Creative Spotlight: Sarah Gerald
Sarah is a North Carolina native currently living in lively Nashville. She has recently been a featured artist at the Femme Fest, organized in part with Protect the Culture and Women’s Empowerment of Nashville. She’s a writer of many forms, including songwriting, poetry, and spoken word. She is also a contributor to Urban Faith online magazine writing on topics of faith, social justice, current events.
Talk to us a little about any “creative stereotypes” you’ve felt pressure from. How have you maintained true to your creative identity?
The big one is coming from “the black church” experience, I don’t have a “gospel” voice. My whole life I’ve been told I have a broadway voice. I wish I could do runs. I can’t do it. That was a big thing that I had to overcome. Growing up my voice wasn’t understood. It’s always been pretty, but someone else would get up and sing gospel and it was like “oh, that’s what it’s supposed to sound like.” I just couldn’t stop singing though. I would promise myself I wasn’t gonna audition or sing again, but I couldn’t stop. The joy of the craft propelled me on. I couldn’t stop and that’s what kept me going.
What advice do you have for anyone feeling like they can’t express their truest self within stereotypical artistic mediums?
I’ll speak to singing in particular, I think [my vocal trainer from college] said, “sound is determined by the shape of the object it comes out of. Your head determines your sound. No one else can make the same sound as you.” No one on earth can worship God like I can. My worship is unique. When I hold back, the [Church] is missing out. Don’t shy away from being you, because no one on earth can sound like you do. Own that, practice, and find your niche. I loved getting vocal training and hitting these notes I didn’t even know were possible. You have to go on a journey of discovery, it’s worth it to work at it.
What role have friendships and mentors played in cultivating your creativity?
Those relationships are absolutely necessary. You can call yourself crazy, feel like an outcast because of your dreams. Creativity can feel lonely, but you need to be around people like you so you don’t feel alone. My first year of college was the first time I had friends who were more talented than me. I could have been intimidated and walked away. It was healthy competition. They were so good it made me want to try harder. Those relationships are the best because they force humility on you. I’m currently so blessed to be in a Writing Workshop with Leslie Johnson from All Sons and Daughters and it’s been the best experience. It’s a group of women from all walks and stages of life who know they’re called to be writers. I’ve been praying for a mentor, and that group is like a collective of writing tools to help us find our inner voice. It’s changed my relationship with words. If you ever want to grow, you need people in your life to force you to get out of your comfort zone.
What are your hopes for written and spoken word and it’s influence not only in the Church but our culture at large?
The moment where I can correctly articulate the human experience, that’s a win. Everyone has that song, that book, a piece of art where it’s like, “that’s what I feel.” Songs have changed my life! “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” that song changed my life. For writers, songs are paint in a paint brush. The importance of communicating correct theology is vital, but our generation is so bad at memorizing scripture. I want to be a bridge for people who don’t go to church - to be the church maybe they will never step into. So when I share my gift I get to share these words over them that are actually scripture. God created with spoken word, so when we tap into that gift, the responsibility of it - man, that’s so significant.
I want to write in a way that people are brought face to face with their reality but then taken to a higher reality - God's perspective, where they realize that He’s with them. If God says he will never leave, that means that God didn’t start being with you when you became a Christian. He’s seen it all and endured your life with you. Communicating that truth to the point where people come to a decision “ok, this God is real or not” that’s heavy. We aren’t doing the world any favors if we hide behind the walls of the church.