At Home With London’s Sarina Haggarty

At just 20 years of age, Sarina Haggarty has already made a big impact on the London music scene. She’s released two EP’s since 2016 and was a winner of the Fan Favorite Award at the 2018 London Music Awards. Add to that dealing with two major brain surgeries to help relieve epileptic seizures and her work as a spokesperson for Make a Wish foundation and she’s an inspiration to everyone who hears her story. Sarina graciously took time to speak with us at 519.

Your music has been described as country, pop, folk and you recently recorded a song with a fellow student in Fanshawe’s Music industry Arts program that is more electronic pop. Are you still trying to find your niche or do you prefer not fitting into a box with your music?
When it comes to the genre of my music and brand as an artist, I am aiming for an alternative/pop sound but it definitely is all over the place currently. I am branching out into everything from indie acoustic, country and EDM. Every listener has a different taste of music so I believe it’s good to be all over the place as it makes my music easier to listen to for all ears.

What is your writing process? Does it come easily? Are they mostly about personal experiences?
Every song I write has a different story. Sometimes it’s easy to finish a song right away and other times I feel like it’s impossible to finish and still continue working on it. When it comes to lyrics, I write straight from the heart and it turns out to be words that everyone can relate to or find their own perspective of. I do co-write songs as well and I find it very rewarding what two or more people can come up with.

Speaking of Fanshawe’s celebrated MIA program, how are you enjoying that and what tools do you think it’s giving you to take you to that next level?
Fanshawe’s MIA program is simply amazing. It is unbelievable how fortunate London is to have this program and every student who has attended the program is lucky to be taught by some of the best in the industry. The program branches out to so many career options in the music industry from management, A&R, production, engineering and audio post production. I have absorbed so much information and am always thirsting for more. Meeting graduates and where their journey has lead to today is very inspirational and keeps me motivated to want to master as much as possible. I have learned so much from my professors and have made so many bonds with my colleagues. I’m really looking forward to graduating!

You were recommended the program by acclaimed London producer/songwriter Ryner Stoetzer who was a graduate himself. Ryner also has produced two of your EP’s and collaborated on several songs with you, particularly your 2016 EP Missing Pieces. How did you meet and how did he get involved with your career?
Yes! Ryner Stoetzer, my mom introduced me to him and his wife a few years ago. I wasn’t really involved in the music scene and all I wanted to do was record some songs and get some experience. I started co-writing with him and he taught me so much about writing, production and releasing music. He and his wife Mary were beyond helpful and supportive when it came to anything and still are today.

After two years, I had written and released two EP’s and my journey as an artist/singer/songwriter had fully begun. If I hadn’t worked with Ryner in the first place, I don’t think I would be where I am today. By the time I knew it, doors were opening out of nowhere and I suddenly met a bunch of down to earth, dedicated workers in the music scene.

You were accepted in the Make a Wish program a few years ago and had the opportunity to perform one of your original songs in front of 22,000 people in Cleveland during a Shawn Mendes show. Tell us about that experience and how that has affected your life. You volunteer as an ambassador for the foundation now and speak and perform at events is that right?
After I had brain surgery at 17 years old, in hopes to stop my Epilepsy, I was accepted as a wish kid which is the last thing I had expected. I knew what Make-A-Wish was but didn’t really know much about it. A year later I gave them a wish to “perform on a big stage” and before I knew it I was sharing the stage with Canada’s own, Shawn Mendes singing my first song that I wrote and released on my first EP “Missing Pieces”. It was a wild feeling getting to technically steal the stage from him and grab the attention from thousands of screaming fans. I didn’t get nervous for a second. I was more or less thinking “wow this is cool, I am going to sing on that stage in a few minutes’ as everyone was staring at me because they knew from social media that I was going to sing a song. Shawn and the whole team there were so kindhearted and so meaningful.

It’s really hard to fully describe Make-A-Wish as a wish kid because what they make happen is so unbelievable. It’s impossible to adequately express how thankful and happy my wish has made me. Make-A-Wish is just amazing and the workers, the donors and the sponsors are all wonderful. Since my wish took place in the USA, I have spoken as a wish kid, sharing my story and travelled the world singing the song “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten and my original “Distracted”.

How did you get the opportunity to perform at a radio station in Dublin Ireland? Are you getting much notice internationally?
My wish happened with the teamwork of Make-A-Wish SWO, Canada and America. It took place in an arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Then, weeks after my wish came true, I was invited to Arizona to represent SWO and myself, as a wish kid. I had the privilege of meeting Make-A-Wish workers internationally and met some workers from Ireland. I kept in contact and months later they invited me to sing at a big yearly gala that they were putting on. The Chief Executive from Ireland, Susan O’Dwyer officially invited me and before I knew it I was on my way to Dublin to sing 2 songs at a big, fancy and loud Crystal Ball! As soon as I landed, I went straight to Classic Hits 94-105FM in Dublin and shared stories about my health and my wish. There is no doubt that I gained fans and support in Ireland and world-wide… I am pretty lucky!

I’ve heard you mention Adele, Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes. Are those three your biggest influences in the industry? Who else has musically inspired you? Your voice is very original but I do hear the Adele influence.
I listen to all artists and it’s hard to say which one is the most inspiring to me. Adele definitely inspired me when it came to songwriting and performing. Ed Sheeran is astonishing and Shawn is a very captivating performer. They both are incredibly inspiring to growing artists including myself.

There have been endless artists of all genres that I have followed in the past year such as Billie Eilish, Lewis Capaldi, King Princess, Maggie Rogers, Phoebe Bridgers and Lizzo. Listening to all these artists and hearing how much of their music stands out is interesting and makes me want to find the best sound I can. They’re mostly pop but put their own unique stamp on it.

Your family is very musical and was a big influence growing up. In what ways did they support you along the way and help shape the performer you are today? How about your cousin Julia, did she also influence you?
I am very fortunate to have my family by my side and be supporting me since the beginning. They come out to all my shows and inspire me to keep at it. My cousin, Julia Haggarty is awesome and dedicates everything into her music abilities. She always has exciting things on the go and she is certainly an inspiration for myself and many more.

Your latest single, Want You so Bad, is doing very well on Spotify with over 10,000 plays. Will this song be part of an upcoming album or EP? What are your plans for the new year?
I have so many plans for 2020 – lots of surprises ahead! Want You so Bad will definitely be involved and I am so thankful for all the streams and followers!

Where do you hope to see yourself in 20 or 30 years? What do you think would make you happy looking back on your career?
I see myself writing songs and improving my skills as an artist. No matter what happens, I am interested in working in the music industry and there are endless opportunities so I want to continue working hard and see where life takes me. I think if I keep waking up every morning and make things happen, that’ll make me happy every time I look back. I want to inspire people with my story and my music too so that is one thing I hope I am able to look back on in 20-30 years.

I think you’ve already inspired people with your story! Thanks so much for talking with us.

Photo: Dan Boshart
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