Sarah Kinsley

Sarah Kinsley is everything that you envision an artist to be. You know the idealized vision you carry in your mind’s eye? Where the artist is soft and thoughtful, and very sweet, creativity oozing out of them as they talk with you about art and other artists. That is Sarah Kinsley. She has a cardigan, though perhaps it is a blanket, draped across her shoulders. She speaks slowly but with certainty, she paints a picture for you with her carefully chosen words. She is kind, so kind. And yes, she can talk about music and her inspirations for days.

Despite being so new to the scene, she’s already amassed quite the following on TikTok. Sarah started posting clips of her music on the app to much fanfare. Her comment section blows up with each subsequent post: It’s giving Strokes. You sound like Lana and Mistki. With the release of her new single Oh No Darling! and an EP, Ascension to come soon, it won’t be long before Sarah herself is listed as someone else’s source of inspiration. 

In conversation with 1883 Magazine, Sarah Kinsley discusses opening her EP with a chaotic song, how it feels to be compared to so many impressive artists and how she likes to avoid prescribing anything for her future.


I’ve been following your TikTok for years now since The King came out. It’s just been really exciting to watch you grow. Recently, one of my best friends sent me Oh No Darling! She was like, do you know this artist? And I said, actually I do. Then I got to circle back and send her a message saying I was interviewing you!

That’s so funny. I had a funny story about that this morning because I’m moving to a new apartment. And so we’ve been trying to find a new place and I was talking with this broker agent. Because we were telling him what we do, obviously, because he needs to know about our applications. He’s like, Oh, you’re a musician. And were on the phone with him again today and he was like, my girlfriend knows your song The King and I was like, this is so awkward that this is the way that it’s coming about but I do love it when it happens. It’s very funny.


That’s cute. I loved Oh No Darling! so much. I think it’s such a great song. How does it feel to finally have that single out there?

It feels really nice. I mean, I feel like I’ve been waiting for a while. It just feels very freeing once the music is out because I’ve been sitting with it for a really long time. I feel like it’s been a secret and it’s really bizarre that it’s no longer that and it exists and people can listen to it whenever they want. But I’m so happy that it’s out and that it’s the first single that we’ve been releasing. 


Can we talk about your new EP!? 

Yeah, totally.


So, Oh No Darling! is the first single off of the new EP, do you feel like it’s really representative of the EP as a whole? What made you decide that this is the single you’re gonna lead?

It’s a funny thing – choosing the order. You know, I feel like, especially as anyone who writes anything, not just music, it’s like, whatever you put first, whatever you give to people, the first thing is really what you want to hook people, and you want to present something that doesn’t spoil the rest of the EP. But it’s a really nice, very small taste of the rest, and Oh No Darling! when I would think about it, or reference it, or talk about it to people it was kind of like the big bang. I think of it as the genesis of the EP. It’s so chaotic in a way that a lot of my other music isn’t, so it just felt very perfect like a very chaotic entrance to the EP. It feels like stumbling almost, or waking up for the first time and being thrown into the mess of things. And I like that as an introduction because a lot of the other ways we’ve tried to funnel structure to the other bodies of work that I’ve released.


I’ve heard you described as Lana Del Rey vocals meets The Strokes guitar work. Does that resonate? Do you like having these comparisons?

It totally does. I think it was really funny when we first started teasing Oh No Darling! Immediately people were like, this part of the song is Strokes. This is Mitski. This is Lana. This is this. And what was more crazy wasn’t that the comparison happened because I think I’ve gotten that a lot. And I’m definitely really inspired by those artists. So I don’t take it as an offence or anything, because it totally makes sense. And I grew up listening to them and I think when you’re starting to learn how to sing, you imitate the people you’re most inspired by. So there’s definitely that. But I was more surprised just by how many people said the exact same thing. This trifecta of Mitski, Lana, and The Strokes became a sort of dialogue between a lot of people that was really surprising. And I love the references. I love all of those artists and I would definitely put them in my top, I don’t know, 150 artists.  


I think it’s something to be said too, about how they’re very easy reference points for people to latch on to, especially when it’s a new artist. It’s easier to be like, Oh, they sound like this because they have no other points of reference yet.

Yeah, totally. I think it can be frustrating for some artists I know. I feel like I’ve spoken to people who say, oh, I just want my sound to be my sound. That resonates with me too. Or I’m like, I think this sounds like meI think this is very much associated with me, or I associate this with myself. But I also think that references are a very valid way for people to thread new artists into this sort of canon of people who do exist and sounds that have been ingrained into pop or indie or alternative music. It’s a very flattering gesture.



When my friend sent along your new single, she also sent along the descriptors. I am reminded of Weyes Blood when I listen to your music. I know that you’ve slated her as one of your favourites. Can you tell me a little bit more about some of your bigger musical inspirations?

Yeah, I do love Weyes Blood. I really loved her last album And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow. She’s sort of a newer influence. I really didn’t know her that well before. I guess two years ago or three years ago maybe even though she’s really been around for a while. But yeah, she’s definitely a big influence. I already said Mitski, Lana, and The Strokes, who I would definitely all reference. I grew up listening to a lot of music that my parents listened to. 

When I was younger, I was really inspired by ABBA and Fleetwood Mac and that history of rock and pop music has influenced me a lot. It’s really hard for me to name an all-time favourite artist because I kind of hate that. But I think the closest artists to that would be Cocteau Twins, I’m just constantly amazed by them. I’m always going back to their discography. I’m obsessed with the lead singer Elizabeth Fraser. There’s always something I haven’t heard by them. And every time I hear something new, I’m just amazed. The other day I was on the bus going to a museum, and I think I spent the entire 40 minutes just listening to an album of theirs with an ambient electronic artist. What’s his name? Harold. I think his name is Harold Budd. But I just listened to that the whole time and I was in such a trance – I love them so much. Their style has influenced me a lot recently.


Like I said, I’ve been following you on TikTok for a while but one of the first things that made me want to follow you was your passion. You seem so genuinely excited and moved by the music that you’re producing. So, what inspires your work? How do you get to that level of passion?

I think I’m a bit crazy about it. Like I think I get very obsessed with the music so it makes feeling passionate very easy, honestly. But thank you. That’s very nice. I’m glad that it came across that way. I think social media is a hard place to really express genuine love for some things.


It comes across as very authentic, for sure.

Cool, cool. I’m glad. Yeah, I have a lot of fun. I work a lot alone. And so anytime I’m showing anyone music is already an exciting experience because the only place that it’s lived is in my head or in my computer or in my apartment. It’s a very solitary activity, like writing or producing for me. And so the fact of like, you know, sending demos to my family or to my friends, and then to people that I’m in this sort of online community with is a very exciting feat just in itself because it’s like oh, if I care about this thing enough for it to make it beyond the inside of my head, it’s already exciting, you know? So, I feel like I just get excited hearing what people have to say about it. If they have references and if they think it sounds like something else. Even if they don’t like it. I like hearing what people feel or think about the music so I just get quite excited. 


And all of your music is written and recorded by you alone, which is just insane to me. Can you tell me a little bit about your writing and recording process?

Yeah. Well, first, I think it’s awesome that a lot of artists are doing the writing, recording, engineering, and producing, by themselves now, which makes me really happy. But yeah, my process is a little all over the place. Some people assume that it’s you write, produce and the song is done, and it’s a very streamlined thing. Sometimes I’ll start at the computer with a melody, or I’ll start at the piano with a lyric, or a phrase or a chord. And the thing has many different iterations and ways of coming about. It’s very random honestly.

For me, I have a really horrible memory. And so if I can’t remember a melody or if it doesn’t come back to me after a day, I don’t actually think that it was that good to begin with. A lot of songs that I’ve written that I’ve thrown out are things that are just really forgettable to me. So a lot of the process is me asking, do I find this interesting? You know, Is my subconscious trying to go back to it trying to listen to it again? And that’s really nice because it’s more of an instinctive thing. I think it can be hard, trying to figure out what you really want or what you really like about your own work. To be a listener. But that is kind of a blessing and a curse for me, that my memory is so shit that if it’s good, it’ll stick with me.


Yeah, that’s interesting. I’ve heard people say similar things before, if I don’t remember it, then it wasn’t worth pursuing. But that makes me think of all the other little, half-done pieces of art that will never see the light of day. I often wonder what could come of those things. 

Yeah, I know. It’s quite sad to think about them just in a room all piled up, tossed out things. But I feel like that’s the definition of art in general, like all these things that we don’t see that somehow funnel into the things we do here, which is really awesome.


You’ve got a pretty huge following on TikTok now. How has the community on there shaped your work? Or do you even think it has at all? 

Yeah. I think it definitely has. I really love engaging with people on it. And I feel a sense of not debt, but I feel like I owe a lot of gratitude to that platform because it was the thing that kicked off so much for me. It’s impossible to imagine me, I don’t know, having a career or a chance at making art without it, which is good and also like a little makes me a little pessimistic sometimes. But it’s definitely influenced me. I think people talk a lot about how music has been changed by TikTok, or the chicken and the egg thing of like, are you making art for this platform because the platform is shaping this? And I’m not really sure.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that people are becoming curators now at a faster rate than ever before, which makes me want to make my music better or the best that it can be. Because people are just so smart. People are really, really into discovering new music and talking about music. And that kind of inspires me. Maybe more so than, how will I make a sound that will do well? Because that can be a really self-destructive process.


I feel like it just takes away from the artistry too when you’re just trying to make a song that will go viral. 

No, totally. And it’s hard because it’s like, oh, well, if I can make this go viral, then I can make the music I really want. But it’s like, oh, but maybe you could really make the music you want and just let whatever happens happen. It’s definitely changed the way I think about music sometimes. But I think I have a healthier, hopefully, relationship with my phone and TikTok. 


Obviously as an outsider, I haven’t been present for it. But as someone who’s been watching you, it seems like your work is what resonated with people. It wasn’t like you’ve been trying to capture a way to resonate. It just happened organically. 

Thank you. Yeah, I think there’s something to be said about TikTok and how it gives people who have the urge to really find new music and connect, it kind of delivers that to you. So it’s this really wonderful history of like, you’re really interested in indie pop and you want this and I want to share my music with people who feel so much when listening to that kind of music. So it’s a very perfect combination, in a sense, but yeah, it has felt very organic, which is nice.


So my last question for you. Where do you envision your music and sound heading in the years to come?

In the years to come? I don’t know. It’s weird because like, Oh No Darling! as a part of this next EP, is the fourth EP or body of work that I’ve ever made. So I still feel like Oh, I’m such a beginner. I still feel like I’m introducing myself to people. I still feel like I don’t have a firmly cemented idea of like, This is who I want to be and this is the kind of art or music I want to make. My hope is that I just get closer to the ideas that I have been trying to fulfill and present in my music. I think a lot of the past EPs and almost every song I’ve written have something to do with time or something to do with youth and getting older and I’m trying to explore myself through the music. So they kind of work in parallel to one another.

I feel like my hope is that the music just keeps getting closer to my idea of myself, whether that’s in the form of making more rock music, or indie, or really diving into like, very guilty pleasure pop, you know? I don’t like prescribing things for myself in the future. But I do hope that my ideas of myself and my ideas of my music are very closely intertwined for years to come, to keep it organic. 


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