- July 22, 2021
Sarah Fisher and Esta Rae have honed their craft in two different musical fields, pop and jazz, but now in an exciting new collaboration they bring the two together. Andrew Kay asked them how it happened and where it might lead…
Did you grow up surrounded by music?
Esta: Yes, my Dad was a singer and also had a massive record collection that was mainly jazz, and Mum would take me to the opera when I was a little girl.
Sarah: My mother was very musical and my fathers side of the family were also but I wasn’t surrounded by music. My sisters and I had piano lessons as children but I was the only one who took to it and loved playing
What did you listen to when you were growing up?
Sarah: I loved listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter, the musicals, and Jacques Loussier playing Bach in a jazz style. I loved all the pop/rock musicals of the time Hair, Godspell , Sweet Charity , Jesus Christ Superstar. I would know every word to all of the songs. I Love a good song with a great melody.
Esta: I listened to Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli and Barbara Streisand, with a sprinkle of opera and classical music.
When did you discover your own voices? Was it at school or in your bedroom singing along to the radio?
Esta: I was a member of the school choir and as a child had a very deep voice! I was picked to go on a cruise ship tour to sing in a choir with children from other schools. We gave concerts in Spain, Gibraltar and Morocco, and finished our tour in Liverpool! It was great fun, and the concert in Gibraltar was broadcast from St. Michael’s Cave. We sang Borodin’s Prince Igor, and a Benjamin Britten piece.
Sarah: I was always singing and playing the piano but in my bedroom. My bedroom was my safe space after my father died and I would listen to all kinds of music and try and play and sing along to anything and everything.
When did you discover your love of pop Sarah?
Sarah: When I started to learn the piano I think around the age of 7. I love a great tune and I found pop music easy to play and sing and I love a good hook and pop songs have many hooks to hang on to and so I would play them over and over again till I drove myself mad.
And when did you discover your love of jazz Esta?
Esta: That was all due to my Dad, who was a jazz singer. He used to sit with me and play his records loudly and sing along! When I was old enough, he took me to Ronnie Scott’s, and I was mesmerised by the live music and the wonderful singers.
Who have been your biggest influences, both musically and others?
Sarah: I would say my mother, my teacher at Goldsmiths College, and musically I love so many but Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Carole King, Elton John . They all wrote brilliant songs . Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Cole Porter to name a few. Plus I played piano bar in New York Greenwich Village in the 90s and I would listen to the other musicians and I learned so much. There are so many influencers as you go through life though and you never stop learning .
Esta: Although jazz is my main love, I like to think that I have fairly eclectic taste in music, so as far as jazz, it would be Ella, Sarah Vaughan, Dianne Reeves and Cleo Laine. As for other singers and influences, I would say Barbara, Judy, Doris Day, Marlene Dietrich, Shirley Bassey, Karen Carpenter, and the opera singers Joan Sutherland and Victoria De Los Angeles, and then Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynne.
Whilst pop has been very much your performing genre Sarah and Jazz your Esta you have now formed a collaboration. How did you meet and how did that collaboration come about?
Sarah: We met through a friend and basically we got together shared a few ideas to see if it would work and took it one day at a time . We both love music and we compliment each other in what we do . We are quite different types of people but I think that is a good thing and it is never boring . We have a good laugh and that’s important when you are trying to get a composition together.
Esta: We met through a mutual friend at the Phoenix Arts Club. I was sitting waiting, with my leopard-print top and big wild hair, and Sarah walked in and must’ve thought ‘OMG!’ However, we chatted and decided to give it a go.
This collaboration is very much a song writing partnership, do you each take on specific roles, one music, one lyrics, or is there a crossover?
Esta: Well, so far I have mainly been the lyricist and Sarah has written the music, although we both sometimes have melody ideas and Sarah will throw some lyric ideas my way.
Sarah: Esta is the main lyricist and I write the music but it does cross over as she often has a good melody in her head and I will give her ideas about lyrics so yes there is a crossover .
Do you bring a pop element to Esta’s work and does she bring a jazz influence to yours?
Sarah: I definitely do bring a pop country feel to our songs , I can’t help it ! She likes to write a good love song lyric so country is perfect for that style, but I love the blues so we touch on that also. As far as Jazz maybe that will emerge at some stage .
Esta: I think it’s fair to say that pop music was out of my comfort zone, but it’s been very good for me musically to try something new! I do find myself bringing some jazz ideas to the table, but we tend to move more towards pop and a little bit of country.
When you formed this partnership was the intention to just write the songs or did you always plan to perform this new work together live?
Esta: It was initially just to to write songs together, and we had been writing and recording as much as possible, but then Covid put things on hold for a while, as writing over Zoom proved a bit difficult.I met Bill at an Equity Zoom meeting, and he asked me if I would like to perform at the festival, so I asked Sarah if she would consider doing it with me as Fisher and Rae and to my delight Sarah said ‘yes’, and so we’ve been busy working on our set!
Sarah: Yes the intention was to write, record the songs and then try to sell them which is what we will continue to do, but we also love performing so we thought why not put some of those songs out there and do a live gig. Covid scuppered so much last year and to be honest performing live will be great fun again.
You already have a loyal fan base, have they heard the new songs and how did they go down?
Sarah: They’ve heard a couple and they liked them very much.
Esta: Yes, they’ve heard some of our new material, and it’s gone over very well.
When you write a new song do you ever have in mind a performer other than yourself?
Esta: Well, we would love other performers to sing and record our songs, but haven’t been considering anyone in particular yet.
Sarah: I know we should but again to be honest I think we should do it ourselves.
If you had the chance to work with any other performer, past or present, who would that be?
Sarah: Ooh that’s a tough one. Wow Stevie Wonder I think as he plays and sings so many styles of songs and its magical and would be amazing to play with. Never boring!! Also The Beatles, Sting and Prince great songs and performers. Plus I have worked with The Eurythmics and I do work now with Hazel O Connor. What a fabulous list !
Esta: Oh, definitely Judy Garland! Her stagecraft and voice were simply legendary. To sing a duet with her would be amazing! Apparently she couldn’t read music, but knew every one of her arrangements by heart. I only know this because the pianist in my trio was the late Colin Purbrook, who was her musical director when she came here and did her Palladium concerts. He also said she was absolutely lovely.
You are soon performing two sets with Esta at PierFest on Brighton Palace Pier, what should audiences expect to hear?
Sarah: They’ll hear a few of our own songs plus our take on some covers a little jazzy bluesy and pop.
Esta: They will hear our original compositions and a fresh take on some well-known songs. We are very excited and looking forward to being part of the festival.
Fisher & Rae, PierFest, Brighton Palace Pier
Friday 1 October, 3.30pm and 4.30pm