Unraveling the Inner Mystery: An Interview with Sarah Schonert

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Photo Credit: Sarah Schonert

Alt-pop singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Schonert writes, records, and produces her self-described “eclectic electronic” music out of her home studio in Peoria, Illinois. Schonert is also a self-taught producer and engineer, revealing, “I have nearly 25 years of piano and vocal performance under my belt, and have been writing and recording on my own since 2012.” The piano-based do-it-yourselfer recalls artists like Jo Gabriel, Imogen Heap, and Tori Amos for her down-to-earth songbird vocals, confessional and realistic lyrical style, and dreamier piano/electronic atmosphere.

Schonert just delivered her sophomore long-player, My Unwinding State, June 28th. The album is packed with 16 tracks that are meant to be listened to as a 2-part suite with an experimental piece and an instrumental interlude positioned in the middle. It’s also almost a totally solo project, save for a co-writing credit to musician Brett David on “We Were Something”. Schonert describes her reflective and revealing album as featuring, “Belted lyrics, vocal harmonies and layers, intricate piano, and a healthy dose of vocoders.”

Schonert has a passion for pushing the boundaries of sound declaring, “I’m not afraid to experiment with vintage instruments as well as new technology.” She mixes the old with the new, filling out her traditional classical piano compositions with ambient and vocoder synths textures, electronic notes, and her tiered vocal lines. While Schonert plays multiple instruments, she admits that, “I still gravitate toward the keyboard and the piano to anchor my work.”

Schonert’s relatable lyrics focus on everyday life, relationships, and communication, unveiling her emotional vulnerability and a search for answers. Like a songbird perched uncertainly on a trembling tree branch, Schonert flits delicately through her words, conveying her inner thoughts through her music. On “We Were Something” she questions, “Where did we go? / I lost you.” and during “Maybe I” she fragilely muses, “I don’t know exactly what I did / Indecisive me / Perhaps it’s what I didn’t do.” Schonert’s earlier educational background in the sciences and mathematics occasionally comes into play on her lyrics. She states, “I prefer a free-flowing lyrics writing style, with phrases that often nod to my physics and engineering degrees.”

In describing her creative process, Schonert explains that she alternates between starker piano and vocals-based ballads and electronics-imbued numbers and that, ever the innovator, “I try to find the right sound for the mood and the message of each song, even if that means crafting my own personal electronic instrument sounds using customizable virtual instruments.”

Schonert multi-tasks between on her own work and connecting with other artists online for various music projects. She enthuses, “I love collaborating with other musicians around the world as well as interacting with artists and fans.” Over the years Schonert has built up a collection of instruments and most recently she is devoting her time to playing guitar, accordion, and the Seaboard. The singer-songwriter/musician also has other artistic talents, divulging, “I also dabble in visual arts, mainly charcoal and acrylics, and tend to use my own work for album and song artwork.”

My Unwinding State is Schonert’s 4th recording and second album, a follow-up to her debut, Headphone Paralysis, which came out November 2013. She also released 2 EPs, Because and The Kees Flies, in 2015.

Visit Sarah’s official page here: