Sarah Borges Talks Work-Life Balance and Touring By Trains, Planes and Automobiles

March 24, 2015 VISIT ME ON AMPLIFI

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

I just did a lot of touring with Girls Guns and Glory last year, fronting their band and sharing a bill with them, and they have the ubiquitous Ford E 350 that everybody has. I’ve owned a couple of them, and will probably own a couple more. This summer I’m doing a lot of fly dates, so maybe a Boeing 747? And I drive a Ford Taurus to local-ish shows, complete with a kid carseat in the back. Plus I’m doing a train tour in April with Dave Alvin, so I’m really covering all of the transportation bases.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

I go to the grocery store a lot, and try to take advantage of food at venues, where you usually get a deal or it’s catered. I also stay with a lot of friends on tour, so sometimes to thank them for letting me stay I cook for them. And then sometimes I travel with a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

When I break a string I typically change the whole set, because I feel like it’s an indicator that the whole set is wearing out. I also sometimes just change them on my electric guitars because I think dead strings can sound crappy and not stay in tune so well. I’ll let my acoustic guitars languish with bad strings as long as I can because I think they sound better that way. Strings are about $8 per pack, If I’m on tour playing every night I change them about every two weeks. If I’m home I get lazy, but either way, they’re darn expensive. I wish I could knit myself some.

Where do you rehearse?

I practice at home by myself for solo stuff, and then either at a local rehearsal space or in somebody’s basement for band stuff. I used to rent a space in a complex, but it’s just cost prohibitive in the city. The rent rivals apartment rent. I do miss the seclusion of going into the space, closing the door, and having all of your stuff set up and just focusing on playing. I may even have slept in the space a couple of times, but we’re not going to talk about that…

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

I really don’t remember the words, but I think it was called ‘Wisk’, as in the laundry soap. I was really into the indie rock mentality of making things seem obscure and complicated even if you were describing toast, so I’m sure the lyrics were both grandiose and stupid.

Describe your first gig.

Taunton MA Ward 5 club. I don’t even remember it, I’m sure it was bad, but I do remember that I learned shortly before the show that one should call it a show rather than a concert.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

My last day job was working in a thrift store when I took time off to have my son. Nothing like the wide variety of odors that come from peoples’ castoff clothes to aid your morning sickness.

My favorite job was taking personal ads for the Boston Phoenix when I was 18. They ranged from chaste to x-rated, and expanded my scope of knowledge about the things people want to do with each other in a way that I hope no life experience ever will.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

Because I haven’t been touring as much over the past few years it’s really hurt my income. There’s just no way to make money playing music if you’re not constantly playing. But you have to be willing to pay the metaphorical price of missing your family to do that. I try to structure my life so that I can alternate between being a mom and a musician, but the financial ramifications change dependent on which role I’m playing.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions. When I first started touring and people I respected would name check bands I had never heard of I’d secretly write them in a notebook and go look them up later. But because I was so busy pretending I knew what I was talking about and trying to remember what they said I missed what their take on that particular music was. I wish I had just copped to not knowing about some stuff and straight up asked so I could have learned more.

Sarah Borges has been entertaining audiences for years with her diverse brand of punk-inflected noir-rock. She cuts an alluring figure onstage, and was seemingly born to play rock ‘n’ roll. Her latest album, Radio Sweetheart, was produced by Steve Berlin, best known as keyboardist and saxophonist for the similarly roots-music mining Chicano-rock group Los Lobos. Based in Boston, Sarah has drawn praise from the most elitist of music scribes from Rolling Stone, The New York Times, USA Today, Creative Loafing, The Boston Globe, and is known for delivering memorable live performances.

You can find Borges online, on the road and on Amplifi.