Breaking down pop singer Sarah Cho’s diverse musical canon
Pop singer Sarah Cho has got some brooding jams with top-notch lyrics.
Within the past few years, the New York-based singer has released five singles into the world (now six at the time of this publication), all produced and arranged from home. Here, feel-good vibes are tinged with a bit of sadness–a combination that might seem strange but materializes into something surprisingly comforting. Grounded in romantic difficulties, her lyrics tell familiar stories yet put a thoughtful spin on relatable feelings.
We asked Sarah Cho about how each of her songs came to be, and the inspirations and the stories behind them.
On “Through to You”: This song has quite a tender tone to it. What inspired you to make this song?
The inspirations for “Through to You” has a lot to do with how I handle arguments in relationships. Quite honestly I’m very bad at articulating my thoughts into words sometimes and so I get nervous about how to say things–especially in a relationship. So this song formulated into the idea of not knowing how to communicate with words and then fearing losing someone in a relationship because of it.
On “The Vibe”: The sounds from this track are very R&B influenced. How did you get into the genre?
“The Vibe” is the first solo song I entirely produced myself with exception of the hi-hat done by a friend of mine. I got into R&B when I first learned 7-chords on the guitar and piano. They really sat right with my ears when I played them. Also, I enjoy listening to R&B music from Brian Mcknight, Boys 2 Men, Brandy, Usher, and even the occasional R&B tracks from current pop singers like Chris Brown, HER, Justin Bieber and so many others.
On “Exchange”: The description of the song is Sad Lo-fi/R&B. How did this track come together, and where did the “sad” modifier come from?
For “Exchange,” I really just came up with that because I got that track’s inspiration by listening to lo-fi. The “sad” was put because even though this song talks about a happy topic (good connection in a relationship), I felt like it had very mellow sounds that you wouldn’t expect for a happy song, which is why I used the word “sad” cus I didn’t really know how to describe it.
On “Games”: This song is Sad Jazz/R&B. What about the song makes it jazz?
For “Games,” it’s categorized as jazz because of the chords I used in the song! I sometimes don’t know what chords I’m playing because I play by ear–but the chord progression played is definitely jazzy. The guitar riffs playing in the back also emphasize the jazz-type of vibes I was aiming for in the song. But again, I describe my music that way because I feel like that’s the vibe I’m trying to go for in my music, and it’s the best way I could describe it. I wish someone would describe to me how my music sounds like and if there’s a more better-fit description that what I use haha.
On “Am I Wrong”: Obviously, the songs you produce are all so different, like this one including rap. What value is there for artists to collaborate with others from different musical backgrounds?
“Am I Wrong” was the very first song I produced entirely and I actually used it as a track for a cover. A classmate from my high school wanted to collaborate with that track and showed me how to use a music distribution company to put it on Spotify. I didn’t have a Spotify account at the time so we posted the track on his page and featured me on it later. Unfortunately, the music distribution company does not allow “Sarah AND Chris” as the songwriters so we had no option but to place a feature on my name. Kind of sucks because the track is not under my top songs list on Spotify (1 million plays!). BUT I’m forever grateful that he pushed me beyond my comfort zone because I learned a lot through collaboration and it ultimately led me to release my own singles.
I actually enjoy listening to rap a lot. It’s really valuable to work with other people because the “studio energy” is more amped up. We met a year after the song release with another friend Sameen, who helped mix some of the vocals, and just vibed in Chris’ room trying to make another song. I learned a lot from each of them, especially with editing and writing. It made me feel accepted because I never really met anyone like-minded in music production/writing.
Where can people find you on social media?
All my music is available on most streaming platforms so check it out!
This interview was conducted by Jonathan Liu via email in May 2020.