They say talent must meet opportunity in order to fulfill its course. For New York born Beth Sass, destiny played a part as well. Because her grandmother didn’t want her two sons who played piano to fight over the family grand piano, she willed it to her daughter who didn’t play piano. By four years old, the little granddaughter, Beth, climbed onto the piano bench and taught herself how to play with little how-to books.
Beth still has that grand piano where she lives in Nashville today, but the journey has been long and deep since that time in Boston, Massachusetts where the family moved when she was two.
By 12, Beth, inspired by her poet and visual artistmother and artists such as the Beatles, Laura Nyro, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters, Paul Williams, Judy Collins. Leonard Cohen, as well as jamming with other musicians, wrote her first song.
By 8th grade, she was part of a duo with a friend, Nancy Walt that lasted throughout high school and resulted in a vinyl record.
“Once Carole King hit the scene when I was a freshman in high school, it was all over because that wasn’t sort of what I wanted to do, that actually was what I was doing,” Beth says.
Beth went to Smith College for a year before splitting with Walt and headed to Berklee College Of Music, where she majored in traditional composition.
“ I wrote 20th century classical music at Berklee, which forced me to learn arranging and orchestrations and conducting. I also studied a lot of pop/jazz vocal technique and a lot of pop/jazz piano. Berklee was amazing because I fed many appetites and I have made my living all these years from doing all the things I learned during college.”
Meanwhile, as Berklee’s original pop songwriting guru Jon Aldrich suggested, she send her compositions to Nashville, where then Tree Publishing’s Cliff Williamson, now currently long-time Starstruck Entertainment Chief Operating Officer, signed songs from her catalog and flew her in from Boston regularly to write and record demos of her material for artists including Tanya Tucker and Louise Mandrell.
Her college years yielded not only academic musical growth, but also tremendous personal metamorphosis while she came to terms with the fact that she was a solo artist. She began to cultivate both a songwriting and performance plan, traveling between Boston and Nashville for the next several years.
In Nashville she signed as a staff songwriter to Multimedia Music and later Maypop Music Group, home of the band Alabama. There she was mentored by great country craftsmen Don Pfrimmer and the late John Jarrard (while supporting herself as a singer and keyboardist in honky tonks as well as in demo studios for songwriters). In Boston from 1991-1997, she was hired as a keyboard player/singer for such oldies bands as Herb Reed and the Platters, the Drifters and the Coasters, as well as opening some of their shows.
In ’97, Sass made Nashville her permanent residence and began recording her critically acclaimed Seven Songs with producer Richard Adler (Neil Young, Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, John Prine, Bela Fleck, Natalie Cole, and Shel Silverstein), featuring a live band.
In 2003-2004, with independent promotion and the burgeoning internet, “Naomi” from Seven Songs hit Indie Music Community Garageband.com, reaching #1, Track of the Day, and Track of the Week in Acoustic. The song “Naomi” was also named best potential soundtrack in folk/country. Its all-time ranking peaked at #43 of 2,213 in Acoustic.
Then in 2005, her song “Stampede” from Seven Songs was chosen for a Shuteye Records Americana compilation, The United States of Americana.
As Ryan Hoffer, A& R at Shuteye Records reported: “It looks like we peaked the Americana Music Association charts at an estimable #53 – quite a task for a compilation on such a lofty chart (remember 700 high!). Some of our biggest supporting/reporting stations have been Twangcast, KFAN, KCUV, WGCS, WDVR, WRIU, WHAY to name a few.”
During the recording of the album, the most significant change in Sass’ life had occurred: the birth of her daughter, Bianca.
“Before she was born, I could trudge or skip down my life path with abandon, mostly, but not always, honorably,” Sass confides. “Once I became a parent, my journey became unalterably witnessed by my daughter. This change meant, and still means, that the words I choose, the emotions I wrestle with, the friendships I work at, and the goals I strive for are always transparent, and must be worthy of her.”
The change also meant Beth, a single parent, needed to be financially responsible for another human being and eventually be able to pay for her education while supporting the both of them. She did that by developing early childhood programs at Akiva School, The Nashville JCC, West End Synagogue, and the famous World Music Nashville Performance Center/Store/School.
In 2010, the Beth Sass Pandora Radio Station was created, featuring Seven Songs.
By then, 2012’s Knowing Me, produced by Jerome Kimbrough and Sass, was in the works.
“Rather than including a whole band, just one man worked best for me on this record,” Beth says, adding that Kimbrough was invaluable. “We did it all ourselves. This was a product of two people having a big conversation.”
She describes the CD as being about six months of her life: “It’s a cross-section of feelings that I might go through over six months,” the artist explains. “It’s six songs and six emotional places that I hit over the course of a season.”
After the release of Knowing Me, Sass went on to release several more digital singles, including “My Favorite Target” and “Huntington Avenue,” also written and produced with Jerry Kimbrough.
In 2015 Sass appeared on Nashville’s Fox 17’s Rock and Review, hosted by good friend and impresario gear maven Eric Dahl. This led to Beth becoming an official endorsee for CasioMusic as a Digital Piano Artist, promoting Casio Keyboards for performance, recording, and education throughout the United States.
That same year, the artist’s “Hands On The Wheel,” a song about parents, was included alongside #Sia and #JoshGroban and others in Nalini Marquez’s blog “34 Songs about Overcoming Obstacles, Adversity, Hard Times, Challenges and Not Giving Up,” and by 2022 the song has reached over 26,000 views on YouTube.
Marquez included Sass’ “Watercolor Lake” beside #SaraMclachlann, #Enya, #ReginaSpektor, #JoshGroban, and #LanaDelRey again on her blog “32 Beautiful, Emotional Songs to be Sad, Reflective, Depressed and Melancholy to,” helping Sass garner 20,000 plus views and streams on YouTube and Spotify.
“What people like Marquez do are so valuable to artists like myself,” Sass says. “They are so appreciated.”
In June of 2017, she featured the Casio Px-5S at the songwriter and artist showcase at Los Angeles’ Ghengis Cohen, highlighting songs signed to the catalog of Beth Wernick’s Sync Library Imaginary Friends Music Partners.
2017 also saw the release of her digital single “Silent Night” and album Starfish and toward the end of the year Beth was the featured artist on Studio23Nashville, a one-hour television show focusing on the stories behind the songs as well as a live in-studio performance.
During this time, Sass had begun collaborating with1970’s rockstar Walter Egan (“Magnet and Steel” and “Hot Summer Nights”) who always manages to stay musically active and exciting. The music they create together, “WEBS”, explores the complex nature of relationships. The recordings feature Walter Egan’s ironic and brilliant lyrical take on Beth’s way of peering inward, plus his remarkable layered guitar work. Beth brings her melodic and chordal compositional style as well as her strong sense of melody.
In March 2018, Sass and Egan appeared on Studio23Nashville Goes Live, a gathering of guests from the in-studio series for a night of music which also included Bobby Tomberlin (Diamond Rio’s “One More Day”), Tim Buppert (Kevin Sharp’s “She’s Sure Taking It Well”) Beth provided the keyboard for all the artists that evening and performed her own set, featuring the powerful song “Last Safe Place”, from the then upcoming WEBS album, released later that year.
Also that year, the duo was featured in an intimate close-up concert at Rock Cellar Studios in Los Angeles.
Sass never slows down. Her work in the following couple of years included her popular digital single “Distance,” as a featured artist and arranger on the compilation Sum of All Winter, a featured song on Walter Egan’s 2021 album Fascination and a contribution to the 2022’s Robert Johnson Tribute Anthology. She maintains a full roster of students, a passion that feeds her soul and helms the Nashville chapter of the Composer’s Breakfast Club, even as she works on her new album, Blue Blind Sky, co-written and co-produced by Ira Ingber (Bob Dylan, Karla Bonoff, Bonnie Raitt) due in 2022.
Today, as Beth’s life experiences have deepened the compositions she writes on that very same piano inherited from her grandmother, she knows that her ultimate goals are to honor all the work she’s done, to role model and to have it heard.
“When I love something and do it naturally, my abstract goal is to celebrate the fact that I do this and encourage other people,” she says. “It’s crucial to never stop being there for yourself creatively. Another huge goal I have is that the fruit of my caring falls into the hands, the hearts and the ears of an audience, that it’s not just in my own backyard, and that as many people as are supposed to be on the receiving end, get to be.”
# # #
For further information please contact Mike Gormley at Glebe99@yahoo.com, L.A. Personal Development