The beautifully-shot, cinematic video to ‘Sleep When I’m Tired’ evokes a gently unsettling sense of otherworldly mystery. There’s a creeping gothic dread as we walk the path with singer Rachael Sage, noticing the strange artefacts left behind: an antique telescope, a doll whose pose she mimics; and we are left wondering at the symbolism and what it means for our own journeys through life, and the people and objects that carry significance for us along the way. Full of fine details, the visual, which was directed by Nick Clark and filmed by Mike Flanagan, is a piece of art in itself. A slow-paced, weary blues arrangement and quiet, almost-spoken vocal focus our attention on the repetitive lyrical plea. The atmosphere gradually builds as Sage repeats, “Take me away,” over insistent hand-claps. The overall impression is of a soundtrack to a disturbing, thought-provoking film and the understated chorus stays with you long after you’ve finished listening.
Poetica is an experimental musical project led by singer-songwriter and MPress Records-founder Rachael Sage and three-time GRAMMY-nominee Dave Eggar (Paul Simon). The duo conceived the cross-genre, spoken word project during lockdown. Over time, Poetica grew into an album-length collection of songs and a collaboration with many outstanding players and technicians, including GRAMMY-winners Andy Zulla, who mixed the record and Alan Silverman on mastering duties. The songs contain elements of Americana, blues, jazz and classical styles drawn together into an ambitious whole that brings to mind the likes of Nick Cave, all based around a series of poems. Sage explains: “The music on Poetica is serving each poem just as a film score would do so with scenes in a film. The goal was to be as pure as possible in supporting the emotion of each piece…That’s how the project tagline became ‘fine art music’. Between the musical eclecticism and the accompanying objets d’art-themed photography, it’s been a very liberating, collaborative creative process!”
Of the new single, Sage told AUK exclusively: “‘Sleep when I’m Tired’ was a spontaneous blues piece I sang off the top of my head into Garage Band while I was in upstate New York during lockdown. During that time – like so many others – I was alternately exhausted from bad news and the general overwhelm of trying to navigate ‘the new normal’, or wired at all hours of the night and not on any normal kind of clock. I’ve always been a night person, but I guess I took it to new extremes, since I wasn’t touring and didn’t have to show up in person anywhere. My average bedtime became sunrise.
The vocal on this track is that first take on a hand-held bullet mic, and the entire song is built around a four-bar guitar loop and some random hand-percussion I had lying around, from the tour I’d just been on – shakers and tambourines. I added the claps in the chorus to give it a little lift, but for the most part my goal was to distil a sense of absolute melancholy and emotional fatigue into a piece that’s essentially about begging the Universe for a ‘break’. For me personally, the thing I’ve learned over and over during the past couple years is that love and imagination in whatever form are the gifts that can best counter the feeling of sleepwalking through life…because they give it meaning and purpose.
When it came time to record this video, I wanted it to feel dreamy as well as searching, so we settled on a location with some mysterious, decrepit old houses along a winding path, in the Hudson Valley. The chorus, where I sing ‘Take Me Away’, is like a prayer – and some listeners have told me it sounds like I’m asking for death to come as an escape from suffering but mainly, I think of it as a plea for something to shift, whatever that may be. Just being outside and celebrating the beauty of nature in all her glory gradually became a way many of us found a renewed sense of comfort, and I think my director Nick Clark really helped us capture that.”
This is music with real drama attached, that sets out to capture an elusive, mysterious atmosphere and that has a real emotional gravity. Check it out.