Singer/songwriter Rachael Sage tours to Chicago next month, and might be best recognized as the lady behind MPress Records, a well-known independent record label under which acclaimed artists such as Seth Glier and Melissa Ferrick produce their albums.
More recently, Sage is increasingly noticed for role in the hit Lifetime series Dance Moms, the network's top reality show. Big, boisterous Miss Abby has been using Sage's music for competition numbers throughout the years, at first unknowingly. In July, Sage launched a new single, Happiness: Maddie's Song, featured in episode 25 as the music for "Moms" star Maddie Ziegler.
In a recent interview with Windy City Times, Sage discussed Dance Moms, and her past and present connections to the dance world.
Windy City Times: How did you first get involved with Dance Moms?
Rachael Sage: Actually, Dance Moms first began using my music, without my awareness. I was only made aware initially by videos that "leaked" from the show onto YouTube, shortly before the season-four premiere in January. Fans were uploading footage from their competitions, showing my songs "Birthday" and "Confession" within the context of the show. Then when they actually aired, I was kind of amazedand very excited!
Ultimately, [Dance Moms] used eight of my songs this past season. I was eventually able to meet Abby Lee Miller and all the ALDC dancers, which was kind of a thrill because I truly am in awe of these young girls' talent and their incredible work ethic. When I met Abby, she told me she'd been using my music for years, well before they had a reality show, in her school and for various competitions, including my song "Frost," which she first choreographed to a decade ago!
WCT: Do you write music specifically with dance and/or the show in mind?
RS: So far, all of the music that has aired on the show has been music that I'd already released, selected for various dances by Abby and her team. But without revealing too much, let's just say that composing something special for the show is something I would definitely embrace!
WCT: How has being featured on television helped your career ( assuming it has )?
RS: I think the main way that these song placements on Dance Moms have helped me, honestly, has been in terms of my creative self-confidence.
You'd think that this far along in my indie career, I'd feel ok most of the time, as an artist ... and while I generally do, of course, it's been a challenging journey with many ups and downs. There have been moments in which I came very close to giving up all together even in spite of my passion for making and performing my own music. The support that Abby Lee Miller and her show have expressed, simply by choosing my work to accompany their dances, has given me a very tangible boost in my self-confidence.
I was a ballet dancer, well before I had a professional career in music. I studied ballet since I was 3, and eventually became a student at The School of American Ballet, dancing with The New York City Ballet in productions like The Nutcracker, Coppelia and Mozartiana at Lincoln Center in my teens. I've always had a pretty big hole in my spirit, since giving up my "other love." Somehow, the whole symbiosis between the show, my music and my prior life as a dancer has brought me full-circle.
WCT: What about your music lends itself to dance?
RS: I used to think it was the pianistic arrangements, and the flow I feel when I play, but Dance Moms and some other dance schools around the country started using more aggressive, rocked-out tracks of mine, so now I'm not really sure! Maybe it's the way that I try to create very wide dynamics as the lyric and emotion warrants… I think I must just have a dancer's spiriteven though I can't do all the pirouettes anymoreand maybe that comes though! They say, "Once a dancer, always a dancer," and if I have a glass of wine, I'm still known to pull out some moves.
WCT: Has anyone at Dance Moms been concerned about you being an out LGBT musician?
RS: It's never remotely come up. I never made a conscious choice to do anything but be myself, as a person and as an artist. It's all I know! I like to think that if [Dance Moms] did a dance to Kinky Boots they'd be okay with that bit of info; but the bottom line is that I am a musician first.
I've never been particularly interested in discussing my private life, although I am always very eager to stand up for anyone's right to love whomever they choose! I'm a singer-songwriter, and touring artist who's put out 10 indie albums, run my own label for over a decade and tried my best to live in a compassionate way. Along my journey I've supported causes in which I believe personally, but never pander exclusively to one "scene" per se.
I have definitely never identified as a "queer artist" ahead of simply being "an artist." I'm not quite sure how that would benefit melet alone the LGBT communityto do so. Since I first started playing piano and writing songs at 5 years old, my goal as a human being has always been to bring people together through entertainmentnever to divide or exclude anyone, ever!
Rachael Sage's tour stops in Chicago Sunday, Oct. 5, at Uncommon Ground on Clark at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10; visit rachaelsage.com or uncommonground.com .