Interview With Sarah Carton As She Releases New Single Beautiful Boy

by Lucy Lerner

19th February, 2021

Following her stunning release Beaches On The Thames, British rising artist Sarah Carton introduces Beautiful Boy. With her distinctive vocals and spoken word, she pulls the listener into her tale about mental health in relationships. She says it’s about “that despair from wanting to help someone you love, but they’re not in a place to receive it or help themselves”.

The production by Ancona is crisp. Sarah’s voice stands out against a glitchy, dreamy soundscape with an ethereal overlay. Her debut music video portrays a complicated relationship and raw emotions against a glittering London backdrop. Feelings of confusion and loneliness are obvious. It’s a song that hits hard and the visuals bring all the themes together beautifully.

The release of Beautiful Boy and its music video will be accompanied by a limited range of merchandise, with a percentage of profits going to the mental health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).

As the topics in Beautiful Boy are relevant to our music wellness series we caught up with Sarah Carton to find out more:

How would you describe your musical style to new listeners? 
I’m still developing my style so find it hard to define it. I have to ask friends what genre my songs are because I’m so useless with knowing. I’d say the new single is quite alternative-indie/ electronic. Some of my tracks have a bit more of an alt-R&B style with spoken-word mixed in. I’m enjoying experimenting with different genres at the moment and finding my sound. 

Tell us about your new single and music video for Beautiful Boy 
Beautiful Boy’s based around the saviour complex and how mental health problems can impact relationships. It’s written from the viewpoint of someone wanting to help their partner when that person’s not in a place to receive help or help themselves. 

We filmed the music video at a hotel in London and it follows the story of the relationship, from the self-destructive behaviours to the point where she leaves. There’s empathy for both sides at the end with the sense that she’s leaving the door open. 

How would you like to help people with this song? 
I think for me, Beautiful Boy is a very personal take on the saviour complex based on my own and friends’ experiences. Depression in young men is an issue very close to my heart and that has affected many people I care about. 

This song tries to touch on the pain of knowing you need to walk away from someone you love for the time being until they’re ready to help themselves get better. I hope this song can empathise with and help people on both sides of that situation. 

Who or what inspires your songwriting? 
It’s inspired by a mix of personal experiences and an interest in writing about social and political issues. I’d like to help people with every song I write, whether that’s through writing about complex emotional experiences that can help people feel less alone or writing about world issues I want to help change. MIA once said, ‘if you have access to a microphone, use it’, which I think is something I always come back to when writing, and I’m very inspired by her approach to making music. 

How has COVID-19 affected you? Did you have to cancel or postpone any gigs, tours or festival appearances or postpone any music releases? 
It’s affected gigs for myself and every musician I know, it’s so hard to grapple with just how awful this has been for everyone working in events and live music. I’ve managed to do one socially distanced gig since this all began, which is more than a lot of people, so count myself very lucky to have had at least one experience of playing live. 

Have there been any other challenges you have faced during COVID-19? 
Lots. I think everyone’s struggling in their own ways, but not being able to see my friends and family in person for so long has really affected my sense of community and support. It’s easy for anyone to feel lonely and down at the moment, but I find knowing everyone is going through the same struggle helps me get through it, just knowing you’re not alone. 

How do you keep going, and stay positive and creative during this time? 
It’s hard, sometimes I feel awful and completely uninspired but that’s fine, I’m trying to get better at not beating myself up for having a bad day. Best ways I’m finding to keep positive are regularly checking in with friends, creating a routine, long walks, meditating, journaling and trying to minimise screen time by doing activities like puzzles or reading books. I’ve done about 7 puzzles so far, I’m a bit too into it. 

Luckily, I’ve been a bit forced to be creative, as I’ve been doing a course in music production. It’s helped me make new music I would never have experimented with before. I also find journaling helps, I might write some thoughts for the day that I can go back to and develop into lyrics when I think of a melody at a later time. 

What music, films, TV series, books, and podcasts, have been helping you get through the quarantine? 
Same as probably 90% of the UK I’m listening to the new Arlo Parks album a lot right now. It’s the perfect soundtrack to unwind to. Some other artists I’m really into at the moment are Biig Piig, Puma Blue and Connie Constance. Books wise I’m currently reading ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge (really important read if you haven’t already) and ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami which is so great. My TV go to at the moment is ‘Married at First Sight: Australia’ and I’m not ashamed to say it. 

Has the pandemic inspired you to create music or has it hindered your motivation? 
The first lockdown in London was the inspiration for my first solo release last summer, ‘Beaches on the Thames’, so I’d say it’s actually done the opposite of hindering motivation and inspired me to write new songs. 

I’ve also found that having more time to be with myself and focus on self-improvement a little has helped me uncover new things about myself that I’m exploring with new songs. 

How do you think the pandemic has changed the music industry? 
Pretty massively. Touring and gigs are the heart of being a musician and without that, it’s hard to see the real-life impact your music can actually have. Also, touring revenue is such a major part of musicians being able to keep creating, it’s sad to think how many artists this will have impacted and how many aren’t able to make music at the moment. 

It is cool to see how creative some artists and their teams are becoming at the moment when navigating this. Like Charli XCX’s lockdown album and some of the amazing DIY home music videos that have come out. It’s inspiring to see so many artists being innovative and creating amazing work during this. 

What have been some of the positives you have experienced from lockdown and the pandemic in general? 
I’ve had a lot of quality time with my boyfriend who I’m staying with which has been great, I’m very lucky to be with him during this time. I’ve also managed to write so much new music and had time to really think about which direction I want to go in as an artist, which I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

The quiet time to work on self-care and self-improvement has been so good for me. Things like meditation, journaling and checking in with myself were all things I never thought I had time to do and never valued before now. 

What do you miss most during lockdown and what is the first thing you will do once normal life resumes? 
My family and friends, live music and travelling. First thing I’ll do is go give my family members and friends a massive hug. Then I’ll probably go to the pub, book some gigs and a holiday. Praying that day comes soon. 

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