It’s pretty amazing what can happen in a year’s time.
This time last year, Sara Berki was a name unfamiliar to most in the country music industry as she sat on a handful of songs she had written and had set the wheels in motion towards getting them recorded.
Fast forward to January of 2023 and the Australian singer/songwriter is quickly approaching one million combined streams on Spotify alone, has landed on major Spotify playlists and has earned a spot on a bill with some of the biggest artists in the country genre.
To cap off her whirlwind of a year, Berki has released her debut EP, Heartline, taking listeners on an emotional rollercoaster of love lost, nights out on the town and heartbreak that solidifies her as one of the brightest rising singer/songwriters in the genre.
We chatted with Berki all about Heartline, as well as her early start in music, her success in 2022, her plans for this year and more!
Pro Country: Your bio mentions heavy influences from artists like Wanda Jackson, Cass Elliot and Dolly Parton. What was it about those women that inspires you?
Sara Berki: I think it was the traditional country sound that those ladies had. I connected with the storytelling they put in their music. That sound and that era of women in music is where I feel my influences stem from.
PC: Your bio also mentions starting to play guitar at just 8 years-old. What was it about music and playing guitar that connected with you so early in life?
SB: In primary school, I feel like you either get into dancing, sports or music. The only thing that I was drawn to and wanted to grasp was playing an instrument. I wanted to know how someone could play one and how it could make that sound. Around my 8th birthday, I begged my mom and dad for a guitar. We went to the local music shop and they got me a six-string nylon guitar. That’s when I started playing. The first song I ever learned how to play was “Wipeout” by The Beach Boys [laughs]. It’s compulsory to play in high school here, so it was something that I had never given up or dropped. I carried it from primary school all the way through high school. I was just always playing.
PC: After having that early interest, when did it become clear to you that music was something you wanted to and actually could pursue as a career?
SB: It wasn’t until March of 2021. I was a hairdresser before I was a musician. I actually owned the hair salon, so I didn’t think that I could actually do music. I knew that I could write a song and play guitar; I could write a song from start to finish in a matter of three hours. Sometimes I would write as soon as I’d wake up in the morning. I didn’t put it into the perspective of “I can do this. I can go record and release music” right away. It was almost like I didn’t have the belief. I always saw myself as a hairdresser, not a musician. When lockdown hit, I had about 15 songs on hand, and I thought “What the heck, I’m gonna go record.” I didn’t know the first thing about it; I had done some research and found a great producer, Simon Johnson, who had worked with a lot of country artists in Australia, and he kind of took me under his wing. I was so grateful. I was so green, and I still am really green [laughs]. It hasn’t even been a full year of being a recording artist, but it’s been insane!
PC: Your debut single, “Fallin’ Off the Heartline,” was released in March of 2022. What emotions were you feeling as release day was approaching and you were preparing to release music for the first time?
SB: It’s still hard to talk about now, because it’s hard to process it. The feeling that I felt back then when I first released it, I don’t think I’ll ever not feel that when I release a song. I think I had the upper hand and the nerves on my side because I didn’t have any expectations. The nerves were there and I was definitely nervous about how it would go, but in the back of my mind, I didn’t have any expectations because I had no idea how anything would go.
In the first week here, it went. It got on to radio and the charts. My publicist at the time would ring me and say, “Sara, do you know what this means? Usually songs have to go through radio for at least five weeks, but you’re on the chart, and it’s only been a week.” I was like “Well I think that’s cool.” [laughs]. It was the most insane time!
PC: Why did you and your team feel “Fallin’ Off the Heartline” was the right song to debut yourself with, and what drew you to have the song serve as your EP’s title track?
SB: I called the EP Heartline because it’s the first track off of the EP. To be honest, out of every song I had written, that one just sits in my heart. It was the first song I had ever released, and it went so well for me. It was so well received by people; people were connecting to it. People would message me that the song made them think of a time with an old flame that you bump into in town. They said they would have a reminiscent feeling with them, all while knowing things wouldn’t work out. It was great to be able to connect with people like that, and that’s all you can hope for as a singer/songwriter. You put out music that you love that’s in your heart, and for people to connect to it, it’s a whole different ballgame.
PC: After that radio, chart and streaming success you had with “Fallin’ Off the Heartline,” was there any kind of pressure you felt to match or surpass it as you were preparing to release your sophomore single, “Good Enough”?
SB: After “Fallin’ Off the Heartline,” I did have a little bit higher expectations for it. “Good Enough” isn’t a ballad, it’s more of a radio-edit kind of song. Out of the gate, it was a bit slower, probably because it was the second song. It always fluctuates, but it picked back up. I had so much fun with it! I remember when I wrote it, I got up, had breakfast, and then started on the song because I had it in my head that I wanted to write a hoppy, 90s-inspired country song. I had it finished by lunchtime! When I got into the studio with Simon, we had it laid out within about two hours. It felt like we were all jamming. It came together so organically, and it was just so much fun!
PC: The music video for “Good Enough” is full of dancing and great vibes. How much did you enjoy shooting that video and presenting the song that way?
SB: So much fun! The guys that I work with for videos are amazing. When we came up with the concept for the video, it was a girl in a bar who’s packing up, and there’s one guy in the bar who isn’t interested; he’s doing his own thing and watching an old John Wayne movie on the opposite side of the bar. Something catches her eye, and then she’s in an outfit where she would perform on stage. She starts dancing like no one is watching and having fun. It doesn’t follow the storyline of what “Good Enough” is actually about, but I think that’s what makes it different and interesting!
PC: The third single from Heartline, “Drinking For Free,” landed on Spotify’s Fresh Country curated playlist this week. What has it been like for you to see your name and song amongst some of the biggest names in the genre?
SB: It’s huge! It’s still a bit of a “pinch me” moment. I remember when I first released “Fallin’ Off the Heartline,” I didn’t really understand what it meant to be on a playlist [laughs]. I would get all these messages and I would be like, “Oh cool, it’s a playlist,” but as I started to work more at it, I was like, “holy heck, it’s a playlist! People listen to this!” To have “Drinking For Free” on there is so cool. It’s one of those things that still makes me say “wow.”
PC: As lovers of heartbreak songs, “Quicksand” is our favorite song on Heartline. Can you take us in the room and in your head and talk about how the song came together?
SB: I feel like “Quicksand” is a dark horse. I feel like it’s one of the songs on the EP that people are really going to resonate with. I wrote it from an experience that I had. It was a pretty heartbreaking experience, and I turned it into a scenario. I remember this experience I had when I was with someone and I was in a bar and he walked in with another girl. I remember feeling all that emotion; it’s almost like your throat starts to close up because they’re there. You want to leave, but you also want to know what they’re doing, so I wrote this song from the perspective of a girl in a bar when they walk in and she feels like she’s sinking in quicksand. She wants to leave, but she feels like she can’t.
Even though the song is called “Quicksand,” I only reference quicksand once. I think that’s something that’s really cool about the song. I love that it’s got souring pedal steel. It’s such a heartfelt song.
PC: To our ears, Heartline’s closing song, “Heights,” has a 70s cosmic country style. Can you talk about the sonic inspiration behind that song?
SB: It was amazing! It was almost like I forgot that I was human, it was so good [laughs]. When I went to the studio to have it all laid out, my vocals were a guide, and then you go back in to record your vocals. When we were working, the boys laid out the whole backing track, and I got the instrumental track back, and I remember hearing “Heights” and crying [laughs]. It was genius. I loved the guitar, the solo and everything about it musically. I was so happy with the way it turned out!
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from Heartline after listening all the way through?
SB: I hope they feel what I felt when I first started working on it, and every single time they hear it, they feel the same. I also hope it’s uplifting. I hope they go through the emotional roller coaster, but come out feeling like they loved it. That’s all you can hope for.
PC: You’re on the bill for CMC Rocks in March with some of the biggest names in country music. How much are you looking forward to sharing the stage with names of that caliber and bringing your music to that crowd?
SB: It’s insane! I was contacted by the promoters of CMC on my Instagram. They found me organically and liked what I was doing and liked my sound. I don’t even think I had “Drinking For Free” out yet, so I only had two tracks out. It’s hard to even find words. It’s crazy. The lineup is always good and it’s always a stellar festival, but to be on a bill with people I have listened to for so long is hard to find words for.
PC: As an artist who debuted in 2022, how can you put into words the success, support and experiences you’ve had?
SB: I feel very fortunate and lucky. People want to help. People believe and want to be with you while you’re going through your time of finding yourself as a musician. They want to uplift you, and to me, that’s the best feeling, especially with how my journey has gone so far. I feel like my feet are moving so fast, but my body is behind them and I’ve got to catch up, because there’s so much going on. Putting things out is a scary thing, but there’s people in the industry that are helping and there’s fans that actually like what I’m doing; it’s hard to believe they’re along for this ride.
PC: Along with promoting Heartline, what do you have planned for 2023?
SB: I have myself booked for the first half of the year. I’ll be playing CMC with Morgan Wallen, Kip Moore and Zac Brown Band and a whole lot of other great artists. I’m playing another cool festival called Meatstock, which is kind of like a barbeque festival, it’s going to be great! There’s more recording coming up too. I’ve got plenty of new stuff to work on. And I’ll actually be heading over to Nashville for the first time in June, I’m really excited!
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
SB: You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify; I’d really appreciate it!
*Heartline is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*
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