My name is Sarah Shafey and I am an Egyptian-Canadian and a child of immigrants I reside in Toronto, Ontario. Growing up, my family moved around a lot, and therefore my music is diverse and significantly influenced, both lyrically and sonically, by these experiences. Musically, I love all genres of music and pull inspiration from artists and bands such as NIN, Linda Perry, Nirvana, The Weeknd, Depeche Mode, Florence and the Machine, Dr. Dre, Kate Bush, Battle Tapes, and Lady Gaga just to name a few. This diversity in musical taste has allowed me to hone my producer and audio engineer skills across all genres, and for the past decade, I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with many artists throughout the Toronto music scene.
I’m absolutely thrilled to be releasing my fourth album, Blackbox Universe, this fall. The album itself is space-themed. I’ve always been fascinated by space and the mysteries of the universe; it’s a place I can escape to in my imagination where things are calm, peaceful, and colourful. I needed this escape while writing the album. Throughout, I explore humanity (the good, bad and ugly), heartbreak, and rising up into my own womanhood. I want people to know that I love and support them, flaws and all. I pride myself in being a champion and big advocate for women’s empowerment and equality, and this album is truly a homage to celebrating the different facets of womanhood. I’m thankful to have co-produced/mixed/engineered this album with Hill Kourkoutis; the first female to win a JUNO award in the Recording Engineer of the Year category (2022).
Today, I’m releasing my first single from the album, “Competitor.”
“We all have different versions of ourselves so I felt the need to explore who they were. It was cathartic.”
“Some of it was a shedding of skin that I don’t want anymore and other elements are more closely aligned with who I am now and want to be more like.”
Tell us about the inspiration behind your new music.
I have been working on this album for a few years. I went through a lot of life changes in that period of time. I was forced to dig a little deeper into myself to understand what was motivating the decisions and actions that I was taking. I realized that there were a few different parts of me that were battling with each other internally. This album was an exploration into who those different parts of me were and unify them into something more calm and peaceful. I believe as women there is unyielding and ingrained messaging in our society that tells us to be this and not be that, look this way and not that way, be this thing almost like a commodity. It’s confusing and I grew tired of it. Now it’s me 100% raw all the time, take it or leave it. This album helped me get to this point and I love it.
“Being cool is not a goal, being kind is.”
What was the songwriting and recording process?
Fun, amazing, and powerful. I have had a blessed life where I have had the opportunity to work with amazing artists on every record.
I am a producer and bonafide studio rat. My songs often start with me playing around with beats, riffs, and synths, or they happen at random times throughout the day in my mind (thank god for phone voice recording apps). I co-produced/mixed/engineered the album with the mega-talented Hill Kourkoutis between our home studios. Once we got a solid base down, Sekou Lumumba recorded the drums from his studio and he took down the house with his performance on “Competitor.”
What do you hope your fans/listeners take away with them when they listen to your music?
The song “Competitor” is about trusting your intuition and not letting people tell you who you are or what to do with your life. You do you.
When did you first pick up the guitar, and what drew you to that instrument?
When I was a kid, my sibling took classical guitar lessons and then dropped it, so there was a lonely guitar laying around the house. I am a piano player to start and love to fiddle around with all instruments. It just made sense to take it out of their room and put it in my room to be played, loved, and hugged.
“Dare to be different and someone who lives on the fringe of society, it’s ok.”
Speaking of instruments, what brand(s) do you play and why?
I have a few synths/keyboards (micro Korg and Alesis) and I leverage midi plug-ins and loops for a lot of my production.
I also have a collection of guitar babies that consists of:
Fender CD-60 Dreadnaught Acoustic
Epiphone Hummingbird Pro Acoustic
Yamaha CG-100A classical Acoustic
Fender Telecaster Electric
Epiphone Gibson Electric
Peavey Milestone Bass
Everyone always asks me why I have so many guitars. I am a producer and the way that I approach the guitar is all about getting the right tone for the genre. I often work with other guitarists who also play on my music. I want to make sure that when I record the demos, what I am passing their way to recreate is self-explanatory. It makes our lives easier. Also, I have the guitars because I like to lovingly stare at them with adoration at least three times each day. Just what the doctor ordered.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I love all genres of music. If I had to narrow it down:
NIN (Trent Reznor is my male producer hero);
Linda Perry (is my female producer shero);
Nirvana (Kurt Cobain and his originality and lyrics);
Depeche Mode (because they are cool);
Radiohead (reverb mania); and
Rufus Du Sol (ambient synth heaven).
Will you be touring in support of your new music?
I will do a few shows closer to the release of the album and then will take it from there.
Origin: Toronto, ON
Songwriter: Sarah Shafey
Producer: Sarah Shafey & Hill Kourkoutis
Mixed by: Sarah Shafey & Hill Kourkoutis
Engineered by: Sarah Shafey & Hill Kourkoutis
Mastered by: Kristian Montano at Montano Mastering, Toronto
Photographer: Paul Steward
Stylist: Lee Baillie
Princess Layla Crown: Marta Quintiroli
Princess Layla Skirt: Neema Arafa