SW Sounds: Poesy
Sarah Botelho's London-born pop project plants a rainbow flag in the sand
SW Sounds is a weekly feature that profiles a southwestern Ontario artist and their new music. Listen for it Mondays on Afternoon Drive between 4:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on CBC Radio One.
You don't get a second chance to make a first impression. And for her debut release on an influential record label, it's something Poesy knows well.
Poesy is the stage name of 25-year-old Sarah Botelho, who began sculpting her musical identity while living in London. As she puts it, Poesy is an alter ego of sorts...a more confident and fiercely independent version of herself. Her debut EP, Glass Box Confessional, was released this fall by Big Machine Records, the American label home to the likes of Lady Antebellum and most of Taylor Swift's back catalogue. It's Poesy's rainbow flag in the sand - a testament to her politics, her sexuality, and music made entirely on her own terms.
Tell us a bit more about your latest record.
Glass Box Confessional came out last October, which was really exciting because it came out on the weekend of my 25th birthday. It's very identity-forming for me. I wanted to make it very obvious who I was. A lot of the lyrics are about how I won't take no for an answer, that I know what I want, who I am, who I want to be...and I know who I love.
I always describe Poesy as the version of myself that I wanted to be when I was a teenager. It's the version of myself that I want to be all the time. That person helps me do things that I might not do in my real, actual everyday life. And I think we tried to capture that on the EP.
Tell us about your latest single, 'Any Human.'
I wrote that song by myself at home. It's the only song on the record that I didn't write in the studio. Out of nowhere, my brain was like (sings) 'Could you be any man?' And I was like, 'that's kind of cool.' So I wrote that down (laughs).
I was thinking about how I identify as bisexual. I grew up in a really conservative place. Going to Catholic school, I just didn't hear anything about anyone who was queer. I think that definitely played into the fact that I didn't feel comfortable being myself until I was, like, 21. I just wanted to write a song that very plainly and simply says 'this is who I am, this is what I like and there's nothing wrong with that,' and it doesn't have to be a big deal if you feel that way, too.
The song has lead to a really positive experience - when we've done performances at universities and stuff, lots of younger people have messaged me, saying 'thank you so much for writing that song, this helped me realize how I feel, and now I feel comfortable telling my friend.' I think it's really awesome to know that it's resonating that way.
When I started writing music, I was just some angsty 10-year-old in my room being mad at the world, and it was more like a kind of therapy for myself. But when this became my job, I realized I had an opportunity to do so much more. I still approach songwriting from a real place that's still about my life and the things I'm feeling. But now, it's more focused on my having the ability to talk to a bunch of people, and asking myself what stories do they need to hear, what do they want to say and what are the words that they want to use but don't feel like they can? Let's put that in a song. Then they can sing it and feel safe and comforted.
This interview was edited and condensed. Have a listen to 'Any Human' as part of Poesy's SW Sounds profile, and check out its newly released video below.