Singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid – who has featured on ICR’s New Music Emporium – will be kicking off a 3-month, 59-show autumn USA and UK tour with high-profile home-town shows in both West Cornwall, England, where she’s lived since 2007, and Chicago, where she spent most of her childhood.
World-renowned for its dramatic cliff-side setting, Cornwall’s Minack Theatre – where Sarah will be performing on Friday August 25th – was the brainchild of Rowena Cade, a remarkable woman who used an old screwdriver to etch intricate designs into concrete mixed with sand she herself had carried up from the beach in sacks. It opened to the public with a production of The Tempest in 1932, but Rowena continued working on her theatre well into her eighties.
“It’s a massive honour to be performing in such an iconic venue,” says Sarah, “and it’s only a few miles up the road from where I live. The seats are built into the cliff-side, so when you’re on-stage you’ve got the sea behind you, and there’s always a risk of getting upstaged by dolphins!”
Two days after her Minack show, Sarah will be headlining the Cornwall Folk Festival’s Sunday evening concert at the John Betjeman Centre in Wadebridge, Cornwall.
“We’ll be flying out of Heathrow the day after the Cornwall Folk Festival gig,” Sarah says ruefully, “so instead of a post-show celebration we’ll be frantically repacking everything, weighing our suitcases and driving a few hours down the road that night, so that we don’t have to panic about getting stuck in traffic on the Monday morning.”
Sarah’s Chicago-area appearances over Labor Day Weekend include the Fox Valley Folk Music & Storytelling Festival; WFMT 98.7FM’s Folkstage, a one-hour concert with an invited studio audience of WFMT supporters, broadcast live and on-line; and an afternoon guitar workshop at the Old Town School Of Folk Music, a Chicago institution founded in 1957 that launched the careers of legendary artists like Roger McGuinn, John Prine and Steve Goodman, all of whom studied at the Old Town School.
“I can remember hearing my mother talk about the Old Town School Of Folk Music when I was little,” says Sarah, “and the most exciting thing about New Year’s Eve was that it was the one night of the year I was allowed to stay up late enough to listen to The Midnight Special on WFMT!”
Sarah and her long-time manager Martin Stansbury (who also runs Cacophony Cottage, a Cornwall-based business offering music production and artist consultancy services) will then be heading down to Texas, back up through the midwest, southeast to North Carolina (where she’ll be performing on WFDD’s The Martha Bassett Show, recorded live at the Reeves Theatre in Elkin NC), on to Florida and finally up the east coast to New England where the US leg of the tour finishes in late October.
After that’s back to Cornwall for a week of recuperation before Sarah’s four-week UK tour in November and early December.
Born in Spain (to a Spanish father and American mother), Sarah grew up in the USA, lived in Ireland for many years and moved in 2007 to Cornwall, where she swiftly struck up a friendship with a fellow mum outside the gates of their children’s school. That fellow mum turned out to be Zoë Pollock, writer and performer of 1991 UK Top 5 single ‘Sunshine On A Rainy Day’.
The pair soon found themselves co-writing songs for an album released in 2008 under the band name Mama. “I owe Zoë a massive debt of gratitude for getting me into song-writing in a serious way,” says Sarah. “Prior to that I’d thought of myself basically as a folk-singer who happened to write an occasional song, but through working with Zoë I not only learned a hell of a lot about the craft of song-writing, but also just the fact of someone of her calibre wanting to co-write with me was what finally gave me the confidence to start focusing on my own original material.
And of course, if it weren’t for Zoë I’d never have met Martin” – the above-mentioned Martin Stansbury, a long-time collaborator and former band-mate of Zoë’s who produced and engineered the Mama album, then became Sarah’s manager and sound engineer, accompanying her on all her tours worldwide since 2009.
Most recently, Martin produced and engineered Sarah’s sixth solo album, ‘The St Buryan Sessions’, recorded live in lock-down in the beautiful medieval church of St Buryan, just over a mile from Sarah’s home.
Released in October 2021 on CD and limited-edition double LP, the album made it onto ‘Best of 2021’ lists on three continents and features stunning solo performances by Sarah on acoustic and electric guitars, piano and floor tom drum, her lush, distinctive vocals echoing through the soaring space.
The entire album was filmed as it was being recorded, and videos of all 15 tracks can be viewed on Sarah’s YouTube channel, together with a 10-minute video introduction to Sarah featuring live and studio performances inter-cut with interview and behind-the-scenes footage.
Sarah’s autumn tour dates are as follows:
See sarahmcquaid.com/tour for full info and ticket links.
25th August – Porthcurno: The Minack Theatre
27th August – Wadebridge: Cornwall Folk Festival
1st September – La Grange, IL: Wesley’s Place
2nd September – Chicago, IL: WFMT Folkstage (plus afternoon workshop at Old Town School of Folk Music)
3rd-4th September – Geneva, IL: Fox Valley Folk Festival
7th September – Lubbock, TX: Blue Sage Coffeehouse Concerts
8th September – Austin, TX: Cactus Gate Concerts
9th September – Arlington, TX: Open Door Coffeehouse
10th September – Fort Worth, TX: Concerts In The Woods
12th September – Beaumont, TX: 7 Oaks Event Garden & Listening Room
14th September – Memphis, TN: House Concerts Chez Chase
15th September – Nashville, TN: Scarritt Bennett Center
16th September – Warsaw, KY: Gallatin County Public Library
17th September – Pittsburgh, PA: Highland Park House Concerts
20th September – Maysville, KY: Mason County Public Library
22nd September – Livonia, MI: Trinity House Theatre
23rd September – Grass Lake, MI: Green Wood Coffee House Series at Out Of Eden
24th September – Mentor, OH: St Andrew Episcopal Church
27th September – Takoma Park, MD: House Concert
29th September – West Jefferson, NC: Ashe Arts Center
30th September – Deep Gap, NC: Songs From The Wood
1st October – Asheville, NC: Private Event
2nd October – Morganton, NC: Burke County Public Library
4th October – Durham, NC: Magnetic Sound Studios
5th October – Elkin, NC: The Martha Bassett Show (Live at The Reeves)
7th October – Dover, DE: Delaware Friends of Folk Coffee House
9th October – Chipley, FL: Washington County Public Library
11th October – Islamorada, FL: Islamorada Branch Library
12th October – Marathon, FL: Marathon Branch Library
13th October – Key West, FL: Key West Library
14th October – Fort Myers, FL: Americana Community Music Association (ACMA)
15th October – Venice, FL: Troll Music
17th October – New Port Richey, FL: Sims Park
20th October – Voorheesville, NY: Old Songs
21st October – Norwich, VT: Roots & Wings Coffeehouse at UUCUV
22nd October – Willimantic, CT: Bread Box Theater
2nd November – Morvah: Chypraze Farm
3rd November – Teignmouth: Pavilions Teignmouth
4th November – Barnstaple: ThePlough@StAnne’s
5th November – Brecon: Theatr Brycheiniog Studio
8th November – Topsham: The Bridge Inn
9th November – Great Budworth Parish Hall
10th November – Ipswich: St Peter’s by the Waterfront
11th November – Buxton: The Green Man Gallery
12th November – Gawsworth Village Hall
15th November – Backford (Chester): The Five Villages Hall
16th November – Salford: Sacred Trinity Church (Red Balloon Music Presents)
17th November – Thirsk: St Mary’s Church
18th November – Cockermouth: The Kirkgate Centre
19th November – Brigsteer Village Hall
22nd November – Great Easton: Venue TBC
23rd November – Tewkesbury: The Old Baptist Chapel
24th November – Bordon: Phoenix Theatre & Arts Centre
25th November – Bemerton (Salisbury): St John’s Place
26th November – Box: Schtumm Extra @ The Queens Head
28th November – Swindon Arts Centre
29th November – Kenilworth: The Tree House Bookshop
1st December – Upton Cross (Liskeard): Sterts Studio
2nd December – Truro: Burrell Theatre