Sabriel Sings Soul Gashing R&B: Interview with Nicole Hanratty

(Photo: Sabriel at Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, CA. Photo credit: Nicole Hanratty)

With energy you can feed off of and a naiveté that is sure to serve her well, 19 year old Sabriel sings with a voice that will gash your soul. Her lyrics and dead on delivery leave a distinctive mark and remind you of the passion superb R&B has the power to evoke.

Anyone watching Sabriel (pronounced shä-brē-el) draw fans in off of the street packing the Homegrown Stage at Life Is Beautiful music festival in Las Vegas was able to see plain as day that this is an artist defying all boundaries with a voice that channels Amy Winehouse while stirring in her own sultry flare.

The R&B soulstress Sabriel met up with me at The Grove in Santa Monica while in town from Las Vegas to play a show in Los Angeles. We bonded while searching the three story mall for a seemingly non-existent ladies room leading us far from the area we initially spied to sit and talk. In a move that saved the day, Sabriel pulled out her impressive superhero-like map reading skills leading us not only to the holy grail but a cool red leatherette couch overlooking the bustling street below where we finally were able to sit down and chat.

Sabriel “Garden” Live Performance on PBS Backyard Session on YouTube Music Videos

At 19, Sabriel is making bold moves–she’s forgoing college to hit the road–and stirring up a ton of interest in her soul gashing R&B music and voice. When asked if she feels like it’s a risk to pursue music over school right now, Sabriel answers, “Either way you’re gonna be broke.” We laugh and I know right then I will be rooting for her every step of the way.

Nicole: Who were your early influences?

Sabriel: I’ve always grown up with a lot of R&B and soul and D’Angelo and Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Erykah Badu. Stuff like that. That’s just where my voice comes from, I guess. My mom also played Billie Holiday when I was in the womb.

Nicole: Early jazz exposure. Can you tell me current influences that you have. Current people who are on the charts who you feel like you can associate with their music?

Sabriel: There’s this band, The Internet, and Hiatus Kaiyote. Those two people, those two bands, girls. The girls that sing in the groups are friggin’ amazing. And they have recently, I’ve recently heard them on the radio and stuff and it blows my mind that people that are singing the same type of music that I’m singing are on the radio and stuff. So I definitely think that The Internet, Hiatus Coyote, King – which is a trio, Robert Glasper does a lot of pretty cool stuff, and Louis King, people like that. They’re really paving the way and really opening people’s minds and stuff like that. I really, really appreciate it. Like, a lot. Because it’s definitely getting people away from simple music. Music doesn’t have to be simple anymore for people to like it. I think that’s a really good thing. 

Nicole: Do you feel like there are, like you said, Emily King, some of the songs that are coming up and you’re hearing on the radio, do you feel like those are drawing from past artists or do you feel like it’s a whole new thing that’s coming out now. 

Sabriel: I think that it’s a little bit of both. I think what I’m doing, I like to take older styles of music and mix it with the whole electronic thing that’s going on. You know, like, Lorde will have an acoustic song with like a crazy bass thing going on behind it. I think the mix of two different genres from the past and present is what’s happening right now and I think it’s a really good idea.

Nicole: Listening to you at Life is Beautiful, …I just remember thinking, she’s so young. How is she already able to pull lyrics like this that are so highly relatable? With such an adult feeling?

Sabriel: Well, I also listen to a lot of Fiona Apple. So, when I listen to her, I get like, that’s where you see my mean songs come out. I get this mean feeling. I’m just like, dude. Screw that guy. That’s where I write songs like “Fifth,” where I curse and whatever else. Yeah, Fiona apple. It’s bad when I listen to her. It’s bad. (laughs)

Nicole: Stay clear.

Sabriel: Yes. But I love her so much. She’s a freaking genius. Love her. Yeah. Absolutely.

(Photo: Sabriel at Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, CA. Photo credit: Nicole Hanratty)

Nicole: Which artist would you go back in time to see play live?

Sabriel: If I had to go way back in time, Billie Holiday. Just because there’s no one else like her. I’d probably want to see Stevie Wonder when he was younger and definitely MJ. Rest in Peace. Got to love Michael Jackson.

Nicole: If you had to choose one song title to describe your personality–it can be any song in the world, does not have to be one of yours–what would it be?

Sabriel: Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple. That’s a great song. It’s just about her being just like different, but in a great way, and nothing is going to put her down. She’s just an individual being. Yeah. I don’t know. I think that would describe me. It’s one of her really happier songs. …I think my personality outside of being on stage is pretty different. I’m definitely like weirder and goofier and stuff like that. Definitely different than on stage.

Nicole: Do you think that creating that having a persona on stage is super important?

Sabriel: I feel like artists have a different person inside of them. I don’t know, it comes out on stage. I can connect with an artist. We can be best friends if we’re talking about music, if we’re doing music. Then, being a normal person, I might not like that person. You know what I mean? I feel like there’s a different being inside of every artist. That’s who naturally comes out on stage. It’s not something I have to force. No one’s telling me what to do. It just comes out. I don’t know. It definitely keeps you sane, when you have that person that’s on stage and you have that person in real life. People would probably be weirded out if I was acting normal on stage. They’d be like, “This girl’s weird.” (laughs)

Nicole: I have a feeling I would like the weird you.

Sabriel: Good! You obviously can see a little bit of me doing that right now.

Nicole: On a different note, how is it fighting that pressure to go to college at your age and instead of pursue … I see the face!

Sabriel: Yeah. I hear that all the time.

Nicole: But you’re pursuing your dream. 

Sabriel: Coming from LVA, Las Vegas Academy–the performing arts high school that I went to–so many of the kids there don’t go out and do the stuff that they want to do because of the pressure from their parents and stuff like that. I mean, even one of my best friends wanted to go to this really awesome art school, and her mom was like, it wasn’t happening. So now she is unhappy. I don’t really care what people say when they try to pressure me into feeling bad about going to school. Because I’m learning as much as I can learn on my own anyway. I’m not wasting any time or money. It all depends on how hard you’re going to work. …You have to work hard at something. If you’re going to work hard at school, work hard at school. If you’re going to work hard on music, work hard at music. But you have to do something. I don’t care if you’re going to school and I don’t care if you’re painting pictures on the side of the street, as long as you’re doing what you want to do and you’re working hard at it. I don’t care. I feel like everyone should think that way, and not judge.

Nicole: That is so important! It’s hard work. What I really wanted to ask you about is, not to ask you should you be in college, but more because I actually see it’s sort of a Catch-22. If you go to college, you’re done at out age 22, 23, and now people are telling you you’re now too old.

Sabriel: Yeah. And you’re broke. You’re broker than you’d be if… Either way, you’re going to be broke. …Either way I’m going to be broke. Why not do it coming out of school? Just go for it. Why not? If I fail, I’ll go back to school. Maybe become an entomologist or something. If something happens to my voice. I can do something else. I have so many years in my life. So does everybody else. Why waste your young and adventurous years doing something that someone else told you to do? If you want to do it, go ahead and do it.


Bio via Sabriel
Sabriel (pronounced Shaw-Bree-El) is a singer/songwriter from Las Vegas, Nevada known for her sweet, soulful voice and prolific lyrics.

As a student at the prestigious Las Vegas Academy for Performing Arts, Sabriel put together her band and began writing music with songwriting partners Blue Sheffer and Pao Gonzalez. Bringing on producer Thaddeus Corea (son of jazz legend Chick Corea) they collaborated to create her eponymous debut EP released in 2013. Her live performances have fast become the talk of the town and represent the bright light leading the way for the Las Vegas music scene.

Music review and interview by Nicole Hanratty
Posted December 8, 2013

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