Rachael Sage penned her new track, “Blue Sky Days,” while being treated for cancer.
“I wrote [the song] toward the end of my 2018 treatment when I was simultaneously feeling like I was approaching my limit for what more I could handle physically, but also realizing that it would be over soon,” Sage told American Songwriter in an interview, the full text of which is featured below. “So I guess you can say I was writing quite literally about the light at the end of the tunnel.”
“Blue Sky Days”–premiering today on American Songwriter–sees the New York City singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer channeling hope and gratitude as she tries to stay grounded through treatment. “Blue sky days / White ocean’s open embrace / Gold sun rays / Red moonlight’s G-d given grace,” she sings in the chorus, which was partially inspired by imagery from the app Headspace.
Sage originally wrote the track alongside her friend and longtime violinist Kelly Halloran. On the final recording the two are joined by drummers / percussionists Andy Mac and Doug Yowell, bassist Mikhail Pivovarov, guitarist / background vocalist James Mastro, and organist Rob Curto (some of whom also perform with Sage as The Sequins). Sage says “Blue Sky Days” continues to affect her as she performs it at live shows.
“It’s a song that reminds me how far I’ve come, and that the little things like a cup of tea, sunlight on one’s face, or looking up at a glorious full moon can feel like heaven,” she explains. “[Sometimes] life forces you, literally, to stand still. I don’t want to forget to pay attention to those little things, now that I’m healed.”
“Blue Sky Days” is the third single off Sage’s forthcoming album following “Bravery’s On Fire” and “Both Hands.” The former number’s proceeds were donated to women’s cancer research, while the latter is an homage to Ani DiFranco’s 1990 original. Character is Sage’s third full-length record released in as many years, coming on the heels of 2018’s Myopia and 2019’s acoustic follow-up PseudoMyopia.
Sage recently spoke to us about her inspiration for “Blue Sky Days,” as well as her experience writing and performing the song. Read the full interview below, and catch Sage on tour this spring.
American Songwriter: At what point in the timeline of making your forthcoming album Character did you compose “Blue Sky Days?”
Rachael Sage: I wrote “Blue Sky Days” toward the end of my 2018 treatment for cancer, when I was simultaneously feeling like I was approaching my limit for what more I could handle physically, but also realizing that it would be over soon–so I guess you can say I was writing quite literally about the light at the end of the tunnel.
Tell us a bit about your experience writing the song.
As I was regaining my strength and recovering, I started to have my dear friend and longtime violinist Kelly Halloran come and visit me regularly. I hadn’t had the energy to play music in over 6 months, and I very much wanted her to help me find my way back to playing. I was so eager to create something new, and also I wanted to prove to myself I could still summon inspiration even in the wake of a physical and ultimately a very spiritual crisis. Inspiration came in the form of the ‘blue sky’ imagery that my Headspace meditation app – and the revelation that of course, eventually, the clouds do clear. The song is essentially about hope, as well as a particular kind of gratitude that is much stronger because it’s grounded in mindfulness.
Can fans expect to hear you perform “Blue Sky Days” live on your current tour?
I’ve really been enjoying performing “Blue Sky Days” live, for the past few months. I usually open the set with it because it reminds me that I literally don’t need to ‘know where I’m going’ to know that I’m fulfilling my purpose, which is to create beauty and art, whether it’s out of pain or simple escapism or something more subconscious and mysterious. It’s a song that reminds me how far I’ve come, and that the little things like a cup of tea, sunlight on one’s face, or looking up at a glorious full moon can feel like heaven. [Sometimes] life forces you, literally, to stand still. I don’t want to forget to pay attention to those little things, now that I’m healed. It may sound like a cliché, but perhaps the only silver lining of cancer is that one is forced to utterly and truly pay attention to everything that has simply been taken for granted, prior.
What message do you hope listeners take away from “Blue Sky Days?”
I hope when people hear “Blue Sky Days,” it creates a feeling of being washed over by peace, openness, appreciation and faith that we are all ‘enough,’ just as we are. Sonically, I wanted it to sound propulsive and forward-moving, which is how my piano part evolved. The strings are layered and lush and sound very joyful, I think. There are snare-rolls in each verse because I felt like I had to recruit a very military-like discipline to pull myself out of a dark place and recapture my true nature, which is positive and optimistic. But it took work, and a little bit of courage…and of course, my Headspace app!
Character is out March 6.