by Nilabjo Banerjee


Born in Sweden, moved to Vancouver, and then called the wilderness of Yukon home. That sums up Sarah MacDougall. The nomadic singer-songwriter has had a quiet a start to her career making critically acclaimed albums, while adjusting to a life in the Canadian wild as a city dweller. That had to be rough, right?

“When I got there at first”, reminisces MacDougall, “all I had was cowboy boots and a fall jacket.” She had to chop wood in minus 40 (degrees Celcius) conditions, while living in a space that had no heat. But, the extremity of the conditions shaped the sophomore gem , The Greatest Ones Alive, and earned big praises including Q Magazine raving her voice to have “the power to make stones weep”.

The touring songbird is currently on the road sharing new tracks from forthcoming 2015 release. Ride The Tempo caught up with Sarah on an early Monday morning, and we chatted about crazy storm stories, her teenage years and what’s for breakfast.

Since we are chatting in the early hours, have to ask: are you a morning person?

I am kind of a mid morning person.

Yea? What do you usually have for breakfast?

I am the kind of person that likes to shake it up a bit. Sometimes, I am like “coffee and toast”, sometimes I am like ‘eggs’, sometimes I am a ‘smoothie’ person. I try to bring a protein powder on the road and put in a ziplock bag.

So, I am not the only one who does that! Now, hope the powder is brown, instead of white.

[Laughs] Yea, its brown! Though, sometimes, I have magnesium powder, which is white. But, no one has smelled it or anything.

And you have never heard on PA “Calling Sarah Macdougall, for questionable substances.

Nooo. [laughs]. But I do get swapped often.

That’s probably because of the tattoos that throw people off. I saw, in one of your pictures, you have a tattoo of a Viking ship. Is that you honouring your Swedish heritage?

I feel like a bit of a sailor. Sailors from back in the day, when they would cross the Atlantic, would get a tattoo of an anchor as a symbol. But, I didn’t want to get the anchor. So, I got the ship, which, was a symbol of going around the Indian Ocean and around Africa, which I haven’t done yet. But, I have made my own meaning, i.e., crossing the Atlantic

You say you haven’t been to Africa yet, but aren’t you playing someone’s birthday party in January?

Yes I have been offered, and he has agreed to my price. I am amazed. It’s this German fan, who asked me if I wanted to play his party. At first, I thought it was a joke. But, it seems pretty legit, and it’s with the full band. So, I feel safe!

On the last record, you had a song called ‘It’s a Storm (What’s going on?)’. Since you have weathered through extremities, do you have any cool storm stories?

I do have crazy storm stories from Sweden. Where I live has a lot of hurricanes. Trees blowing over kinda storm. I remember biking home one night, and the hurricane came. I kept biking and biking, but I didn’t get anywhere. I was just in one spot.

Like a treadmill?

[Laughs] Yea, like a treadmill. And I saw trees blowing over, and I was like ‘holy shit’, I better get home.

At that moment, what goes through your mind?

I guess just keep on pedaling in this case. You can’t just stay there.

You should trademark that ‘Just keep on pedalling’.

[Laughs] Yea, I should!

The new single ‘I Want to See the Light [Lost from our Eyes)’ is inspired by a shooting incident in your town. Your previous songs have covered a range of topics. Are there topics that you consider ‘off the list’?

I think I am comfortable sharing pretty much everything with the world. Although. I can’t picture myself writing overtly political songs. Even though, the song is political in some ways, but not super angsty.

You aren’t planning on starting a riot or protest with that.

Well, I might! [laughs] I grew up in Sweden and protested against Neo-Nazism. In my teenage years, I lived in a small town outside of Malmao, which had a youth group of Neo-Nazis. I remember a foreign family getting egged out of the village. I have been chased by Nazis for having dark hair. They yell, “You are a Jew”, and I yell back “I am not a Jew”. But it doesn’t really matter what I say at that point.

Tough to seguay out of that, but have a final question for you. Your last record was called The Greatest Ones Alive. If you could serenade a hero, who would it be?

Hmm, maybe Leonard Cohen.

What song would you play for him? One of yours or a cover?

I would have to think about what would be more effective. I would probably play one of my own songs, and see his reaction. If he liked it, then I am like okay, I wrote a good song. If he is like ‘meh’, then I have a lot of work to do.

Now, if you can make HIM cry, that can be another milestone.

[Laughs] That would be a miracle.

Sarah plays Hugh’s Room Oct 22. Click HERE for other dates and tickets info,