Who’s Playing Tonight?

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An interview with Sara Nelms
By Mike Sales

Sara Nelms. Photo by Milot Yves.
Sara Nelms. Photo by Milot Yves.
I first heard about Sara when she started playing poolside at the Best Western Plus, Siesta Key Gateway on Friday nights. Other than the excellent performances on her “Lover, No Longer” album, I didn’t hear too much more about her until this interview, so I was pleasantly surprised and quite fascinated by the depth to which she’s built her career and the fact that she’s just getting started…

WPT: Where are you from?

Sara: Florida…I moved around a lot but I’ll claim Brandon because I went to high school there.

WPT: When did you first start playing music?

Sara: I started singing in choirs in elementary school and expanded from there; getting involved with musical theater along the way and then I studied voice in college.

WPT: When did you start playing out?

Sara: My first gig was as a backup singer in a frat band, but I didn’t learn to play guitar until I returned here.

WPT: Are you a full-time musician?

Sara: Mostly, I write songs, I play out every week and I tour. I also teach kids music through a program called, “Music Together”, it involves kids ages 0-5, so I get to sing, dance and play various instruments with babies, it’s very fun.

WPT: When did you start writing originals?

Sara: I moved to Nashville after college where I started writing and singing Country music…it’s also where I started gigging. I’d thought I was going to go up there, be a diva and just sing, but Nashville is a songwriting town. I went to open mics and networked with some incredible musicians who collaborated to put my lyrics and melodies to music. Now I prefer to sing my own songs.

WPT: How many originals do you do at your gigs?

Sara: It depends on the gig. If it’s a cover gig for the money, I still manage to work quite a few originals into the set, but I do primarily original gigs too.

WPT: Where is a good place to go hear original performances around here?

Sara: Actually, the “Cock N Bull” is an excellent place to hear live original music and as a matter of fact, I host an open mic there every Wednesday. Grower’s Pub is a great original music venue; in fact a lot of the beer places are really open to originals. We have a lot of really good songwriters around here and I’ve spoken to a lot of cover musicians who include songs they wrote in their shows.

WPT: Do you have a CD?

Sara: I have one original CD that was released in 2013. I recorded it at Spirit Ranch.

WPT: What was the process like?

Sara: It took a little longer than normal, because I was taking guitar lessons from Pedro Arevalo, who wound up playing on the album co-producing with Bud Snyder and coaching me to play guitar myself. It was an amazing process. The CD features Garrett Dawson, Sandi Grecco, Dani Jaye, and Justin Layman…who’s now my husband. We recorded a duet on the CD together.

WPT: When did you start touring?

Sara: After the album was recorded, while it was still getting mixed, I moved to New York City for 3 years. That found me with a whole different set of circumstances affecting my songwriting and I have all new songs now from my time living in New York. It really widened my scope of music. The first day I lived there, I went to an open mic and that’s how I wound up meeting everyone I got to know there. I met people who were booking their own independent tours, so I did a crowd-funding campaign and booked my first tour a couple of months after I got there. My husband, Justin, and I have a band called “The Curious Bedfellows”…we do a duet sometimes and we have Eddie James playing drums with us, and we just finished a month-long tour for our honeymoon.

WPT: When can people see you at Best Western?

Sara: A couple of Fridays each month.

WPT: What can people expect to hear at your show?

Sara: I play guitar and sing. I like to do anything from some nineties stuff like Alanis Morrisette, The Monkees…country stuff…a wide variety of music for everyone and I work in some stuff that I like. My originals are Folk or Americana with some Country flavor I picked up in Nashville.

WPT: Where do you see your career going from here?

Sara: I’m getting ready to record my next CD, so I’m excited about that. I’d like to lend my music to benefits and environmental causes. I want to continue touring and I’m really interested in getting my music into television and films…and just play out as much as I can…live out my dream.

WPT: What’s your favorite thing about being a musician?

Sara: What I really like about music is the ability to have a positive affect on people. I remember growing up listening to songs that really helped me get through whatever I was going through. I remember listening to Alanis Morrisette in my bedroom and thinking; this is my life even though it wasn’t at all, whatever she was talking about was not what I was going through in middle school, but I identified with the emotion in the music and felt a connection. I like to think I’m able to do that for people.

Sara Nelms’ CD “Lover, No Longer” is available on iTunes and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Reverbnation.

Best Western Plus, Siesta Key Gateway features live music at the poolside bar Fridays and Saturdays 3-6pm and is located at 6600 South Tamiami Trail, just over the Stickney Point bridge and accessible by Johnny’s Free ride.

Mike Sales is a local singer/songwriter for more information log onto mikesalessings.com

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