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Absolute Surrender: Sarah “Songbird” Fishleder Releases First Album

By Julie Horner

Local singer-songwriter Sarah Fishleder weaves a certain gospel, creating a testament to healing through music with her first album, After the Winter, a collection of six songs that chronicle the journey from pain to acceptance and celebrates the joy of coming into the spring. Co-produced with Elie Mabanza of Mokili Wa and recorded mostly in Nevada City with Robert Holland and mixed and mastered at Santa Cruz Recording with Peter Coleman of Inner Light Ministries, the release date in early February is in perfect timing with the season and the celebration of Imbolc, marking in Celtic tradition the middle point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

After the Winter follows the journey of Fishleder’s songwriting, which began a few days after a painful split-up a few years ago, and traces an evolution of emotion and emergence as the wounds healed. “I went through a really rough period, intense turmoil in my relationship,” she said. “I felt like I’d been dragged underwater to the darkest place I’d been to in a long time.” So she picked up her guitar and began singing words. “I wrote my first song that weekend through that portal of pain in an absolute surrender to what was happening.” She later recognized the whole experience as a declaration of faith that she was meant to open out and grow.

On After the Winter, each song is unique from the other, as feelings are, and the tracks cross genres to include a taste of modern folk, jazz, waves of samba and world fusion, and funky acoustic. First time in the studio and the youngest one in the room literally and in terms of recording experience, she said it took some time to find her voice, but once in her stride, it was fertile ground to become intimately creative. Veteran musicians on the album include Mabanza on guitar and vocals; Dan Robbins on bass; Joe Rayhbuck, drums and percussion; Tim Buckley, drums; Gary Kehoe, percussion; Ibou Ngom, djembe; Robert Holland, percussion and vocals; Gary Regina, saxophone and flute; Anne Stafford, saxophone; Alan Feeney, keyboards; Spencer Peterson, keyboard; Murray Campbell on violin and oboe; and Renata Bratt and Lars Anderson on cello.

Can You Feel Me Now?

The album contains one of her earliest songs, Oh Mama Mama. While it took years to write the verses, the chorus kept resonating:

Oh Mama Mama guide my way
Oh Papa Papa I pray and I pray
Oh Sister Sister hold my hand
Oh Brother Brother help me take my stand

The title track, After the Winter, is full of hope and acknowledges that we have to go through these dark and challenging times in our lives, and that we can’t become who we’re meant to become if we don’t go through them. There are deep blessings in that darkness. We are allowed to let go to make space for new feelings. “Just like the tree has to release its leaves, it has to let something die so that it can continue to cycle life through and birth its next leaves,” she said. “We have to do that, we get to do that. We can’t blossom with new flowers if we keep holding onto all the flowers we’ve ever had. We have to let them drop, to become compost for our soil so we can birth the next flowers, so we embrace whatever is new and next for our lives and journeys.”

The title track, After the Winter, is available on Bandcamp on February 2, 2022. Listen to Sarah Songbird live in the studio at KBCZ 89.3 FM Boulder Creek Community Radio on Sunday, February 13 at 11:00 am, streaming at kbcz.org.

IG: @sarahsongbirdmusic

Photos by Rose Dayal

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