Daily Song Study

Sara Hickman – Shadowboxing

In songs on November 1, 2011 at 8:23 am

A few weeks ago I mentioned my period as an apostle of Sara Hickman. Though mostly a local celebrity these days, back then there were quite a few signs that she might break nationally. Not least of these was her getting signed by Elektra records to make her second album, Shortstop. That album didn’t sell as well as the label would have liked, and upon completing her third album, Necessary Angels, Elektra got nervous when it didn’t hear anything “Alternative” (the buzzword of the time), and decided to scrap it and her.

However, she pulled a trick that, to my knowledge, was unprecedented at the time. She told her fans that if enough of them donated, she could buy the masters from the label and release it herself, giving each of the donors a credit on the album sleeve (my friend Robert Wright is on there, though I couldn’t afford it). It worked, and in 1994 she released the record on the independent Discovery label.

The label was right that there weren’t any “Alternative” tracks present, but that’s not really a problem. This is unique, well-crafted folk-pop, and doesn’t need to be anything else.

Used record stores are strewn with albums intended to service a fleeting fad market rather than to remain true to the artist’s individual gift. Perhaps the modern age of self-distribution will alleviate that.

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  1. […] for greater commercial response. And while this certainly happens a lot (see Aimee Mann & Sara Hickman, among many others), often a producer can be a useful voice outside of the artist’s head that […]

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