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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Rachel Sage Shows Real Character

Rachel Sage's latest album Character is a song cycle written while the beloved indie artist was recovering from uterine cancer in 2018.

Throughout the revelatory 12-song collection (and accompanying 5-song acoustic disc), Sage reflects on such concepts as gratitude, compassion, authenticity and optimism, questioning what comprises character – and lifting herself up in the process. Balancing the poetic lyricism for which she is best known with a newfound reverence for music as a healing tool, Sage is in the midst of a creative renaissance, merging her experience of survivorship with both music and activism.

Character is a musical testament to the miracle and mystery of the human experience, in all its inspiring, painful and confounding glory. Sage muses: “I hope these songs honour just how resilient the human spirit can be, and remind us that sometimes ‘it’s ok to not be ok’.”The beating heart of the album, “Bravery’s On Fire”, juxtaposes courage and vulnerability in a quest for gratitude. Rachael shares, “I wanted to write a declaration of my own search for strength and resilience in the face of the overwhelm that a cancer diagnosis creates.” All proceeds from the sale of the track benefit Women's Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan Kettering and Massachusetts General Hospitals, the two institutions where she received her treatment.Sage’s fresh, string-quartet take on Ani DiFranco's classic "Both Hands" is both musically unexpected and a full- circle moment.

Sage's very first tour was as an opener for DiFranco, and she's long been inspired by her fellow indie label owner; but in this case it was more vital. While receiving chemo, Sage listened to the song as part of a playlist that kept her determined and strong. A year later, it was a natural fit for her album.Compassion – toward oneself and others – is another theme that runs through much of Character. “Cave” was written by Sage in her college days, but it found its way back to her after she rediscovered an old lyric journal and recognized that the song meant much more to her now than it ever did in her teens. The minor, Eastern European flavour of serpentine string and accordion riffs perfectly mirrors what Sage describes as “a complete loss of self” during this difficult time.

Produced by Sage and Grammy winner Andy Zulla and recorded by Mikhail Pivovarov, Character features longtime collaborators cellist Ward Williams and violinist Kelly Halloran – alongside cellist Dave Eggar (Amber Rubarth), drummer Doug Yowell (Suzanne Vega), guitarist James Mastro (Ian Hunter), and MPress label-mates Seth Glier and Grace Pettis.

For Sage, survivorship now means balancing her new commitment to staying healthy with a renewed sense of purpose: creating work that uplifts and empowers others in any way she possibly can. “I have come to realize that music is the most powerful healing tool I have ever encountered. It has quite literally saved my life, and I intend for the rest of my career to be a long, slow dance of gratitude."

Kari Estrin - Publicist

Rachael Sage releases upbeat new single, "Blue Sky Days".  This song was written while she was recovering from her recent cancer experience and was inspired directly by the imagery in the popular Headspace meditation app. Propelled by an ambitious string arrangement and Sage's signature arpeggiated piano riffs, Sage hopes the gratitude-centric song will serve as a source of hopeful uplift to anyone going through tough times.

Listen to the song now here

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