Singer and songwriter Sara Kamin jokes that she never sleeps. That’s because she’s juggling a burgeoning music career with teaching college-level psychology classes and completing her post-graduate studies in psychotherapy. The Toronto-based Kamin, 30. has three folk/pop/blues albums under her belt. And her music has been getting increased attention — and airplay — thanks in part to her new hit single “Superhero.” Kamin, whose summer calendar is packed with gigs in the U.S. and Canada, recently spoke with Sisterhood contributor Renee Ghert-Zand about the balancing act that is her life.
Renee Ghert-Zand: How long have you been singing and playing music?
Sara Kamin: I’ve been singing since I was 3 or 4, when I would steal my parents’ records and play them in my room. I’d put a pillow under the door so no one would hear me, and I’d sing along to them for hours at night. No one knew I was doing this, and then at 14, I let me mom hear me so she could tell me if I was good enough to sing in a school talent show. She was impressed and immediately set me up with an incredible voice teacher. I learned how to play guitar at 17 from a boy I had a crush on, but I had classical piano and music theory training for quite a few years while I was growing up. I’ve been a professional musician since the age of 20 or 21.
How do you manage balance your music career and your psychology studies and teaching?
I’ve always had a life that’s full of a lot of things. I have always really loved psychology, and I am in a unique field that applies elements of sports psychology to the performing arts. I’m, not surprisingly, interested in the talent development and counseling of non-classical musicians. I will do both [music and psychology]. I’m not willing to give either up or let one take precedence over the other. … I don’t know a lot of other performers who are doing what I’m doing. I run every day and do yoga. I take care of myself, and I am happy doing it all.
Do you think you’ll manage to keep it all going once you have a psychotherapy practice?
My plan is to have a general practice, but to devote some time to working specifically with working artists on a sliding scale. I’ll obviously be based in Toronto, so my plan would be to do less touring and do more in the area of producing music for licensing for television and film use.
Tell me about your Jewish background and identity.
My being a Jewish woman has always been an important part of my life. Growing up, we went to synagogue and celebrated the holidays, and I still do so with my family. I went to Hebrew school and had a bat mitzvah, but I didn’t continue my Jewish education after that. I also did not get involved in Jewish life on campus at university, because all my extra-curricular time was spent on music. Both [of] my grandmothers are still living — one is 91 and the other is 101! My dad’s mom, in particular, was very involved in the Jewish community in Toronto, so that sense of Jewish pride trickled down to me. … Some of my songs are also implicitly connected to my experiences with being stereotyped, in terms of my sensitivity to and writing about issues of prejudice and inequality.
How has it been for you to be a woman in the music industry? And what is the music scene in Toronto like?
I do have to sometimes deal with people looking past me, like when I come into a store to buy a guitar. There are those superficial issues, the focus on women’s appearances, but I am very proud now of the woman that I am. It’s an exciting time to be in music in Toronto. There’s a huge scene here with a lot of new venues and festivals that are bringing out a lot of new talent. There are fantastic independent labels, too. I think Toronto has become a hotbed for music now because of the unity and collaboration among musicians here. We have the Internet and social networking to thank for that. It has made it really easy for musicians to find and reach out to one another. I just did a gig last week with the winner of Canadian Idol because we connected via Twitter. I also funded the entire production of my third CD solely through pre-orders through Twitter!
What advice do you have for teenage girls and women in their 20s who discover that they have multiple interests and passions?
Consult with other people and get input from them, but make choices based on what is right and best for you. Don’t limit yourself. Plant seeds and see what comes up.
Renee Ghert-Zand is a writer, educator and Jewish community professional. She blogs at Truth, Praise and Help