A Sound Salvation

Austin's Class of 2000

A Sound Salvation
Photo By Todd V. Wolfson

Sara Hickman: Stuck in the Middle of Sara Hickman's Spiritual Appliances

Sara Hickman's 2000 is all about expecting and delivering. Her third album for indie label Shanachie, Spiritual Appliances, is due next month and so's a new baby in June. Considering she's been married less than a year and has enjoyed plenty of downtime with her three-year-old daughter in the last few years, Hickman couldn't be happier. Even though the album is one of the songwriter's typically smart and sassy pop offerings, don't look for a disc's worth of happy-go-lucky vibes.

"Each song is based on an emotion -- good and bad," cautions Hickman. "I wanted to talk a lot more honestly about the shit that's happened to me in the past and hopefully rise above it. There's songs about strength, confusion, love, death, etc. I'm talking about making promotional tarot cards for each song. When you pull the death card, you'll have to ask, 'Is that a death card or just a song by Sara Hickman?' I don't know, you tell me."

Spiritual Appliances may be her darkest recording yet, but Hickman says it was also one of her best recording experiences. It's her first self-produced effort, and she feels her self-direction has resulted in more texture and subtlety and less "girl with guitar stacked on top of a band." Appliances is also the first album she's made locally, allowing her access to a who's who of local musicians, including Lloyd Maines, Gene Elders, Riley Osborne, and Jon Blondell, as well as a pair of Dallasites, Andy Timmons and Smash Mouth drummer Mitch Marine.

Better still, Hickman says she now knows where her career stands. A small, folk-oriented label like Shanachie may not have the machinery to make her a star, but it definitely has the ability to deliver the 30,000-50,000 albums she'll need to sell to sustain her current musical lifestyle: two or three gigs a month and a new album every year or two.

"I'm not aiming for Jewel or Dixie Chick success," she says. "I've always been more into career artists like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, or Jackson Browne. And right now, I'm in a really good place. I write songs in the morning, return phone calls in the afternoon, and spend every other moment with my daughter. And I don't have to play every night like I used to. It's funny. If I were more popular or successful, I'd have to work a lot harder. I'm sort of stuck in the middle and very, very happy there."

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