Sarah Donner
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Sarah Donner

Princeton, New Jersey, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | INDIE

Princeton, New Jersey, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2007
Solo Alternative Singer/Songwriter




"Hooked From The Start"

Who is Sarah Donner? That is the question I was asking myself before listening to her new and sixth studio album, “That is a, Pegasus”. When I was finished listening to it the answer that I came away with as for who Sarah Donner is, she's a woman that has no fear in expressing herself in the lyrics of her music while exposing her mood set in the style of songs that she sings. Though I might not have never heard of Sarah Donner before now, the music that's been played on this album is a great explanation as to why and how she has been able to make a sixth album. Here music is a way that she seems to express herself in a fun, insightful ways that bear her soul to the world.

This is one of few albums that I can say is truly an expressive way of who the singer is. Sarah Donner might have a very fun and upbeat way she sings her songs but there's no mistaking the intimate relationships she sings about, her view that's being talked about, and how blunt she can be in the songs while also being able to play with words in a smart manner. This woman has a free spirit and it shines in her music. It's also hard not to get swept away in the songs to the point where I was also feeling upbeat and in a better mood, which was nice considering how gray, cloudy, and rainy the weather has been this past week and all day today. Her music really does have a fun, quirky beat to it that does help cheer up the mood but she has not made a full album that's all bouncy houses and cotton candy.

That is a, Pegasus includes songs that do have a more serious side to them where the mood being set is one that is intimate rather than chipper. Even though she does have some more soulful songs being included, the feeling of joy is the made one for this album. My favorite song on this album is, “Let Him Go”, because it encompasses the whole feeling of this album, from the fun beats, the quirky way she sings, the blunt in the face lyrics, and that wonderfully fun kazoo being played. This song might sound like it's a fun, joking song that has nothing serious about it, but the lyrics are very serious and they mean business. Sarah Donner has a strong voice that is soft when she needs to be as well as higher pitched to being upbeat and quirky. She keeps good tempo with this album, giving us songs that change in sound, the instruments are played with good levels where the vocals and instruments don't step on each other, and the catchy sound of the album just had me hooked from the start. - Shakefire - Lee Roberts

"Sarah Donner - That Is A Pegasus (review)"

If Marianne Faithful and Bob Dylan had a daughter, she would be Sarah Donner [link]. In her 6th studio release, This is a Pegasus appears to promote itself as a reflection piece, bearing its soul on thoughts on the past while using subjective observations on poignant life moments. Her song writing is playful, while at times direct and perhaps even too straightforward. The play on words she uses in songs like “Let Him Go” reveal Sarah Sarah Donner as an opinionated, but factual, songstress who is not afraid of sharing her thoughts and bearing her soul to her listeners.

However, if you dive deeper into her happy-go-lucky persona, there lies a pensive and complicated soul. Songs like “Perspective” summarize the album in its entirety. She tackles the complexities of relationships, intimate and otherwise, and clairvoyantly describes the crumbling and ultimate decimation of what was most likely something both parties had heavily invested.
I believe her experiences influence the direction of her vocal style. Throughout the album, her astute vocalizations reveals her mischievous side while maintaining clever and catchy chorus lines. Even though she fits the mold of the pinnacle singer/songwriter, Sarah Donner manipulates the normalities and forms them in her own fashion. It’s not hard to pick out a tall, elegant woman with pink hair and cat on her shoulder out of the usual singer/songwriter suspects. That, dear friends, is what makes her unique.
Highlights: Check out “Barely Breathing” and “Seine” while you’re cruising through these tracks. - Black On The Canvas

"Album Review- Sarah Donner -Fossil of Girl"


By Ashley Pagano
Sarah Donner, an Indie folkpop musician from New England really took me by surprise with an overwhelming amount of talent. The album, Fossil Of A Girl is quite the musical masterpiece for many reasons. There are lots of artists out there with talent, and it takes a lot to stand out. I’d say the vocals on this album are strong enough to convince me this lady has a gift for music. As if that was not enough, she plays the piano and guitar on the record as well. I’d say musically inclined is a bit of an understatement.
Just as the first episode of a TV show, to give you a taste of what the series will be all about, Sarah opens her album with a song titled, “The Pilot”. This song gives you a taste of what’s to come for the rest of the album. First off, her vocals are extraordinary. Her voice is incredibly easy to listen to. It’s the tone of voice that can put you in a good mood, even if the lyrics are depressing. Her voice is smooth and she sings with a lot of feeling and emotion, so you can hear the story she’s telling through the sound of her voice. On top of that her high notes are gorgeous. Basically, no one is going to turn it off after hearing the first track. They’ll definitely be in suspense to hear what is next. And what is next you ask? It is the title track, “Fossil Of A Girl”. I was taken aback by the lyrics immediately. They tell a story, and are full of depth, rather than just the bad rhyming you hear in most mainstream music these days. She has such an indescribable uniqueness to her voice, and it really shines in this track.
Track four, “Knocks On The Door” was the next song to really catch my attention. I hear a bit of Ingrid Michaelson in her writing here musically as well as lyrically. The harmonies in the chorus are simply mesmerizing. The song as whole, from composition to lyrics and melody is just very well done. This goes for “Summer Home” as well. This is the seventh gift on the album. Again, these lyrics really kept me focused on the meaning of the song. This song just shows what a true artist Sarah Donner is. To put it simply, it’s just a really beautiful track, and the violin adds a lot to it.
Here’s a little change of pace. So, all these beautiful, sweet tracks, and then here’s “Bitches You Can Steal My Shit” totally taking me by surprise. The change-up is actually just what the album needed. A little variation is always perfect. I love the entire message of this song, about people not being able to change you. I love the attitude bursting from this track. It is perfect. Then, just when I thought that was crazy enough, there’s a Ke$ha cover in the mix? Believe it. “Your Love Is My Drug” is track number 12. Ke$ha should watch out, because Sarah went ahead and made this song 100% her own. Hearing her rap the voices definitely brought a little smirk to my face. It definitely has a twist to it. The best part was the bridge, because it’s sweet to the ears, and then quickly becomes hilarious. Is there any song or style this gal can’t do?
In a nutshell, Sarah Donner can write, play, and do it well. On top of that, she’s not just talented in one department, and can do a variety of styles and sounds, all sounding just wonderful. The entire feel to her style is peaceful, happy, and even sometimes slightly humorous. She’s definitely the full package when it comes to musicians, and the world should keep an eye out for her.
Rating: 9/10
Release Date: May 2012
Record Label: Cat Lady Records
Recommended Tracks: “The Pilot”, “Bitches You Can Steal My Shit”, “Your Love Is My Drug”
For Fans Of: Ingrid Michaelson, Julia Nunes - The Sound Alarm

"Sarah Donner - Fossil of Girl REVIEW"

When I hear Sarah Donner´s voice, I think of Alanis Morissette. But Sarah Donner´s music bring thoughts to other artists like First Aid Kit, Miss Li and Mumford and Sons. There´s a bit of both classic 70´s singer/songwriter style and 21st century indie folk sounds in her latest album "Fossil of girl", Sarah is without doubt a talented artist where her songs feels honest and warm. She´s right at home with composing in key major, and I´m really impressed by her musical skills because she plays guitar, violin, ukulele and piano.
This album is filled with bright and positive songs where my favorites are "Going under", "The pilot", "Fossil of girl" and "All my guns". Also expect a real nice cover of Kesha´s "Your love is my drug", thumbs up. If you´re interested in more from Sarah Donner, you´ve got 3 more albums to check out in "Reluctant cat lady" (2007), "The sleep you´ve been missing" (2008) and "Typing is dangerous" (2010). - Roth n' Roll/Kaj Roth

"Possibly, the best thing ever."

The Oatmeal Animates The Song "Dinosaur Disco"
The Oatmeal animates Sarah Donner’s profane song dedicated to flying thunder lizards, “The M*****F****** Pterodactyl.” Warning: the song is, how do you say? NSFW. It’s also, possibly, the best thing ever. [] - Team Coco (Conan O'Brien)

"Kittens Falls Asleep to Some Amazing Music"

(CBS News) So awhile back I came across a very funny music video that I couldn't put up due to a lot of adult language (you can see it here), but got curious about the artist and was not disappointed. Check out Sarah Donner singing her song "Treeline" to a very sleepy kitty.

What I love is beyond the adorable overload video of the kitten falling asleep before our eyes, Sarah Donner has an amazing voice and obvious talent. Which is why I'm not only including one music video, but two in this post. Be sure to check out her music video for "Going Under" below (no sleepy kittens this time, but plenty of sock puppets) and to see more work by Sarah Donner, you can visit her YouTube page by clicking here or her Facebook page by clicking here.

-William Goodman - CBS News

"Seeds Talks to Sarah Donner"

Sarah Donner is the indie-folk songstress you wish you could be. She’s got badass fingerpickin’ skills, stunning vocal harmonies, sharp lyrics, classical training and a small army of foster kittens. Sarah’s been featured on NPR’s You Bet Your Garden and even hosts a weekly videoblog “Ask A Catlady” for
Sarah was kind enough to take a few moments away from rescuing kittens and being an indie-folk pop starlet to talk to us at seeds about folk music, emotional distances and everyone’s favorite topic, New Jersey.
SEEDS: I noticed that you’re based in NJ. I am, too. Can you please verify this statement for me: “New Jersey does not suck.”
Sarah: Alas, I cannot wholeheartedly.
SEEDS: Lame!
Sarah: I was born and raised in Massachusetts, and I am still very attached to my New England roots. I do believe home is where the heart is, so I have never felt completely ‘settled’ here.
I think most people judge this state on Snooki or a drive down the Turnpike. It’s easy to overlook the nicer parts like Princeton. Here we have black squirrels, four ice cream shops, and a nuclear fusion reactor.
SEEDS: You’re a graduate of Princeton’s Westminster Choir College. What made you decide to pursue the singer-songwriter route instead of doing musical theater or choral music?
Sarah: I did some songwriting while I was there, but the school didn’t really foster singer/songwriters. The dorms had practice rooms downstairs, so it was very easy for me to write, especially when I was actually supposed to be practicing an aria or art song. I am easily distracted!
SEEDS: Join the club. Music’s a great place for people with short attention spans.
Sarah: After I graduated Westminster, I was accepted to NYU’s grad program in musical theatre, but they didn’t offer me any financial aide whatsoever. I didn’t want to incur more debt than I already had, so I decided to give up that dream and start writing for myself. I took a stab at auditioning for regional theatre and touring companies, but I was too impatient. Success as an actor depends more on the acceptance of others. I just wanted to perform, and I didn’t have time for that. Musical theatre is still very much part of who I am though.
SEEDS: Your love of cats has been widely publicized, but what do you think about dogs?
Sarah: I am a huge fan of all animals. Cats just happen to be the ones in need outside my door. I grew up with a cockerpoo named Teddy who passed away last year. Losing him was very painful, and I still get weepy when I think of him. Being a musician involves a lot of travel, and I don’t think it’d be fair to keep a dog at this point in my life. Cats are a bit easier to maintain, so they win my affection for now!
SEEDS: You make a lot of fun videos, sometimes featuring cute animals like kittens and polar bears. How involved are you in the music video process?
Sarah: It depends on the video. The ‘Going Under’ video was my idea, but it took about fifty more people to realize the project. The puppeteers, the fans who made the puppets, the friends who allowed us to take over their basement for a month, and a technical crew made it possible.
The ‘Someday’ video was happenstance. This polar bear at the Chicago zoo was swimming in circles, and I filmed it for ten minutes. She was breathtaking to watch, but her repetitive motion filled me with a kind of mourning for her freedom.
The famous ‘Sleepy Kitten’ video was a completely lucky situation where my foster kitten Lady Peanut decided to listen intently as I played my song ‘Treeline’. I always have a video camera nearby!
I’m improving my editing skills thanks to the weekly Ask A Cat Lady blog hosted by Who knows what I would make if I had a budget!
SEEDS: It sounds like you’ve got a real love for folk instrumentation/arrangement, particularly in the strings/percussion. Could you please share your thoughts on the arrangement process?
Sarah: The guitar lends itself to my writing because of the breadth of emotions that it can communicate. I can be joyful, tender, angry, frustrated, or goofy. It’s always the foundation of the song.
In terms of arrangement, my ears love to hear the unexpected. My percussionist Brad Sicotte brings a bag of ‘toys’ to performances, and I’m never sure what he will play.
When I am recording, I have a pretty organic arranging process. I lay out the keyboard, violin, thumbharp, microkorg, kaossilator, shakers, toy piano, xylophone, etc. I start grabbing instruments and recording different parts to see what works. I paint the picture with whatever colours I have.
SEEDS: You’ve got some real fingerpickin’ skills on guitar, by the way.
Sarah: Why, thank you very much! When I first started playing guitar, I covered a lot of Dar Williams. I had her songbook, and I learned the tab for songs like ‘February’ and ‘When I Was A Boy’. I also listened to Iron and Wine, James Taylor, and Patty Griffin. The more I liked a song, the more I would practice. I have an affinity for e - Hypetree Blog

"Cat Magic: Catster's First Music Video Columnist"

Monday, December 5, 2011
Cat Magic: Catster's First Video Columnist

Singer/songwriter Sarah Donner made her way into our cat-crazed consciousness last year via a viral music video for her single, “Treeline,” which featured one very sleepy (and undeniably adorable) kitten. We loved her spunk and style so much that we invited her to be Catster’s personal songstress, and our very first video columnist. Every Friday in her “Ask a Cat Lady” segment, Sarah answers a question from readers in (what else?) song. Describing the offbeat magic Sarah’s humor brings to these videos is difficult, so we invite you to have a small taste.

We recently sat down with Sarah (virtually) to quiz her on her column, her cute cat-lovin’ husband and all things kitty:

When did you first realize you were a Cat Lady? And how did you come to OWN it instead of running from it? I did run from it at first, kind of how I still run from the term “Jersey Girl.” I am from Massachusetts! I just happen to have resided in NJ for the last 10 years. Anyhow, my first album is titled Reluctant Cat Lady, which tells you how I was still scared of being judged by others. I actually used to make fun of my sister-in-law who had five cats. Now I have anywhere between four and nine cats in my house, and she only has one! I didn't jump wholeheartedly into the cat lady scene until my Sleepy Kitten video went viral. Suddenly I had loads of fans who were cat lovers too, and I realized I didn't need to live in fear. I harnessed the marketing power of cats on the Internet and began steering my music towards animal lovers.

How many cats do you have to have before becoming an official Cat Lady? It depends on if you want to be a “cat lady” or a “Cat Lady.” I know some very enthusiastic cat ladies with only one or two cats. Those are lower case cat ladies. Cat Ladies need to have three or more cats. Crazy Cat Ladies end up on episodes of Hoarders.

Your husband is a bigger cat person than you are. Tell us about that, we love cat guys! This whole cat operation wouldn't be possible without my husband Michael. Last month he stayed up until 2 a.m. to catch Oatmeal. He took apart my car to fish Crumpet out from my engine compartment. He gets under wheel wells, in bushes, and behind sheds to rescue kitties. Michael even digs the holes to bury kitties when they have passed. Last year we had a litter that needed to be bottle fed every 4-5 hours, and he would take the early shift at 5 a.m. His parents raised him with a compassion for all living things that I rarely see in other men. I'm pretty sure it's because he had a pony growing up. We make a great team, and I couldn't do it alone. Clipping claws, taking temperatures, administering antibiotics, and wiping poop wouldn't be nearly as much fun without Michael.

How do you come up with your songs and videos for Catster? I have a file of questions from Catster readers, and I choose the ones that to lend themselves to a fun song. I try to choose quirky and universal issues that cat lovers face. Once I have a topic, I do research and take notes that inspire lyrics. With a guitar or piano handy, I start noodling around with chords and rhythms while humming melodies on top. Usually if I can compose a verse and chorus, the rest is cake. Writing one song every week takes great discipline, and it forces me to write without pretense. You can't take yourself too seriously when singing about wet meat and hairballs. After I write the song I set up my studio or kitchen with many clip lights, put the video camera on a tripod, and hope that some cat will cooperate and perform with me. It usually takes an hour to film one song. I also try to get footage that pertains to the subject. It's hard though because cats often stop 'performing' once I grab the camera. In the end I sit at my computer and edit all the clips into a three-minute spectacle, complete with outtakes and cat shenanigans.

So, tell us about your day job... As an artist, I have a number of jobs that keep the kittens well fed. During the school year, I am a charge scenic artist for various theatres in the area. I paint the set, the stage, props, and muslin drops. It's my job to take a designer's set model and realize it on a full scale. I also teach guitar and voice lessons in my studio. In the summer time I tour the country and try to spread my music as much as possible.

Do any of your cats travel with you when you're on the road touring? Heavens no. I don't even want to travel with me when I'm touring. I get squirrely after a few hours in the car. We have a wonderful friend who spends the summer in our apartment taking care of the kitties. And we take foster kittens on road trips from NJ to MA when we need to. Kittens in the van on I-95 for five hours is a team effort.

What is the most head-against-wall thing about cats? Puking. I swear they do it just to piss me off.

What's the absolute best thing about cats? Why should everybody have one? I l -

"Split down the middle: Opening Night Platz Picks"

To that end, keep an ear out for the quirky Sarah Donner (Town Square, 7 p.m.). I haven't seen her live yet, but based on what I've heard from her music, I'm impressed with how she transcends those old female-singer-songwriter clichés with sharp lyrics that range from oddball to incisive. - Lehigh Music Blog

"Sock Puppets and the Art of the YouTube Music Video"

Sarah Donner knows how to engage her audience (on the stage and off). Last Fall she began handing out socks at her concerts. Tube socks, dress socks, blue socks, red socks . . . The idea was to get her fans to create sock puppets that would eventually appear in her new music video.

Sarah explains:

“Attached was a slip of paper with directions and my address. I also made a ‘how to’ music video (very meta indeed) which I posted on puppet blogs, craft blogs, whatever. ”

Sarah had no idea if her audience would respond or not. But, sure enough, sock puppets began showing up in the mail:

“Not only were fans becoming involved, but so were professional puppeteers, costume designers, and art directors. Between the crafty fans and the crew of puppeteers in the video, I had over 100 people invested in making this video. It was a great way to get everyone excited for the release. We even made teasers with puppet interviews! And now it’s out and being spread far and wide.”

Check out Sarah’s video for her song ‘Going Under.’

Sarah involved her audience in such a way that they felt ownership in the project. They were literally a part of the creative process and therefore they were far more likely to share and promote Sarah’s video. (It’s also well done and cute, which helps!)

Sarah advises:

“If you can find a way to get loads of people invested in your music video, whether its providing a location, bringing the pizza for the crew, being a puppeteer, moving scenery, being an extra, making the geisha puppet, or holding rubber ducks on sticks, the video will go a lot further via word of mouth!” - CD Baby DIY Blog

"Cat Lovers Unite"

Sheltering strays was the responsible thing to do for Sarah Donner, a pink-haired rocker from Princeton. And then, reluctantly, it became her identity. But karma surfaced recently and started returning the favor.

Before we can talk about her music or her monthly indie music showcase, we need to address Sarah Donner’s apparent fixation on cats. Pictures and videos of them are posted all over her MySpace and Facebook pages. Her own music label is called CatLady Records. She tentatively agrees to host me at her Princeton home as long as I “don’t mind the cats.” And when I reach her apartment, it’s hard to ignore the paintings of cats (more tasteful than you’re imagining) that adorn the vibrant kitchen as we settle in.
Donner’s reaction is not what I expect. I expect her to take off on the topic as soon as it’s put on the table. But she seems almost embarrassed by it.
Six years ago, she caught a kitten eating a bagel from a garbage can behind her home. So, she started feeding it. At that point, “I didn’t have any cats,” Donner says. “And I was fine without any cats.” Almost overnight, a bunch of strays from her closely-clustered block joined the kitten. And then those cats, come spring, started multiplying.
Donner, 30, and her husband were at a loss. But they’re animal lovers, so it was inevitable that they started collecting the cats, domesticating them and then finding homes for them. Still, they were coming in faster than they were going out. Friends and family started collecting strays and bringing them over.
At the height of their sheltering days, they housed 10 cats, though six of them, Donner says, were kittens, which are really only like a quarter cat each in her estimation. They have four now, which is where they’re holding until they move into a bigger home. Later, Donner calls for them, and two mammoth cats sheepishly push open the nearest door and find their way to our side, followed by two more that are about half the size. The white tip of Duncan’s tail, one of the huge cats, is dyed pink to match Donner’s bangs.
“It’s just one of those things that you end up embracing because … I don’t know,” Donner says. “What people think you are turns into what you are, I suppose.”

Lost and found in London
Enrollment in Westminster Choir College brought the Massachusetts native to New Jersey. But it became evident to her early on that she didn’t fit the classical mold. Though the pink hair, which started as a simple streak and morphed into countless variations, didn’t make its first appearance on the otherwise brunette Donner until four years ago, long after graduation.
She picked up the guitar during her sophomore year. Donner was already writing her own music, which she began doing during high school with the piano. She believes that “New England is in my blood,” but it’s London that’s more responsible for shaping Donner into the singer-songwriter she is today.
After college, Donner was hired by a single mother to be her son’s nanny. The mother was relocated to London, and Donner followed. She was there for about a year-and-a-half in all, including a couple of summers in Scotland. Not very long, but long enough to be transformative.
Donner tends to write songs when she’s especially moved or motivated, which means a typical session could yield three or four songs. But then, nothing for a couple of months. In London, though, everything she was seeing and experiencing was new and inspirational. Plus, without any friends at first and lots of time on her hands, Donner was able to invest big chunks of days into getting better at playing and toying with melodies.
She began attending and then playing open mics. And with the confidence she gained over those nights, Donner started cutting loose and rocking out. “Before that, it was slow, folkier. It’s easier to play slow, folk-y,” she says. “When you have so much time on your hands to sit and practice your instrument, you try different things. And I think I was able to try different things and be respected and welcomed for my different ideas or my weird lyrics over there.”
Donner today describes her music as alternative-folk-pop. It’s really a matter of which day you catch her. She plays solo shows acoustically, which casts her quirky lyrics in a definitively folk light. But with her band behind her—a percussionist and a bassist—the same songs take a decisive turn toward alternative rock. Donner’s not being noncommittal for the sake of securing a broad fan base, though that shouldn’t be entirely removed from the realm of possibility. Her songs can be as corny as they can be insightful. She was interviewed on NPR’s “You Bet Your Garden” in October because she made a video of herself playing a song about irrigation—“totally not a top 40 hit at all,” Donner admits—and sent it to the show’s host, Mike McGrath, with the simple aim of gaining some exposure. (More on that in a moment.)
London also filled Donner with a lot of new respect for her craft. There - Bucks Life Magazine

"Sarah Donner "Going Under""

“Going Under” by Sarah Donner is one of the tracks confirming that you’re on Australia128. Sarah is one of dozens of independent singer songwriters who make great music, using the internet to promote themselves. The song is pure, powerful, full of energy, and makes you realise why you like this type of music

Sarah Donner is the singer/songwriter/creative type. At least that’s how she defines herself. She loves to travel and to be an indie rock star. She loves cats, paints, and runs the Indie Music Night in New Jersey, USA. Oh and did we mention she loves cats? It’s actually a big thing, like her passion for the AcroCats, a band whose members are…cats. We used to think that Indie music stars wouldn’t be colourful enough to talk about but Sarah is definitely living proof that there’s enough stories out there.

Sarah Donner is an artist of our generation. Browsing through her blogspot blog, it’s easy to get to know the real her. That’s what makes her different to the record-label driven blogging superstars. Not that her music changes once you know she recently got married and was given a Wii…but at least you feel the artists you hear on Australia128 are people like you and me. “Going Under”, by Sarah Donner, frequently on Australia128 ! - Australia 128

"Sarah Donner "Going Under""

“Going Under” by Sarah Donner is one of the tracks confirming that you’re on Australia128. Sarah is one of dozens of independent singer songwriters who make great music, using the internet to promote themselves. The song is pure, powerful, full of energy, and makes you realise why you like this type of music

Sarah Donner is the singer/songwriter/creative type. At least that’s how she defines herself. She loves to travel and to be an indie rock star. She loves cats, paints, and runs the Indie Music Night in New Jersey, USA. Oh and did we mention she loves cats? It’s actually a big thing, like her passion for the AcroCats, a band whose members are…cats. We used to think that Indie music stars wouldn’t be colourful enough to talk about but Sarah is definitely living proof that there’s enough stories out there.

Sarah Donner is an artist of our generation. Browsing through her blogspot blog, it’s easy to get to know the real her. That’s what makes her different to the record-label driven blogging superstars. Not that her music changes once you know she recently got married and was given a Wii…but at least you feel the artists you hear on Australia128 are people like you and me. “Going Under”, by Sarah Donner, frequently on Australia128 ! - Australia 128

"Heartaches and Harmonies"

SONGWRITERS have been translating heartache into melody for centuries, scoring the human condition with weather-worn notebooks and battered guitars. As the Irish folk singer Frank Harte once said, “Those in power write the history, while those who suffer write the songs.”

In Brooklyn, at least, they don’t have to suffer alone. At the Brooklyn Songwriters Exchange, a free monthly series for aspiring and established songwriters, they can air original work for eager, empathetic ears.

The exchange — the next one is on Monday, before a monthlong hiatus in January — was founded by Rebecca Pronsky, 30, a voice teacher and musician who describes her songs as “more western than country and more twangy than folk.” Participants have included novices and bona fides like Lucy Wainwright Roche, a daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche.

The exchange can function as a formal showcase, where a handful of artists play abbreviated sets, or as a string of in-the-round sessions. “It’s an old Nashville thing, where three or four songwriters sit in a semicircle and face the audience, and one plays a song, and then the next one plays a song, and then the next one,” Ms. Pronsky explained. The effect can be serendipitous, with other musicians adding welcome embellishments. “Somebody will sing on top of someone else’s songs, or someone will noodle and play,” she added. “It’s a group effort, like a campfire.”

Ms. Pronsky began the series at a former Brooklyn coffee shop called Vox Pop in 2005. “I didn’t have any connections,” she said. “The espresso machine was always whooshing.” In late 2006 it moved to the Brooklyn Lyceum, a cavernous space on Fourth Avenue in Gowanus, where it ran weekly before moving again, to Union Hall, a bustling bar and music site in Park Slope. The lineup consists primarily of locals, although Ms. Pronsky also recruits artists from outside the borough.

Sarah Donner, 30, an “alternative folk-pop” songwriter and exchange alumna from Princeton, N.J., said it provided solidarity for musicians accustomed to playing alone. “As a singer-songwriter you’re usually solo, so it’s really nice to have that same kind of support from your peers and colleagues,” Ms. Donner said.

Ms. Pronsky has worked to imbue the series with a small-town, all-inclusive energy. “The scene of playing in New York is very ‘get in, get out,’ ” she said. “You go to see your friend’s band, and then you leave and go see another band somewhere else.” At Union Hall the audience lingers.

“At the end of the show you’ve created a teeny-tiny community of artists that you didn’t have before, and that goes a long way,” Ms. Donner said.

In the new year Ms. Pronsky will relinquish her duties to Jason Crosby (a singer-songwriter and producer who has performed with Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton) and one of his collaborators, the singer and multi-instrumentalist Megan Palmer, who plan to move the exchange in February to Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg, with continued financial support from the performance rights group Ascap. “There is such a large talent pool in Brooklyn, and it hasn’t stopped growing,” Mr. Crosby said in an e-mail. “This series is a way for these people to come together and meet, and share their art.”

WHEN AND WHERE Monday. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.; show at 8 p.m., Union Hall, 702 Union Street, at Fifth Avenue, Park Slope.

MORE INFO (718) 638-4400, - The New York Times

"5 Questions with the Cat Lady, Sarah Donner"

About a week ago I came across the cutest, sweetest YouTube video ever, of singer/songwriter Sarah Donner singing her song, "Treeline" to a sleepy kitten. Immediately I thought, who is this person? I need to know more! So, here's the deal. Sarah is a musician, she writes awesome tunes, and she rescues kitties. Check out our Q&A with Sarah below to learn more …

1. You've rescued over 50 cats and helped get them placed in loving homes. How did you get started in animal rescue?

It all started on a blustery winter day when I found a kitten dragging a bagel out of my garbage bin. I started to feed the little guy, and then word got out on the street. All the feral cats began to feed at my stoop, and then bring their babies with them. I started catching the kittens with hopes of finding homes. I became quite adept at domesticating them with the help of my husband and a lot of wet food! My reputation grew as a cat lady once I began performing regularly and advertising my adoptable cats at shows and online. Now I get emails and phone calls from people who want kitties or have questions about cats. My father-in-law, another animal lover, also brings me stray kittens that he finds in his neighborhood 30 minutes away.

2. Do you have any advice for people who are looking to adopt or aid in the rescue of the thousands of adorable, helpless, homeless animals out there?

Sure, check your local shelter! Consider getting an adult cat or dog because the babies always find homes. There are many loveable pets for adoption who've lost their homes because of foreclosures, an owner passing away, allergies, etc.

Finally, if you have an animal for adoption, never publicly offer them as "free to a good home." Charging a small fee keeps the sketchy people at bay.

3. You also help animals through your music, and have your very own record label, CatLady Records. What inspires you to make music and what do you have coming up that we can look forward to?

Mostly my songs stem from the stories of people around me. I'm usually inspired when I empathize with the challenges and joys faced by friends and family. When I write a serious song, I try to balance it by writing a quirky song. To me lyrics are of utmost importance. I do most of my writing on the bed which usually has my four cats on it. Sometimes they surreptitiously weasel their way into my lyrics literally or metaphorically. My most gratifying part of the process is the performance. I love the stage!

The future looks busy and exciting. My third album, Typing Is Dangerous was just released this fall, so I'm promoting that. "Treeline" was released as a single a few weeks ago. A music video for my tune "Going Under" will be produced this winter. My fourth national tour is on the horizon for June 2011. I will have a few holiday tunes available online in the coming weeks too, so watch for that!

4. Are there any other animal rights issues you feel passionate about (ie: animal testing, dog fighting, factory farming, etc)?

Declawing makes me so sad. I won't let a kitten go to a home that has plans to declaw. It's outlawed in many countries, and it's pathetic that the United States isn't one of them. You aren't prepared to care for a pet if you feel your furniture is more precious than your animal's well being. If someone is considering declawing, they should take time to educate themselves on the subject. There are alternatives!

I've also recently read Animals Make Us Human and Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin. I was so disgusted at her description of slaughterhouse conditions and methods. I gave up [eating] mammals over a year ago, and I've cut down significantly on the rest. I try to be conscientious about where and how my food is obtained. I'm signing the Spare a Turkey Pledge on peta2!

5. What are some of your favorite vegetarian foods?

I love Indian cuisine, and I recently began cooking a chickpea & potato curry. Also, I'm a big fan of chili and bean burritos. I have quite the sweet tooth as well so it's not hard to find meat-free cupcakes and candy!

To see more on the fabulous Sarah Donner, be sure to check out her YouTube, and Facebook pages. You can even download her song Treeline for free on Sarah's Facebook page! And please, let us know what you think, too! - PETA2

"Find a New Audience by Making Non-Musical Connections"

We could all learn something from Sarah Donner. In the past 3 months she’s had 2 big successes with quirky niche marketing techniques.

Sure, niche marketing is a bit easier when you make themed music. Trop-rockers appeal to Parrotheads. Horse-loving artists like Mary Ann Kennedy appeal to the equestrian community. Eileen Quinn’s nautically-themed music is a big hit with boating enthusiasts.

But what if you’re an artist who covers a range of topics, or a range of styles, and your “target market” isn’t so clearly defined?

Well, you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself or limit your musical expression in order to make non-musical or extra-musical connections. You can stay true to your own artistic whims AND find the places where your interests may occasionally intersect with the interests of an outside audience. Sarah Donner gives us two great examples of niche marketing via video:

1) She set up a camera and filmed a baby kitten falling asleep while she strummed a ukulele and sang her song “Treeline.” Then she sent the video to websites for cat lovers where it was re-posted. It went viral after being featured on Modern Cat and a number of popular kitten/daily cute websites, earning her new fans even though the song itself had nothing to do with cats. The adorable kitty in the video was enough of a connection point for this new audience to become receptive to Sarah’s music. Check out Sarah Donner’s kitten video for her song “Treeline” HERE.

2) The other music video was shot in her tour minivan, and was a performance of her tune called “The
Center Pivot Irrigation Song” (in honor of their long trek through Kansas). Sarah sent the video to farm and gardening websites where it caught the attention of Mike McGraff from NPR’s “You Bet Your Garden” program. Mike invited Sarah into the studio for an interview and performance. Suddenly, a whole host of horticultural enthusiasts were exposed to music they may never have heard elsewhere. Check out Sarah Donner’s video for “The Center Pivot Irrigation Song” HERE.

Have you made similar extra-musical connections with strange, new audiences? How? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

-Chris R. at CD Baby - The DIY Musician CD Baby blog

"Donner Party to Celebrate"

If Donner ends up winning the Mountain Stage New Song Contest, she'll be able to record a five-song EP produced and engineered by Jacquire King, a Grammy-winning producer who has worked with Kings of Leon, Norah Jones and others.

She certainly has the chance and know-how. Last year, Donner was a finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival and is also the host and founder of Indie Music Night, a monthly series featuring live music in Princeton.

She's got a quirky sense of humor. She describes herself as a "rock star, cat lady" kind of girl. To some extent, that's quite true. Her first album is called "Reluctant Cat Lady," and her latest album was released under Cat Lady Records.

Tomorrow night, attendees can expect the usual warm-hearted, comfortable Sarah Donner. Her poignant, to-the-point lyrics mesh well with her unique stage presence, and listeners are often seen laughing and sometimes clapping along to her witty and well-put words.

To sample her music for free, log onto (

While there, definitely check out "Going Down" and "Whalers and Sailors." -

"Sarah Donner on Restlessness, Lyrics, and Cheesecake"

What's New in Princeton & Central New Jersey?
Reprinted from the September 8, 2010, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper
Sarah Donner on Restlessness, Lyrics, and Cheesecake
by Kevin L. Carter

Sarah Donner
Sarah Donner, the singer-songwriter whose stewardship of Indie Music Night at the Griggstown Pavilion has given many musicians, from nearby and farther away, a spotlight, is at an interesting place in her life. Since we last checked in with Donner (“Music for the MySpace Crown,” U.S.1, January 10, 2007), she has married (a year ago to husband Michael) and turned 30 (she disclosed this reluctantly, but with good humor), and the self-monikered Cat Lady is enjoying herself. Her new record, “Typing Is Dangerous,” she says matter-of-factly, is “a more grown-up record, which I guess is what happens when you grow up,” she says.

Donner will formally release “Typing Is Dangerous,” her third record, on her CatLady Records, with a CD release party at Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street, on Saturday, September 11.

Not that Donner, an attractive brunette/pink-haired woman with an outlook and sense of humor both sunny and wry, doesn’t still have a need to explore, expand, travel, and encounter new challenges and situations. Being on the road, says Donner, “totally rejuvenates me. I’m very sad when I have to come back. I tend to feel like I’m in a rut when I’m in one place for too long. I feel like I’m not living as full a life as I could.”

This settled but restless life is reflected in Donner’s new work. “A lot of the songs (on the record) reflect a sort of restlessness I have as I’m getting older,” she says. “I’m just craving that success, the freedom to be able to perform for a living — I’m not trying to be Madonna or anything, but I would like to be able to make a living performing; that would be fabulous. I wrote a lot of songs that reflected that feeling.”

The title of the new album comes from the second song on the disc. “I always try to pick lyrics that are different and not conventional; I work very hard on my words,” she says. “If I’m writing something and it sounds too normal or conversational, I kind of go back and rework it. I like the sound of certain words in my mouth. Because I like to sing so much, I’m aware of what words feel nice.”

As a Princeton University employee — she works as a set designer and painter for McCarter and Princeton’s theater and dance departments — she largely gets the summer off, which gives her a chance to tour the country, which she did happily during the months of June and July. With Michael as Fred/Shaggy to her Daphne/Velma, the couple and their cats, and Sarah’s guitars, hopped into their minivan and went west.

She enjoys visiting the midwest and west, where people are friendlier than back east. This summer’s itinerary took her to Seattle and back for a three-week tour with stops in Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Paul, Billings, Montana, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Seattle, Colorado, and St. Louis. “It was great. I did that last summer too,” says Donner. “This time around it was much better to me musically, financially. I don’t know that I’m getting much better, just that people are coming out to shows and being supportive. I know a lot of artists blame the economy for not being able to get fans out, or for not having the support they need, but I thought this time out, things went very well.”

Donner used social media and old-fashioned word of mouth to get the word out, and she, like many other independent musicians, does house concerts as well as shows at coffeehouses and other venues. “For me, as a solo artist, the house concerts are not only lucrative financially, which is really helpful when you’re on the road, but you automatically have a better relationship with the people who come out as your fans. They say hi, and talk with you, and eat cheesecake with you.”

She has just been named a regional round finalist in the Northeast division in the Mountain Stage New Song Contest. The winner of the contest will appear on the NPR show Mountain Stage, and Donner says she would really love to be on the show. “It’s pretty big. I just found out last week. Just getting to be a finalist is kind of encouraging and validating for me. It makes me feel that I am on the right path and that I’m growing as a writer and as a musician.”

Donner grew up in a Portugese-American community in the maritime and whaling town of New Bedford, MA. Her father is a worship leader at a church there, where Donner sang in the choir. She graduated from Westminster Choir College in 2001 with a B.A. in music performance.

The term Cat Lady fits Donner. She has always loved cats, and she has manifested that love in her present incarnation as the Princeton Cat Lady who also happens to sing and paint for a living. Donner and her husband share their Princeton place with four permanent cats and many others, often hurt or otherwise endangered, who are either delivered to her or which she finds, nurt - U.S. 1 Newspaper

"Mountain Stage New Song Finalist!"

Princeton, NJ-based independent musician Sarah Donner, a 2002 graduate of Westminster Choir College, has been announced as a regional round finalist for the Northeast division in the Mountain Stage New Song Contest. Donner has the distinction of being the only New Jersey talent to make the regional round finalist for this prestigious competition which draws thousands of entrants from across the country.

The winner of the contest gets the chance to record a 5-song EP produced and engineered by Grammy-winning producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Norah Jones) as well as a performance on the internationally broadcast Mountain Stage (NPR) show.

Sarah Donner’s third full length solo release Typing is Dangerous was mixed in Ireland by recording engineer Owen Lewis (REM, Snow Patrol and more). A CD release party will be held at Small World Coffee on September 11 from 8:30-10:30 p.m. The recently renovated café is located at 14 Witherspoon Street in Princeton.

A 2009 New Folk finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival, Sarah Donner will open for Jill Sobule at Concert at the Crossing in Titusville on October 23. She is also the host and founder of Indie Music Night, an acclaimed monthly series featuring premium live music held in Princeton. For more information, email or visit -

"Skip Along"

"The tunes often skip along her peppy strumming and an eager, near-breathless vocal style, keeping up with lots of self-deprecation and goofy details" - The Onion


"Phenomenal, engaging, and addition to having a beautiful voice, great chops, and a pen to be envious of." - Apple iTunes

"Supple & Spirited"

"She practically attacked her guitar, and her left hand clocked a lot of mileage on the fret board. Her songs are restless, almost unable or unwilling to slow down and let you catch up. A supple and spirited vocal, and an engaging presence. And the songs are interesting and quirky."...Z. Mulls - Z. Mulls

"American Musician has her new CD reviewed by one of her contemporaires, just because her music is that good."

American Musician has her new CD reviewed by one of her contemporaires, just because her music is that good.

PRLog (Press Release) – Feb 02, 2009 – Not being asked to write this review, I feel compelled to on the premise that the artistry of humanity links souls in manners and fashions becoming of such notions as inherent in the Latin term Agape; from a place of genuine respect do these words arrive into our shared reality to serve the purpose of exalting talent or, at least, to call attention to some component of life that enriches the intrinsic value of being alive….and whatnot.

Sarah Donner, the princess of Princeton, New Jersey, has conjured a second complete set of original songs freshly engineered and duplicated for the year 2009, “The Sleep You’ve Been Missing” that offers some of the best in sonic enhancements that our contemporary times have.

Even if you don’t know her debut album, “Reluctant Cat Lady,” “The Sleep…” is more than mildly entertaining. Sarah’s pleasing timbre and great control of her voice is the core of her music.

Her light melodies and brilliant lyrics are steeped with subtle allusions to deeper insights; Sarah Donner is less quirky than one may assume she is upon first inspection of her music. The singsong sway of “Whalers and Sailors” is well balanced by the whispers permeating the melody of “Suffragette,” and the bouncy rhythms from various instruments, coupled with the at times haunting harmonies display her affinity for songwriting and are, quite frankly, a joy to experience.

For those who have known her previous album, and know of her hectic live performance schedule AND her cultivation of the Indie Music Night in Griggstown, New Jersey (literally building a music scene out of what used to be a barn), “The Sleep You’ve Been Missing” depicts her evolution as an artist and composer.

The seamless inclusion of electronic elements in the songs “Wall Street” and “Infinity” as well as the live percussion and rock feel of the song “State of Mind” are indicative of her further development.

The more she progresses, the better refined her own sound becomes; her confidence in her abilities has improved and her music shows such with a glorious triumph of an independent album.

Sarah Donner is truly one of the exemplary musicians of our time and needs to gain more public attention for the beautiful works she creates. While America is readily importing songstresses from England, perhaps we would do well to also celebrate one of the unique and masterful musicians arising from The States. - American Musician

"Call It Graceful"

"I gave Sarah a few listens and would like to say, first and foremost, that her most attractive artistic qualities are her voice (firm but playful) and her simplistic (you could call it graceful) approach to the writing process.

However, I must say
that she has a keen sense of building up and slowing down, both in rhythm and dynamics,
because all of these phrases had a definite sense of rise and fall. That is key.

When she "lets it all hang out" and hangs on a few notes, it's truly wonderful. I understand that (a la Ani DiFranco or Joni Mitchell) sometimes a more speak/singing tactic works, but I was most impressed in the choruses of "To the Ocean" and "Siren" of her vocal quality."
- Chris Potter- music critic

"Sarah Donner - Cat Lady Rock and Roll"

A gifted singer and a talented songwriter. Sarah Donner plays the kind of cute singer/songwriter pop that you might hear as a soundtrack for a Jason Reitman film (If you don’t know, he directed Up in the Air and Juno.) It’s the kind of music you can listen to and just relax as you enjoy the film. And then something hits you, maybe a line that isn’t just quirky, but actually profound with songs like "These Things" ( We know how you want it to be/but sometimes these things are bigger than you think/ You want to go back to New Jersey/but sometimes New Jersey’s not as big as you think). Sarah writes the music that returns you to earth. With gentle melodies along with passionate, insightful, and often quirky lyrics, Ms. Donner has been creating a special place for herself in New Jersey’s indie music scene for nearly a decade. Sometimes her songs adult drama and sometimes her songs are about cats, and she would not be above writing about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s monster musical. She has released two albums, 2007’s Reluctant Cat Lady and 2008’s The Sleep You’ve Been Missing, as well as three holiday EPs, and is now working on her third album.

A young lady with music smarts. A graduate of Westminster College, Ms Donner has been involved with music since she was 5 years old, singing in church choirs, musical theater or wherever she could be heard. Not only is she a renowned indie act, but she also puts on a monthly indie showcase of Mercer County’s best indie artists. She is also always on the road, playing 100 hundreds of shows every year, creating new fans at every stop.

A cat lady rock star. A package of great songs and a unique worldview, Sarah Donner is laying down the foundation for one of the greatest indie music careers this decade.

How long have you been playing?

Sarah Donner: I’ve been playing guitar for about 10 years, but I’ve been singing since I was 5 or so. I just always enjoyed performing in any capacity- church, musical theatre, opera, bands, orchestra, and choir. The singer/songwriter in me didn’t really blossom until college when I had pianos and practice rooms in the dorm.

Your sound and subject matter is very unique and very personal and sometimes very silly. What influenced the music you make?

SD: Oh, why thank you. My lyrics are usually influenced by the people around me. Nearly everything is based in reality. I don’t think I’m a great storyteller as far as imagination goes. I take someone else’s drama and torque it into some quirky words if I can. Words are the most important part of my music so I spend a lot of time working them into something that is worth listening to.

The silly stuff is a reaction to my serious songs. I try not to take myself too seriously. If I write a song with heavy subject matter, I try to balance it with something light hearted. I have an earthy sometimes dark sense of humor. I think it can get boring listening to an artist play only songs that are too careful and introspective. There are so many words in our language and songs can be enhanced by choosing the slant rhymes and multisyllabic words and cramming some unexpected lyric in small rhythmic spaces.

How would you describe your sound and how would your audience describe your sound?

SD: Oh, I would call it quirky, rhythmic, and vocally driven. I’ve been told I sound like Alanis Morissette and Joni Mitchell, so maybe their love child? Or maybe Ani Difranco if she had been brought up in a classical tradition vocally.

You also have an excellent voice (and she really does), how long have you been perfecting that?

SD: Thank you; I am still paying off those student loans from choir college so I’m glad you can tell!

I started voice lessons in high school, but I was singing in choir and church since I was a little girl.

.A rare interview question,but what bands and artist do you hate?

SD: Hate is so strong, but I am passionately clicking the thumbs down on my Pandora radio station every time it suggests a Jack Johnson song. I’m not a fan of country music in general; the twang kind of grates against my ears, and the subject matter just doesn’t keep my attention. The whole scene just reeks of sequins, leather tassels, and boots that don’t look good on my calves, but who I am to talk with my pink hair… Oh I basically hate any artist on the radio/soundtrack that they play in Michael’s craft stores too.

How many releases have you put out? Are you currently on a label?

SD:I am currently working on my third full length album. I’ve put out two so far, as well as three holiday EPs. I own my little label CatLady Records.

I see you tour and play live a lot, how often are you on the road or at least playing live, and what kind of feedback do you get from your shows?

SD: I do play out a lot. I think last year I played over 120 shows! I try to travel as much I can by car on weekends, since I often have to work during the week. If it’s a listening room show, I often get great feedback -


That Is a Pegasus (2014)
The Rogue Sessions (2013)
Fossil of Girl (2011)
Typing Is Dangerous (2010)
The Sleep You've Been Missing (2009)
Reluctant Cat Lady (2007)



Sarah Donner is an independent singer/songwriter creative type who fosters kittens and isn't afraid to use them on the internet. Her newest album Black Hole Heart was crowdfunded by her fans who raised over $14,000 for that project, as well as her new electronic band Kittens Slay Dragons. Her songs teeter back and forth between playful, nerd core, and ballads, all tied together with bright melodies and driving, energetic instrumentals. Sarah Donner’s music has been featured on Conan O'Brien's blog, NPR, Buzzfeed, i09, Showtime, and CBS. "Sarah Donner and the Sleepy Kitten" and "The Motherf**cking Pterodactyl Song" (co-written with The Oatmeal) catapulted Sarah into weblebrity status with over four million views on YouTube. Sarah Donner is a graduate of Westminster Choir College. After stretching her legs with musical theatre, she picked up a guitar, abandoned her classical roots, and started rocking out (with fantastic breath support). Her music has been nominated for the OUTAwards, Kerrville Emerging Artist Awards, and she was the early bird finalist with the Newsong Mountain Stage Competition in 2014. When she is not touring, Sarah Donner rescues kittens, teaches privately, and paints portraits. 

Band Members