PM: And how would you say your personality is different now as an adult than it was when you were a child?
SH: Well, I always have to credit Carol Burnett, because when I was a little girl, the thing I loved was family time. We had a lot of family time together when I was little. And every Friday night we did the all-American thing where we would watch, I believe it was, Mary Tyler Moore, and then Bob Newhart, and then The Carol Burnett Show. But I remember being really little and thinking, "I want to be like Carol Burnett. I want to be vivacious and funny and intelligent and well-versed in history and comedy and the stage." So she was a big influence for me.
And as a child, when we were doing dramatic things, like the theater, or dance, or going to the art museum with my parents, that side of me was very intrigued and very open and asked a lot of questions. But as far as being a social butterfly as a child, I wasn't sure how to navigate that. I didn't really quite grasp having a huge group of friends. I think I always had one or two best friends until I got to college. And then I started really blossoming and understanding, "Oh, I can make things happen. It's fun to make things happen."
PM: Wow, that's a long time to take to blossom, all the way to college, yeah.
SH: Well, I think the divorce--from twelve until college was a very dark and painful period in my life, where a lot of heavily traumatic things happened. So college was kind of--I would say a sorting out--but college was a place where I was alone and by myself without my family at all, because you go off to college and you have your own room, and you have to get yourself up to go to classes.
PM: Then you can become whoever you want.
SH: Exactly. And I really started thinking about, "Who am I? What do I believe in? What do I like and what don't I like?" And college was an interesting place to ask those questions, of course, because you're surrounded by all different kinds of crazy personalities.
PM: Back to Carol Burnett for one second, if I have the story right, I believe that Gillian Welch's folks wrote for that show.
SH: [gasps] No!
PM: So that's an interesting point of conversation between the artists sometime.
SH: Wow, well when I meet her I will definitely bring that up, because that's really interesting.
PM: Yeah, because if you were a real Carol freak--like I could never, ever deal with that woman. There was something about her [laughs] that I found so off-putting that I've never been able to get there. But for a true Carol Burnett fan, as you sound like you may have been, it's certainly interesting to look into.
PM: [laughs] So after a handful of years of doing children's music exclusively, how did this decision--or was it just an inclination--to return to adult music come back up?
SH: Well, I have to say that I'm very driven by God's voice. I can distinctly remember all the times in my life where I've--I don't know that you could say it's a physical voice, like this voice that goes, "Sara Hickman, you will now..."--but it's more of an intense physical direction.
SH: And I hear exactly what I need to do. It's so compelling that I have to do it. And so when I started doing the children's music it was just pouring out of me. I feel like I shouldn't even take credit for any of the songs that I wrote, because I didn't really have to do much. I just opened my mouth and these little songs, or these beautiful melodies and words would come out, and I would sing them to my child. And people around me, especially in my moms' groups, would say, "Oh, I wish I could sing to my child like that." Or, "Oh, how do you do that?" And I thought, "Well, I should start making children's music for other parents who have trepidation about it."
So that led to those years of making children's music. And obviously I wanted to be with my children. And touring and being gone is the widest gap you can put between yourself and your child. And I didn't want to take them on the road. That just seems crazy. I mean, it works for some people, and hallelujah to them, but to me, I know that having a home and a steady base where they get to come out of and go to school and have friends and have a social life--that was very important to me. So I just decided I would wing it as a children's artist for a while. And that really took off and took care of us financially, and it's been really fun, and I've loved it. But last summer, to answer your question, I sat down at the piano, and I was writing this song, "Living in Quiet Desperation."
PM: That's a good one.
SH: And when I got to the line, "No one is as mean to me as me" I started crying, because I thought, "Well, that's so true. I'm glad I finally said that, because that's true. I beat myself up all the time."
SH: And then I've played the song for some other women friends, and they just reacted to that song very quickly and they said, "That's how I feel, too." And I said, "Really?" And I started thinking about how all these moms I know are giving and doing so much and how much we care about the world and the suffering in it, and how much we love our husbands and want to have sex with them but we're always so tired. [laughs] And I just thought, "What if I made a concept album that came from the heart of a woman and a wife and a mother and a friend?" Because I think what struck me was: it's still kind of poo-pooed if you're a mom. Like for some reason it seems, in our society, people think moms are a little less intelligent, or moms are a little less hip.
PM: It's still the original thankless task.
SH: It is. It really is. And I thought, "I want to make being a mom super sexy and cool. And I want to say what I need to say. Regardless of what everybody thinks, I'm speaking for me as a mom and a musician." And so once I kind of hit on that nerve, then all these ideas started coming. "Well, oh, man, I should put this song on there because I feel this way, and all these other women I know feel the same." So then I realized I had to make a double disc, because I had a lot to say, but mostly because I realized I swing between euphoria and this kind of contentment that I have my home and I'm nesting, and I have my children, and I have my friends, and we do things with families together, and that's all beautiful, and I love my husband, and our sex life is great. And then I have this other side that is my community-active side where I'm out working with the homeless, or children with AIDS, or it's almost overwhelming how much I want to do in this world before I pass.
And now with all these continuing wars--you've got Uganda and you've got Afghanistan, and you've got Iraq, and you've got women being suppressed, and there's genital mutilation, and there's pedophilia on the internet. It just goes on and on. And you feel like, "God, as a mom, what can I do?" So I thought, "Well, I'll make one CD that's all about these things, and it will be the mother lode." And I wanted the graphics to show that, that I became a mother by having sex, and that my breasts give life to my children, and there's all this work to be done, but sometimes you just got to let the iron burn--
SH: --and get back to the basics. And then, what was the most compelling moment for me was that I had this CD idea, I had the beautiful artwork I wanted, and then I read this quote from the new Pope, that was his first Encyclical. And it was all about sex. And I could not believe it. I was reading it and I was crying I was so happy. And I felt like this was a huge message from God to me to say, "Yes! Celebrate sexuality and talk about how it is the most basic fundamental right of all humans to have connection with another person who loves them." And to read this quote from him, I couldn't believe it, so I had to put it on the CD. And I just felt the fact that he thought of sex as this God-given gift between partners, and then that that can lead you to community action, and then bring you even closer to God, I thought, "What a brilliant man to take this thing that has been so condemned, that people think sex is either pornographic or they don't talk about it at all, especially in western culture." I thought, "I'm going to start the dialogue. I'm going to talk about the Motherlode, I'm going to put that on the cover," and away we go.
PM: It's a very enlightened quote about sex, considering that he's never had any.
SH: Yeah, I know. And how peaceful it is.
SH: His first Encyclical wasn't about gay marriage is wrong or abortion is wrong, or--
PM: No, that'll be in the second one.
SH: Yeah. To modernize himself and define the beauty of sexuality, I was very grateful to him. I hope I meet him someday because I would like to say thank you. I thought it was a very beautiful quote.