Kickstarter Success: Meet Sara Lewis, Quite Possibly the Next Norah Jones

I first met Sara at a castle in Hopewell, NJ. She was there to perform songs from her recently released album, “Birds Without Cages,” and I’ll admit, the idea of attending a mini-concert at a castle with 30, or so, others made me feel pret-ty special. And indeed it was.

Sinking into the cozy couch that rested in a nook within the 11,000 sq. ft mansion, I laid back, closed my eyes and soaked in the young, passionate voice which resonated throughout the room with the combined finesse of Regina Spektor, Ingrid Michaelson and Norah Jones. She was good — really good.

After the performance, I chatted with Sara, 24, and discovered that she created her album using funds she raised through a campaign on Kickstarter. Bubbly and vivacious, Sara shared the story of her success thus far through a red-lipped smile. Unfortunately, the night was closing in — the stark glow of a full moon revealing the approach of midnight — our cue to exit the whimsical castle and return home.

Luckily, I was able to catch up with Sara after that enchanting evening to find out more about how crowdfunding helped this budding artist create her first album.

Culture-ist: How did you learn about Kickstarter?
Lewis: I learned about Kickstarter through a few other musicians I knew who had done campaigns in the past that I had donated to. It was cool to see their handmade videos and see their progress and the excitement that would build along the way. And as a donor, it was neat to be a part of that hype. There are always prizes involved such as CD’s and branded t-shirts that you often get if you donate, but that never really matters to me. I’ll donate to projects I believe in just for the emotional rewards of doing so.

Culture-ist: Why do you think your campaign was successful?
Lewis: I put a lot of work into making the tone of my video be exactly how I wanted to come across to my viewers and potential backers. It took three completely different drafts of the video to get to the final one. Along the way I was constantly asking my friends and family to watch the various drafts to see if they thought it was true to my personality. I was very happy with the final version — I think it ended up really capturing who I am as a person and a musician in a super charming way.

I also updated people about the campaign throughout the five weeks that it ran. Every week, I would put an update on Kickstarter with a photo or video or song clip, and also send along an email to my mailing list, asking people to spread the word about the project. During the last two weeks, I would post about my Kickstarter on Facebook like one-three times per day. Ha — I would say things like “C’mon guys! We’re 67 percent of the way there! I just need $____ to get to my goal! Let’s do this!!” It probably annoyed the hell out of a lot of people, but it definitely got enough people excited because I did make my $5,000 and then some. 🙂

Culture-ist: Can you offer any tips for budding entrepreneurs/artists who want to put their idea in motion using Kickstarter?
Lewis: Be very confident about your project. You have to want it more than anything else in the world to be able to sell it and ask people to back it financially. You can’t just be like “Hey, I’m doing this cool thing, give me money.” You have to be like, “Hey this is my career and my passion, and by contributing to this project you will be helping to make something beautiful.” You also have to instill trust in people by talking about your past accomplishments in your career. The only way that people will believe that you’ll deliver is if you’ve already proven that you’re a dedicated and hardworking artist.

Culture-ist: What have you been able to accomplish using the money and support you received from crowdfunding?
Lewis: Well, at the end of my campaign, plus some donations I received afterwards, I had about $6,000 to work with. This money was enough to take care of almost all of my trips up to Woodstock, NY (where I recorded the album) with my band members (1-2 at a time). This included paying for the recording studio, paying my musicians, paying for food and transportation. Then I ended up having to cover some of the mixing/editing sessions afterwards as well as the mastering and duplication. But the recording up in Woodstock ended up being around 75 percent of the total costs of the project, so the Kickstarter campaign most definitely helped. There’s no way I could have paid for everything on my own. And if so, it would have had to have been over like a three-year period – ha. By then, I would have had all new songs to record!

Culture-ist: What is the inspiration behind your album?
Lewis: Boys. Ha. There’s been a lot of them in and out of my life, especially since the songs on this album were written over a period of at least six or seven years. Even if an affair lasts only a month or two, it’s often enough material to generate a song. I’m an emotional artist-type, so the slightest stir of my heart is enough to get me singing about it.

Culture-ist: Do you play at venues?
Lewis: Of course! All the time. I play shows in New York about two-five times per month, depending. I have a lot of supportive friends that come out to my shows here, and I’ve gained some new fans during the two years or so that I’ve been living here. It’s an exciting place to be doing music — daunting and overwhelming at times, but ultimately super worth it. I feel like I learn new things about being a performer every single time I play.

Culture-ist: How can people purchase your music?
Lewis: Online! It’s available in physical/digital form at http://saralewis.bandcamp.com. It’s also on CDBaby and Itunes!  (Listen Below)

Culture-ist: Any new projects in the works?
Lewis: I’m thinking about trying to put together a mini solo tour this summer — and possibly with some of my other friends’ bands in the fall. Also I’ve been playing with some new musician friends — including my friend that plays bossa nova music and standards, as well as another friend who comes from a hip-hop/rap background. I’m trying to delve into new genres to try to expand the normal songwriting style that I tend to fall into. Trying out new styles always brings new things out of you.

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About Sara Lewis:

Sara Lewis just completed her debut album “Birds Without Cages“, recorded and mixed in a cottage studio in Woodstock NY by Julie Last, a Grammy-winning magical engineer who has worked intimately with the greats like Joni Mitchell, Yoko Ono and John Lennon, among countless others. The songs speak of a series of heartbreaks in a way heartbreaks that is so honest you start experiencing her stories as if they are your own. Her voice is a throwback to 20’s jazz greats Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerals, but with many hints of modern influences as well. She is a perfectly harmonious blend of old and new.

Sara began her singing career as an 8-year old in her hometown church choir in New Jersey, around the same time that she started piano lessons. Ever since, music has remained a near and dear part fo her life and over time she has discovered songwriting to be the most favorable and personable of mediums. She has landed in New York by way of Vermont to pursue her music dream, performing regularly in venues like Rockwood Music Hall, The Living Room and Pianos.

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