Sarah McQuaid in Concert

Promoting her live-in-lockdown album The St Buryan Sessions, Cornwall-based singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid will perform at Haverhub on 3rd May 2024. 

Born in Spain to a Spanish father and American mother, Sarah grew up in Chicago, touring the US and Canada as a member of The Chicago Children’s Choir.

In the mid-1990s she made her way to Ireland, where her authorship of The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book led to invitations to write regular music columns and reviews for Hot Press magazine and Dublin’s Evening Herald.

Following her move in 2007 (with her Irish husband and their two children) to Cornwall, she swiftly struck up a friendship with a fellow mum outside the gates of their children’s school, who turned out to be Zoë Pollock, writer and performer of 1991 UK Top 5 single “Sunshine On A Rainy Day.” 

The pair soon found themselves co-writing songs for an album released in 2008 under the band name Mama, lauded by MOJO’s Colin Irwin as “a pleasingly maverick mix” and by The Irish Times as “Janis Joplin’s freewheeling spirit crossed with Joni Mitchell’s lyrical density.”

“I owe Zoë a massive debt of gratitude for getting me into songwriting in a serious way,” says Sarah. “Prior to that I’d thought of myself basically as a folksinger who happened to write an occasional song, but through working with Zoë I not only learned a hell of a lot about the craft of songwriting, but also just the fact of someone of her calibre wanting to co-write with me was what finally gave me the confidence to start focusing on my own original material.

“And of course, if it weren’t for Zoë I’d never have met Martin.” Martin Stansbury, a former bandmate of Zoë’s who produced and engineered the Mama album, then became Sarah’s manager and sound engineer, accompanying her on all tours worldwide since 2009. Martin recently produced and engineered Sarah’s sixth solo album, The St Buryan Sessions, recorded live in lockdown in the beautiful medieval church of St Buryan, a mile from Sarah’s home.

Released in October 2021 on CD and limited-edition double LP, the album made it onto “Best of 2021” lists on three continents and features stunning solo performances by Sarah on acoustic and electric guitars, piano and floor tom drum, her lush, distinctive vocals echoing through the soaring space.

“McQuaid’s voice, a fragile, starkly resonant alto, has always been a thing of folk-trad beauty,” wrote reviewer Kenny Berkowitz in Acoustic Guitar magazine. “But here, with ambient mics placed around the church’s interior, it takes on a new joyfulness and a deeper darkness.” 

Ink 19’s Bob Pomeroy called it “a starkly minimalist recording of exceptional beauty”, and Folk Radio UK described it as “a wonderful, expressive and intimate live album from a consummate performer.”

The entire album was filmed as it was being recorded, and videos of all 15 tracks can be viewed on Sarah’s website – https://sarahmcquaid.com – together with details of the forthcoming concert and more information including a 10-minute video intro to Sarah and her music.

Get your tickets here.

Photos by Phil Nicholls (www.philnicholls.co.uk).

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