I got a chance to try out my German language skills while pronouncing the name of Sarah Brendel's top ten German chart stopper Du Bist Nicht Allein, let's just say it is a good thing Sarah's skills for songwriting and performing in English are much better than my German, or North American music fans would be missing out on a terrifically talented acoustic guitar player and singer.
Brendel whose musical influences include people as diverse as Coldplay, Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Larry Norman fuses styles that sonically reflect Sarah McLachlan, Lisa Loeb, Superchic[k] and fellow German artist Christina Sturmer. She can do it all, slowing the song down to a gentle ballad, easing you into a light pop tune (Turn), provide you with an ethereal ambience in Babel Towers and then rocking out with the best of them on songs like Commodity and No More.
She is a self confessed fan of highly regarded Xavier Naidoo an East Indian / South African singer living in Germany. Naidoo's commitment to meaningful lyrics has inspired Brendel to pen thoughtful but provocative poetry. Her words challenge you to think about the dynamic of living a life for Christ.
Brendel says, "In Germany you will find a lot of Christian singles in the mainstream market." In Germany there aren't really any Christian music radio stations so the artists are forced to compete on mainstream radio to sell their CDs and develop a fan following. She says as long as you write and produce good music the stations will put you into their regular rotation. Now isn't that an interesting thought? Do you think just maybe we might have a slightly skewed perception on this side of the pond?
Most of the songs on her self titled Inpop album were co-written with longtime friend and band mate from Germany, Jorn Schluter. Brendel says about Schluter, "He's the person who really understands my music. A few years ago we started writing songs together and found out we are on the same wavelength. His lyrics are awesome."
Brendel finds audiences respond to her differently in North America versus Germany. "Here in America everybody is very open and they aren't as critical as the Germans are. In Germany the people are standing in front of the stage and watching everything you do. Germans are more serious than Americans so I find it easier to play over here." She goes on to say she finds North American audiences to be more receptive to her.
Brendel and husband Stephen set up house in Nashville earlier this year and for the most part will be living in the US until her career is over. At first she found the adjustments difficult and as one would expect she was homesick. "To be honest at first it was really hard because I left behind my family, my home and my house. People tried really hard to welcome us here. I like it over here a lot, the people are awesome." She says she found traveling and seeing so much of the country really exciting and she soon got over her homesickness.
Other adjustments have included getting used to the rigorous tour schedule to promote her newly released album. Although it helped her get over her homesickness and there was the thrill of seeing so many places not previously experienced the demands on her time forced to come up with new ways to find quality time for God.
"I try to get up early in the morning so I can have time alone with God. I try to spend one or two hours with him before everybody is awake. On the other side of things when I am traveling I feel surrounded by God. I know that his love and mercy is there for me every morning no matter what I am doing. He loves us and I don't have to work for that (love). In July we traveled so much and I was tired but then God said to me, 'Sarah my mercy should be enough for you so enjoy my mercy. I am enjoying being surrounded by God's mercy every day," she says.
Sarah Brendel was signed by Inpop Records after performing at several artist showcases. "We liked the people at Inpop. They have a lot of young people (artists) and they seem to be really learning from what they are doing. We decided to sign with them and I am very happy that we made that decision because I think it is an awesome record label and an awesome team. I like everybody there. It is really nice."
Her debut CD was written in English first, but the songwriting and production took place in Germany. "We did one mix for the European market and one mix for the American market. The European mix was done in Germany and the American mix was done in Nashville," she says. Brendel was returning to Germany for two weeks in August to visit with family. At the time of the interview she was thinking about recording another song for German release.
Brendel is a big fan of emerging bands Sparklehorse and Mute Math because they create a more unique style of music rather than just piggybacking on the most recent trends. She considers her talent to be "a gift from God," and has been writing songs since she was sixteen. Her top ten hit Sign of the Times was featured on Germany's equivalent to MTV.
This blonde haired, soft spoken rocker is on a mission, "I want my music to touch everybody, whether or not they are a Christian. When I'm writing and singing these songs, I want to aim straight for the heart and use my experience and my faith to draw the audience in. I want to move them in a way they've never felt before. My hope is that as time goes on Christ would enter their lives, just like He did mine."
King I Love the number five track on this melodic orb is Brendel's sonic missive to a lost world. Never has a song combined such easy going melody with lyrics that lay out so simply why Christ came to earth, why he died and as the singer looks forward with anticipation, "Here comes the king I love."
If someone were to question Sarah Brendel about her faith it is probable her response would be familiar words from her pop / rock tune Pardon Me, Pardon Me / I've been to weak to make it on my own / Pardon me I've left the road where mercy is unknown /
Highly anticipated by her Canadian fans, Sarah will be performing in Winnipeg, MB on September 29, and in Kingston, ON on October 13.
For more information visit www.sarahbrendel.com.
Writer: Joe Montague