A while back, I came across this adorable video on YouTube: a kitten, attentively listening to a young woman singing and playing the ukulele. Eventually, the kitten succumbed to the charming music and drifted off to sleep.
Sarah quirky The Irrigation Song music video landed her a featured guest slot on NPR’s You Bet Your Garden in 2010. She was also chosen as a regional finalist in the 2010 Mountain Stage New Song contest. In 2009, Sarah was a New Folk finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival. The songs Whalers and Sailors‘ and Knocks on a Doo were chosen from over 800 entries. She is a graduate of Westminster Choir College. After stretching her legs with musical theatre, she picked up a guitar, abandoned her classical roots, and started rocking out (with fantastic breath support).
Sarah Donner’s cold New England heart was transplanted to New Jersey where she fosters kittens when not on tour.
Welcome to The Conscious Cat, Sarah. Before I even ask anything about your music, I have to know: how is adorable Lady Peanut? Are you still fostering her?
She is the sweetest kitten I’ve fostered! She did find a home a few months ago. Once the video went viral, I was very sad that I hadn’t kept her for myself… not that I have room for another cat.
Do cats inspire your music, and if so, how?
They certainly show up in my lyrics. Songs like ‘End of Time’, ‘Wishbone’, and ‘Spreadsheet’ allude directly or indirectly to cats. I usually write in my bedroom which is where my cats hang out.
Are all of your cats as receptive to your music as Lady Peanut?
I think she’s the only kitty who really enjoyed my music. Dunkin, the oldest and largest cat, leaves the room in a huff and meows when I take out the guitar. I think he’s jealous. Shosha likes to play with my guitar strings when I am changing them.
What kinds of topics do your songs cover?
I take most of my inspiration from the lives of people around me. I also write about home quite a bit. I’m from Massachusetts and miss my family when I am away.
What is the creative process like for you?
I start with a guitar riff and try different melodies. Sometimes I use lyrics I’ve been saving or I begin afresh if I know exactly what I want to write about. If the song isn’t developing organically then I put it away and try another time. I can’t force it, otherwise it turns into clichés. It’s best when words pop into my head, and I work from there. Usually songs are written a few at a time, and then I go months without writing anything.
Tell us about your cats.
Dunkin (shown with Sarah in the photo above) is the alpha boy who is the most social with strangers. The other cats often want his attention which he is reluctant to give. Puma Bean is my favourite. He is like a dog, snuggly and social. I’ve taught him many tricks like rolling over and jumping through a hoop! Shosha is very chill and only likes being scratched on her head. She also likes peanut butter sandwiches. Rory is a petite tabby whose only redeeming quality is her looks. She is quite skittish and whiny, but I love her!
Is it hard to leave your cats behind when you go out on tour?
If I am away for more than a day, a friend will stay and housesit for me. They need human interaction and attention, otherwise they tear up the place. I do miss them, and I wish I could take them on tour with me! I will take foster kittens on the road if I’m not going too far. They are too precious to leave behind!