It was a snowy Saturday afternoon when I found myself sitting across from Sarah Solovay—a singer-songwriter from Manhattan, New York. Nursing a hot water while the blizzard turned the city into slush, Solovay possessed a quiet confidence as we chatted about the weather, how she was living out of a hotel after a fire smoked her out of her apartment, and more. With her long, chestnut hair and oversized sweater, it’s easy to mistake Solovay for a fashionable city dweller and not an accomplished musician.
At an age when most of the country is wearing braces, dealing with the trauma of an ill-fitting haircut, and creating memories they will cringe about in years to come, Solovay was opening for acts like John Mayer and Train, licensing songs to MTV, pushing out records, and even being profiled by the New York Times. Just as her career was ramping up, however, Solovay took a break to focus on her education.
“It felt like if I didn’t go to college at age 18, I probably never would have,” she says.
Four years later, Solovay graduated from Yale with a degree in American Studies that included independent studies on country music in the South, New York hip hop, and the British invasion of American pop culture. As her major indicates, Solovay was ready to hit the scene once she had her degree in hand.
“It felt inevitable that I would come back,” she says. “I never stopped writing. I never stopped hearing new melodies or [thinking of] new ideas for songs. [As someone] who writes, you just keep coming up with this stuff. It feels wrong not to put it out into the world eventually, so it’s less that I felt like something drew me back, less of a moment where I made this decision to go back—it was like I never went away.”
Aside from some odd jobs here and there, Solovay has devoted herself to music full time and hopes to release an EP showcasing her new work this summer. While she’ll always be someone who finds inspiration while playing her guitar, Solovay has been working more with other songwriters and describes it as more collaborative in nature. Lyrically, she notes that her songs are more rooted in the experiences she has lived these past couple of years as opposed to teenage fantasy.
“A lot of the stuff that I wrote [while I was in high school] was sort of magical,” says Solovay, who primarily writes about relationships. “I hadn’t had any real relationships or major life experiences [at that point], so while the songs then were very true to me, it was in an imaginative way. Now, after college, I’ve been in serious relationships. I’ve fallen in love. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve had all of this stuff happen, so when I sit down to write, I’m drawing from a pallet of real and authentic experiences.”
As a testament to this new facet of her writing, her first single in almost five years (out TOMORROW), “Rough Draft,” has taken on new meaning for Solovay:
“When I wrote it, [the song was about] daring someone to love you [by] going, ‘I’m not perfect but here I am.’ And this was from the point of view of the song, as opposed to me talking about a relationship. But the more I sing it—especially as I’m reentering the industry and relaunching my career—it feels like me addressing the music world and saying, ‘I am still working on my craft. I am always going to be working on my craft and trying to grow as an artist. I still have a lot of flaws, but I’m putting my art forward and hoping people like it.’”
While her new work—including the track, “Trick Me”—had been going well during Solovay’s pop-up shows for SoFar Sounds, she still expressed a nervous excitement for her first public show in four years (held the evening of our meeting).
“I’ve been waiting so long to share these songs with people,” she says. “This is my first big moment to see which songs connect and which stories resonate with the audience.”
Solovay certainly made an impression later that night at Rockwood One on the Lower East Side, as throngs of supporters charged their way inside the intimate space. Backed by a full band, the 22-year-old worked the audience as she transitioned between songs that fit well within that indie/singer-songwriter slice of pop music. While the crowd attentively listened to and participated in the full set, they were captivated during Solovay’s acoustic moment—which fit the space, allowed her vocals to take the lead, and made the crowded room feel as if it were full of close friends. If the night’s success was not already apparent enough, the audience demanded an encore. And with that, Solovay closed her set and invited everyone to meet her at a nearby bar.
There was an excited thrum in the air as showgoers headed out of Rockwood and onto the snowy streets of New York City. Judging from this energy and her ability to pack the room beyond capacity, it seems as though Solovay will have quite the promising career ahead of her.