To this day, Sarah Sample loves Aretha Franklin.
“She’s just a gold star, gold star, gold star,” Sample said.
But growing up listening to her father’s vinyl collection of rock ‘n’ roll, blues, classical and everything else under the sun, she always felt drawn to singer-songwriters – storytellers. . Some of her favorites: Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Kate Wolf.
She played piano as a child before picking up her first guitar in sixth grade. She participated in primary and secondary choirs. And since then, she has done what she always wanted to do.
She is an interpreter whose songs resemble lived stories.
“I’ve always loved acting,” Sample said. “It always felt natural and really good to me.”
Sample, a 40-year-old Sheridan resident, has released five albums, an extended play and a few singles over the past 20 years. She occasionally flies around the country for short tours while working as a nurse at the Welch Cancer Center and being a mother of two daughters.
When she enrolled in college at Utah State University, she knew she wanted to be involved in music. She first specialized in music therapy.
“I was basically like, ‘I want to be a famous songwriter. What major is it? laughed Sample.
She never had stage fright, but it was her husband, James McDonald, who pushed her to make her dreams come true.
“James said to me, ‘Nobody’s gonna record Sarah Sample. If you want your album to exist in the world, you’re going to have to,’” Sample recalled.
She entered songwriting contests around the country, but for a few years these came to nothing. Then, she said, she gradually got better as she wrote and started hearing about the contests and performing her songs there. Then she won a few.
“It actually opened a lot of doors for me,” Sample said. “It gives you credibility.”
The festivals spawned appearances at other festivals or concerts from people who saw her perform. His writing has become his business card.
She estimates that 60-80% of all the songs she has written are sad songs. She appreciates and is unafraid of her vulnerability and believes people can connect with her through her.
“It’s just easier to write sad stuff,” Sample said.
She jokes that she is proud of herself if she composes a happy melody.
Sample is part of the WYOmericana Caravan, a group of Wyoming musicians sponsored annually by the Wyoming Arts Council. She was selected to be part of the 2021 lineup, but COVID delayed her until 2022. She will continue touring with the caravan this summer.
Over the next year, Sample will also release four new singles on streaming platforms. She got an electric guitar for Christmas, and while her new music includes synthesizer sounds and a more pop feel, it’s still a singer-songwriter, she said.
“I want to show my kids that they should chase their dreams and follow creativity,” Sample said. “I think there are far too many adults in the world who have completely shut down their creative side. I think it’s really important for happiness that we allow ourselves to be creative beings.