Sarah Yamada is a BC freshman, a member of WIN, and newly a Spotify artist! Listen to her first-ever single, Juvenile, on Spotify, and read about her incredible story below!
Like every other elementary schooler, I took piano lessons. Then I decided that I didn’t need the extra homework at the busy age of 8, and that I hated being told what to do in an artistic setting. So I ditched the music theory and sheet reading and eventually took a liking to the teenage and pop radio scene. Music was always just something that was happening in the background - in the car, at a friend’s house, at sports games. But it wasn’t anything ever really huge to me - until the 6th grade, when one of Halsey’s songs came up in my suggested YouTube feed. Awkwardly so, I’m not a huge fan of Halsey anymore, but I can confidently say that I was there listening to her before she blew up; I remember just thinking that I had never heard anything like her, and become quickly obsessed with the left-field, indie/alt-pop genre she stood for. So yea, in a way, young Halsey was the beginning of my musical awakening. Middle school was just a whole scheme of me just trying to find the coolest new artists online, and sneaking into concerts with my friends after begging our parents to drop us off. At some point between middle school and high school, I picked up my sister’s guitar and started learning to play with online videos so I could connect more with my favorite artists. I (so cringe-ily) posted a singing video at 1 AM and just went to bed because I was so nervous with how my Instagram followers would take to it. I woke up to some decent feedback and started to wonder if maybe I wasn’t so bad at singing. I started posting a lot of cover songs, but then began to feel like it was a little wrong to constantly be singing and making renditions of other people’s stories. I wanted to bridge the gap between emulating artists and being one, so I sat down one night and started to write.
If I had to explain my writing process as a methodology, I would honestly be at a loss. I have no idea how I write, it literally just comes. Sometimes it comes in a few minutes, sometimes it just doesn’t come all - and sometimes I write about events, but mostly I write off of feelings. I think that deep down, a lot of us are intrinsically sad, and that’s just a result of the human condition. Honestly, though, I think there’s something really beautiful in this. And it’s super cool that in a moment of isolation, I can create something that others can later connect to in their own moments of isolation. I just figured out how to channel that individual realization of being alone in my own head, and then make songs out of it. But don’t ask me to write a happy song because I can’t.
After my freshman year, I had quite the roster of songs and I had tried building some beats off of GarageBand, but I was “pretty shit.” I reached out to a few producers I found online in a “pay-for-play” setting, and to my surprise, a few of them offered to work with me at no cost. My parents assured me they were all scam artists hyping me up to eventually “make a few bucks” off of a typical teenage “aspiring star,” but eventually I got them on phone calls. I ended up interacting with and meeting some producers in New York and Los Angeles, and even England. I found myself in the coolest professional studios and even in the Beverly Hills offices of Roc Nation, surrounded by Platinum Records. I’ll never forget getting a call that Jay Brown, co-founder of Roc Nation with Jay-Z, “wants to know who this girl is”- I think that’s when I realized this could be a real thing for me.
So I just kept writing music. I focused on school, mostly, though. It was hard to find a balance, especially getting ready for college. But I stayed in the studio periodically with my good friend, John Ho, and we constantly talked about our game plan. John partners with this other really cool artist, The Last Artful, Dodgr, and she’s been blowing up in the scene- she has a deal with Island Records, a song on Euphoria, a Rolling Stone feature, tons of commercials, is going to be on Jimmy Fallon, etc. What John sort of sees for me right now is following Dodgr’s blueprint- it’s cool to hear about how Dodgr started out small and organically, similarly to me, I guess. I also work with a couple other amazing veterans in the industry. I’m so grateful for all the guidance and help I’ve received thus far, and am just excited to see where I can go from here. The release of my first song was such a crazy moment for me. To have been writing in my bedroom since freshman year of high school to finally seeing my name on Spotify was absolutely nuts.
As a college student, though, school comes first to me, and I have always put value in having an education- even though some have told me I could just focus on music and not go to school anymore. I heavily debated attending the Berklee College of Music after my acceptance last month, with the hopes of combining music and school. But I know my “window” as an artist won’t be forever, and I could possibly never get anywhere with this. With a solid education at Boston College, I can stay within the entertainment industry and follow my love of music by creating my own entertainment label in the future (or a venture capitalist firm to identify young talent). As of now, I’m just glad the ball has finally started rolling. I can’t wait to release more music periodically (so much to come!) and just enjoy life as a first year university student. I was thinking of minoring in music here at BC, but then I realized that I might have to learn to read sheet music and go back to the roots of theory. Ew.