Sabrina Pirzada discusses her new dream pop/rock album, her love of Elvis, collaborations and more [Interview]

Wildly unique, eclectic and classic are a few words to describe the debut album Tell Them Not To Look For Me from singer/songwriter Sabrina Pirzada. The ten track collection highlights Sabrina’s one-of-a-kind voice singing cathartic songs all about unrequited love, taking risks in life and fully immersing oneself in what they deem important in the moment.

Musically, Tell Them Not To Look For Me is a roots focused album filled with Americana drenched ballads and dream pop/rock bops. Emotional string arrangements, blues inspired guitar riffs and twangy soundscapes fill the LP for a joyful listen. Standout tracks include the country folk tune “Tell Them Not to Look for Me” which ebbs and flows in seductive musical nuances and the soulful, timeless and nostalgic “You Put the Rock n’ Roll Back”.

Earmilk chatted with Sabrina all about her influences, raw storytelling and collaborators. What we found was an adventurous artist not afraid to take risks but also one who understands the importance of the musical trailblazers who paved the way.

Hi Sabrina, happy to chat. Congrats on the new album Tell Them Not To Look For Me. First I would love to hear about how you began your journey as an artist?

I grew up with music always on in the home. A lot of my best memories with my family involve things like driving around with my dad listening to the Beach Boys on a cassette tape and driving through In-N-Out Burger. He had immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970’s and used to tell me how all he watched when he was growing up were Elvis movies and that’s how he knew he wanted to come to America and be American. And he’d always talk about how Elvis changed the world just by being himself. I guess in some way that really affected me because 1) I felt like my parents wouldn’t have met and I therefore, literally wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for Elvis and 2) the idea that music could change the world because it can change people was instilled in me. I started getting serious about writing songs when I was 15, but I think my whole life it was who I was and what I was born to do.
The new album asks questions such as, what things are worth risking everything for and what are the things that have real value?  What in your life have you found is worth the risk and has intrinsic value?

I think some things are standing up for what one believes is right even in the face of resistance and negative consequences, and contributing to collective human understanding through revelations that are hard fought.

You are so raw and honest with your lyrics. What do you hope listeners can take away from the new collection of music?

I hope people are able to see their stories in my stories. Even though I’m writing from my own heart about my own experiences, I want to make things that belong to all of us in the end. I hope people come away inspired to be brave and to make big, bold choices in favor of doing the right thing, even when it’s hard and even if it makes you unpopular at first.

Sonically, what were the inspirations behind Tell Them Not To Look For Me?

So, first, let me tell you about my desert island songs. There are two songs that always meet me wherever I am in my life–no matter how many times I’ve heard them, they will stop me in my tracks and make me roll the windows down and sing them at the top of my lungs like I’m hearing it for the first time and the last time. Those songs are 1) “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty and 2) “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen. And they will be forever cited as influences for me.

And also for this record, I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back I think the album “The Way It Is,” by Bruce Hornsby and The Range had a big sonic influence. And of course all the great obscure jazz and soul singers I’m inspired by and find solace in when anyone criticizes my sound: Blossom Dearie, Ronnettes, Shirelles… My musical tastes are eclectic and in my world there is a time and place for every genre, including my favorite metal bands and hip-hop artists, so there are definitely some influences people would be surprised by even if they don’t hear those qualities right away.

Do you have a favorite song on the album and what is it and why?

They’re all so special to me, but I think “It Doesn’t Matter Where I Die” is kind of a thesis statement. I was worried people would think it’s morbid–it’s actually the opposite. To me what’s morbid is never allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It’s like: it doesn’t matter where you die, it matters how you live. And I think one of the reasons we get messed up in our lives is really just because of fear. Fear that we’re not enough, fear that people won’t like us, and more specifically the fear of death. If you can get over that, you can be sure you’re going to live, like really live.

Who did you work with on the new album and what did they bring to the table?

Yeah! So, I worked with Ryan Hommel (Musical Director for Daisy Jones & The Six, Guitarist for Amos Lee), who is an incredible producer and a friend. We met during the pandemic over Instagram through a friend of a friend. He brought in Cynthia Tolson (Charlie Hickey, MUNA, Demi Lovato) on strings, Evan Vidar (Harry Connick, Jr., Aimee Mann) on keys, Griffin Goldsmith (Dawes) on drums, and Joey Howard (Paramore) on bass. We were recorded by Luke Adams at Sharktank Studios in LA. The record was then mixed by Andrew Oedel at Ghost Hit Recording and mastered by Kevin Butler at Test Tube Audio. Everyone was so cool, and really honored my writing and my overall vision for the record in their playing. I’m in awe of their talents and so thankful to everyone for ushering me through that process of a first album with such grace and kindness. Also, we had a really great time! And that’s important to me.

If you could describe the album in three words, what would they be and why?

I guess I would say… Damn the torpedoes– the idiom historically used when dismissing or refuting the risks of a dangerous action because that is what’s called for. I think that encapsulates the mythology of this album pretty well.

What is next for Sabrina Pirzada?

Touring, writing, and making more albums.

Connect with Sabrina PirzadaINSTAGRAM