BY JULIA CIRIGNANO
While Sarah Barrios auditioned for some of television’s biggest singer competitions, such as American Idol, X-Factor, and The Voice, she only made it to the judges table on American Idol. Never one to shy away from a challenge, she is determined to make a name for herself on her own without any of these shows.
“Apart from American Idol, I did not make it to the judges table for any of the shows,” explained the Connecticut singer-songwriter. “For American Idol, I did make it in front of the judges but I did not make it any further. I wasn’t too upset about not getting through for any of them. I know that they’re really looking for a certain vibe and I just didn’t fit that, which is fine. I’m never opposed to opportunities that arise but I don’t really think the music competitions are my thing.”
Barrios has performed with many artists who competed on the above mentioned shows as well as America’s Got Talent. On March 13, 2016, she opened for a musician from The Voice, Christina Grimmie, at The Space in Hamden, CT.
“The show was amazing,” Barrios said. “She was just such a warm and inviting person, not to mention she had some insane vocal talent, I mean she could really sing anything. I remember listening to her set with my mouth open for most of it because whether she was singing a ballad or an upbeat tune, you could really feel the emotion in it and I really appreciate that in an artist. After the show, I went to thank her for having me. She complimented me and thanked me for being part of the night and, while that doesn’t seem like a big deal, not every headliner does that and does it so genuinely, so that was very touching.”
Nearly three months later, on June 10, 2016, Grimmie died of target gunshot wounds after her concert in Orlando, FL. Barrios said her untimely and unfortunate death had a big impact on her.
“Her passing had an effect on really everyone both in the business and not,” Barrios said. “She was such a kindhearted soul, who really put her heart and soul into her music, projects, fans and family. After seeing her just a few months prior, it was very surreal to hear that she had passed. Concerts are a place where musicians and fans alike go to feel at home and safe, to let go of your worries and feel comforted amongst friends and peers. So, as a fellow musician, it was really shocking, scary and heartbreaking to hear that the music family had lost someone so special and dear to us.”
Although she’s no stranger to the New England music scene now, Barrios’ story started when she started writing music at only 13 years old.
“I had seen a documentary on Taylor Swift and I remember thinking to myself, ‘wow this girl wrote songs when she was thirteen,’ maybe I can too.” So, I sat down and wrote my first song right then and there,” Barrios said.
In tune with her admiration for Swift, Barrios is also greatly inspired by one of Swift’s good friends Ed Sheeran and fellow musician Allen Stone due to their unique songwriting.
“I find Ed Sheeran’s writings to be extremely descriptive and in-depth, whilst also being quite catchy so I try to incorporate that into my own writings and really tell a story through the words,” Barrios explained. “Allen Stone tends to do the same thing but I find that his concepts are not the ones typically used in music today. He’s writing about social issues and topics other than love, though when he does write about love, he tends to write it in such a creative way that it makes the concept unique and I try to remember that when writing my own songs.”
With years of songwriting experience under her belt, Barrios released her first self-titled EP in 2014. Barrios has always written for herself and continues to do so. Instead of writing specifically for the EP, when Barrios was presented with the opportunity to record an EP, she simply picked the best from the songs she had written over the years. Barrios talked about how she chose the three songs featured on the EP.
“I guess the songs themselves were ones that I felt had strong stories that people could connect to,” she said. “With all three of those songs, I had what I call ‘blackout writing’ which is basically where I start to write a song and I get so into it, I really don’t remember how the songs even came about. It was like I sat down on the floor (my usual writing spot) and next thing I know there’s a finished song in front of me. It’s like getting musically blackout drunk. You remember the before and the after but nothing in the middle.”
“All three were really strong lyrically and musically showed a few different sides of myself,” she continued. “I really didn’t know what my style was and I wanted to be honest as possible with it, so I chose to have three songs that had very different vibes because that’s what I was writing at the time.”
Since Barrios’ EP was released in 2014, she hasn’t officially released any more music. Although, she has been consistently posting YouTube videos of original music such has her latest, a catchy, acoustic tune titled “Black Willow Woods”.
Barrios is currently saving up to record and release more music. She talked about what songs she would feature on a new collection of music.
“As for what songs will be featured, I’m not quite sure yet,” Barrios said. “I can be a very indecisive person, so I think the choosing process will be difficult but I’m looking forward to it. Thanks to the usage of social media, I can ask those who enjoy my music their opinion as well.”
Along with Barrios’ original music on YouTube, she also has various cover songs.
“I think the best part is getting to find ways to make the tunes my own,” Barrios said. “If I’m going to cover an Ariana Grande tune, I want to make it at least a little different from the original. There’s already an Ariana Grande, she’s already sang it her way, so I just find it fun to change it up a little so that when people hear my cover, it’s familiar, yet it sets me apart from the original and makes it feel almost like a brand new song.”
Barrios also started posting weekly video blogs on YouTube. These videos exhibit her hilarious, quirky personality, satin purple hair, and addiction to coffee. They feature her mother, friends, and a rendition of “The Hills Are Alive” from The Sound of Music.
“I personally watch a lot of vlogs on YouTube, so I just thought ‘hey, maybe I should give them a try!’ I might not be doing anything super crazy but I think it gives people a little insight as to what I do for my music career and also what I like to do for fun,” Barrios said. “It gives me an opportunity to show off more of my personality so people can get to know me a little better from those. It’s just something that I honestly really enjoy doing. I guess it’s half for everyone else to see and half for me to have memories documented so that I can look back on them.”
After years of trying out for music competitions, Barrios finally made it when she was recently one of the top 5 out of over 14,000 artists to be named to Guitar Center’s National Singer Songwriter Grand Finale. She was then flown to L.A. to perform at the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood.
“It was really the first time I was going to L.A. on my own and, as someone who deals with anxiety, it was such a great learning experience for me and really has helped me with my anxiety when traveling going forward,” Barrios said. “The competition itself was amazing. It really didn’t feel like a competition. Everyone from the crew to the other four contenders were so unbelievably kind and just genuinely good people. It was really like making a bunch of friends and bonding over music. The staff and crew for Guitar Center were so so amazing, as was the competition itself.”
“I’m from Connecticut, so getting flown across the U.S. to play at a venue as legendary as the Troubadour was just surreal for me,” she continued. “The experience was mind blowing, the sound and the crowd that night were insane. I have nothing but love for the people who were apart of it and who made it possible. I’m not one for music competitions, but that competition was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I highly recommend entering to any and every musician out there because it’s such a great opportunity. I really can’t say enough.”
Barrios has won other music awards such as the New England Music Awards “Best New Act of the Year 2014”. Barrios is surprised by her own success, especially since she has only officially released three songs.
“I have been very, very lucky to have such a loving, loyal and patient group of supporters,” Barrios said. “Apart from my family, they have really been the ones to push my career forward. I would have never won an award like that without the votes from those who have supported me so I really owe everything to them. As cliché as it sounds, I really would not be where I am without their diligence so I am very appreciative and honored to have them in my life.”
High off her recent success, Barrios has plans to channel her youthful energy and songwriting skills and record more music.
“I definitely hope to get some recorded music out soon,” she said. “I’m working towards that and just playing more shows and trying to reach as many people as I can with my music. The ultimate goal is to get a record deal so I’m hoping that comes along when the time is right.”