Amidst a flood of memories and laughter, Sara Hartman excitedly looked back on her last few years of making music. On tour now in support of her newly released debut EP, Satellite, the twenty-year-old musician weaved back and forth between stories of her life, her songs and their connection to each other. Born out of her move from New York to Germany, Satellite itself carries with it the imprint of a string of events that would cause a tangible shift in her perspective and experience. “It was a shift in everything,” she remembered of those first days in a new country, laughing as she said, “It was a shift in like, my internal organs.” Detailing how leaving her hometown of Sag Harbor for Berlin had instantly impacted her and her writing, she said that the EP’s title track had come from her very first studio session with Berlin based producer Toby Kuhn. Filled with lyrics and ideas that had been in her head for some time prior, she now fondly thinks of the song for which her EP is named as an “anthem” of sorts. “It really felt like we found something,” she told Pancakes and Whiskey in May, noting that she didn’t stop writing for months after that. Particularly buoyed by the direction and sound of what would become the collection’s second track, “Monster Lead Me Home,” Hartman spoke about how if it was “Satellite” that kicked things off, it was “Monster Lead Me Home” that had confirmed to her that she was heading down the right path. Single-handedly casting an overwhelming feeling that, “we have to keep going,” the song had also sprung from the musician’s adjustment to living on her own in a new, unfamiliar place.
“It was really huge,” she said of her decision to relocate. “I think I didn’t fully realize how huge it was going to be until I was very much in it, which is very, I guess in my character to be like, ‘Yeah, totally, I’ll move to Berlin. That sounds fun,’ and then be like, ‘Oh my God, this is so hard and so scary.’” Although as she would go on to explain, any growing pains would make the EP’s warm response from listeners mean that much more. “I cannot stress enough how much I believe in this music,” she said before adding, “To have people respond the way that they do, to these songs, it’s all very personal…I was holding on for dear life sometimes.” Expressing her affection for Berlin, she explained how at first, being so far from everything she knew had made moving away feel more challenging. “It took time,” she began. “It took time on my part, I think. I needed time to get my feet under me.” Illustrating how it is sometimes the simple things that feel the most difficult, she comically related the arc of leaving home to her trouble finding the right items in a new supermarket. “When you accomplish something when you’re out of your comfort zone, I don’t know, it means more, maybe,” she mused afterward. “And to learn to stand up on your own, and the whole leaving the nest thing is a major aspect.”
Speaking highly of the city and the “absurdly inspiring” people she’s met there, it’s clear that one of those people is none other than Satellite’s producer. After calling Kuhn “brilliant,” Hartman credited him for creating “such a world” around her songs, before later searching for the right words to capture the EP’s tone. “I think it’s so subtle and it’s alive– that’s what it is,” she said before later likening the collection to a right hook. “I don’t know boxing things,” she continued with a laugh, “but they hit you!” Balancing a singer-songwriter mentality with the luminosity of a pop production, Satellite finds the musician delicately blending those two worlds. “I think at the center of what I want to do- lyrically and songwriting wise- I wanted to keep it honest,” she said. “These are genuinely feelings that I’ve had and have struggled with. Hopefully, more than just me have gone through these emotions.”
Back in the States on the afternoon that she spoke to us by phone, Hartman would begin the first of a series of shows with X Ambassadors that same day. Discussing the singular experience of being able to share personal songs like “Satellite” with a live audience, she recalled a past performance during a previous tour in which she opened for Ellie Goulding. “When things were hard I would listen to ‘Satellite,’ and to be able to play that in front of so many people and to have people come to life to that song, like people were dancing and I was like, ‘You’ve never heard this song before,’” she said, a hint of surprise still in her voice. “It gives me chills just talking about it.” Reflecting on the past and present, she also spoke specifically about how meaningful it is to be able to bring her songs back to where it all started. “To bring it all back home also just makes me have so many feelings,” she began. “It’s ridiculous. I mean, I’m playing Terminal 5 in New York and that’s always been a dream of mine. I’m buckled up, you know?” she said before laughing, “We’re going somewhere and I’m just trying to enjoy myself.”
Satellite is available now
Article: Caitlin Phillips