it shape, so that whoever listens to it Ė the world or however many people listen to it Ė theyíll understand it.  Because a lot of the time you canít really understand it.  Thatís how that song came about.  It was just like (sings) ďI saw a man walking by, seemed kind of shy and troubled.Ē  I was just imagining people walking by and thatís how it came out. 

You just appeared on local singer Mutluís debut album as well.  I recently interviewed him and he was talking about all the Philly artists he was able to work with. 

Oh, I love him! 

Why do you think that Philadelphia has such a close-knit music scene? 

Well, I think the reason why is becauseÖ you know two years ago I had been to one other state in the country, and thatís Texas.  And New Jersey, but, you know, same thing [as Philly].  (laughs)  After these two years, Iíve been to every single state in the country except for four of them.  So Iíve had a really quick experience kind of getting to know each major city and a couple of these places Iíve been to like five times, like Louisville and Nashville.  Just all these places, itís just been like aÖ  What I noticed thatís different about the music in other cities and the music in Philadelphia is that I feel like itís taken so casually and taken so lightly.  In other words, we have great cover bands and people go out and they listen and they talk over the cover bands while theyíre drinking Ė which is fine.  But if you put a performer on stage, like myself or like Mutlu, people treat it the same way.  They just talk all over it.  So I think a lot of the time musicians in Philadelphia bond together and say, ďYou know what?  If theyíre going to talk over us, letís get a group of people together.Ē  That way itís like us against them.  Not so much Philadelphia is unappreciative, I love Philadelphia and Helen Leicht (a local AAA DJ) and WXPN are completely supportive of me.  I am so grateful for them.  At the same time, in Des Moines, Iowa, Iíll pack a place.  Packed, sold out Ė and people are listening.  They donít talk through the entire show.  Then I come home to Philadelphia and I played a homecoming show at the Note and I almost lost my voice trying to sing over top of everybody.  It was just so weird, because this is where Iím from and the only thing they did is talk over my music.  Itís just sad, you know?  Iím not trying to soundÖ whateverÖ but thatís just the truth of the matter.  So I think itís kind of like Philadelphia musicians have to stick together.  We donít take it for granted.  In LA people will come and theyíll listen to a show.  In New York, if you go out to see a show youíll listen to it Ė in Des Moines and Louisville and Nashville.  People have respect for music there.  I donít feel that the respect for music is as high in Philadelphia as Iíve seen it in other cities. 

It said in your press bio that you usually travel to shows by train rather than plane.  Does seeing the land like that give you a feeling of continuing a tradition of folk singers like Woody Guthrie? 

I guess itís kind of a thing of innocence in a sense.  Iíve never listened to folk music a lot.  I was introduced to Joan Baez the first time I was given a guitar Ė just because she was a female guitarist and she was great.  I love finger picking.  This guy who gave me my very first guitar, he was like maybe you can study some of her work.  I listened to her for a little bit, but I didnít even know that she was friends with Bob Dylan until like a year ago.  (laughs)  I never studied folk music, ever.  So for me, Iíve always been a little bit of a traveling gypsy.  I moved out when I was eighteen years old.  Iíve kind of been living in little one-bedroom apartments up until now.  Iíve always wanted that drive to just go.  Just get out.  Walk out the door, shut it behind me, lock it and donít look back.  When I met Scot, and he was like, ďOh, I like to take trains,Ē I was oh my gosh.  Thatís exactly up my alley.  Thatís exactly what I want to do.  So it wasnít because I wanted to experience anything of a folk legend Ė I just wanted to do it. 

Today, there are so many other outlets for music beyond just the radio Ė the internet, television, ads and movies.  Do you think this opens things up for an artist to get more notice? 

I think it opens it up and at the same time I think it shuts it out.  Itís kind of like the diamond in the rough or whatever they call it.  (laughs)  A lot of the reason why the diamond is so expensive or so beautiful is because itís rare.  Itís exciting.  Itís hard to find.  I think a lot of music has been ruined in this time of day that weíre living in right now.  Itís so easy.  For example, Scot is older than I am.  He loved David Bowie.  He told me that when he was young and heíd get a David Bowie album, he couldnít wait to see what he was wearing.  He would run off to the record store and buy the album just so he could see what the outfit looked like.  Then heíd go home and lock his bedroom door and listen to it.  You donít do that these days.  You can see what anybody is wearing whenever you want.  For that matter, usually when you download the song Ė because nobody buys an album and looks at the artwork any more Ė of course itís easy, but itís made it so easy that itís kind of spread out who is actually great and who isnít.  Weíre never going to have another Bob Dylan.  Weíre never going to have another Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell, because weíve made it too easy for ourselves.  Weíre not going to be able to find them.

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Watch Sharon Little's video for the song "Follow That Sound" - The Theme from TV series The Cleaner!




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Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 14, 2009. 

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Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 14, 2009.