Singer and songwriter Theresa Sareo has been a New York favorite for a while now, appearing at places like The Bubble Lounge, The C Note and at the Brooklyn Cyclones Stadium.
Her music is pop, but her voice
is nothing like the pop princesses we hear on the
radio; Theresa’s voice is more authoritative
than cute and her music is more experienced than
naïve (no offense, Britney, Christina and Jessica.)
Theresa has been making headlines recently, not only as an artist, but an artist who has been able to turn a devastating accident that resulted in the loss of one of her legs into some of her richest work to date.
Theresa was generous enough to speak with me briefly about her new album and the pressure of being a public survivor of local tragedy.
Armistead: You have a new CD coming out? Tell me a little bit about it....
Theresa: Well, it's in the pop/rock/country
vein and is probably the most significant CD I've
written because I started writing it before my accident
and finished it afterward. You could say it
bridges two powerful phases of my life; as a New
Yorker, I was reconciling with 9/11 with tracks
like "I Am the Light" and "Again";
then I was suddenly reconciling with an assault
on my own life, waking up in a hospital with one
leg. I realize that it might sound like a
CD full of tragedy, but in keeping to what has always
motivated my life and my writing, it's a CD
mostly about hope. It's called Alive Again.
Armistead: You seem to be the
definition of the word "resilience." My
favorite story about you is when you woke up after
the accident and were scheduled to sing the national
anthem in a few weeks... Anyway, you woke up and
said something like, "I'm still going to sing
at the ballgame. I may have lost my leg but I didn’t
lose my voice." I got that wrong, of course,
but it went something like that, yes? Where do you
find your strength? What keeps you going?
Theresa: In the beginning, morphine was
a beautiful thing! No, really - it allowed
the survival mechanism to kick in without any
fear or reservations. Hence, the "forging
onward" statements like the one you heard.
Alas, the devastation comes as the medicines get
reduced and the truths behind what's been lost become
undeniable. It's still an up-and-down ride,
balancing between the sorrow and the triumph.
Support from loved ones, meeting other amputees,
focusing on my music and my volunteer work -
all major life rafts. It's the will to embrace
the entire experience. The depression comes
and I don't try to stuff it down. If I get
up and feel like shit, I take it with me and say
"I guess I'm going to feel like shit today."
I don't beat myself up over it because at times,
I feel I'm justified to hate this if I need
to. Then later on, I'll have a super-prosperous
day and the fight will feel worth it. I've
learned that neither the setbacks nor the victories
last. The trick is to stay open and go with
all of it the best I can.
Armistead: When you were little,
was it always music? I mean, are you one of those
people who knew what you wanted to do all your life,
or did you get into music as you got older?
Theresa Sareo and Steve Buscemi
Theresa: I always knew I wanted
to be an entertainer. I thought it would be
acting when I was young. I used to go off
by myself and talk out a complete, made-up movie
in my head, act out all the characters and rattle
off dialogue for two hours, with a plot build up
and all. Then in eighth grade, I ended up
in a high school production of The Music Man.
I was musical-theatre-bound from there. I
graduated high school as a music major and left
for NYC to study at the Herbert Berghoff Studios.
I ended up leaving theatre to become a
dance music recording artist. This lasted
a few years until my cousin, who is a songwriter,
moved here from Florida. His songs were so
beautiful and I started co-writing and performing
with him. It was then I knew that singing
my own songs was what I wanted to do more than anything
Armistead:I have obviously heard
your music and I would venture to say that it is
soulful pop... I could be totally wrong, though.
How do you describe your music?
Theresa: It's mixed with influences from classic rock, rhythm and blues, a little gospel and country flavors. Yes - soulful pop indeed!
Armistead: Tell me where people
can regularly see you perform and do you have a
website or some place where people can buy your
Theresa: Well, I regularly perform in Little Italy in the Bronx at a great Italian restorante called IL Fiume on Saturday nights. I have an upcoming show with my jazz trio at the Bubble Lounge in Tribeca on July 19th. And my self-written CD's are available on www.cdbaby.com. It's best to check my website for all performance announcements and publicity announcements www. theresasareo.com.
Alive Again is on sale now.