An interview with Sarah Golden of “The Voice”

 
 

AE: What has it been like working with Cee Lo? Were you a fan of his before?

SG:
I was a fan of Cee Lo’s. I know, and I told him this as well, I know of his older stuff, Goodie Mob and things of that nature, but I was not as involved with Cee Lo and his musical history until, honestly, until Gnarls Barkley. It wasn’t that I loved Gnarls Barkley, per se, as much as I really loved this guy’s voice. And honestly, I had never seen him, when Gnarls Barkley came out. I bought the CD, but I didn’t know if it was just a band or what.

…And I saw Cee Lo on [Austin City Limits], but I was totally preoccupied doing laundry. And I heard his voice and I recognized it because it is a very unmistakable voice. And I remember just kind of sitting on the floor, was in the middle of laundry, and then, I remember I kind of came to that I had been sitting on the floor in a room with totally wet clothes. And I had just become captivated with this guy. And it was really just effortless. I love his sexy, smoky, sultry sound. It was like he had the ability to be blues-y, gospel-y, but he wasn’t being blues-y, gospel-y. He was being kind of pop and R & B and hip-hoppy. I don’t know. I just love the whole mesh.

So, I recognized his voice at that moment and just became a bigger fan. And since then, I have covered “Forget You,” but the other version. And I even told him as a joke, I said, “Thank God you made ‘Forget You’ because I sing it everywhere.”

I mean, I have a relatively large lesbian following, and I said, “I sing it everywhere. I appreciate so much that it exists. … “Forget You” is like the lesbian national anthem. But I told him, “The lesbians love you, by the way.”

But yeah, I have been a fan. He was the person I wanted to pick when I watched the show, in a pipe dream, in my living room.

AE: You have the other lesbian [Erin Martin] on your team, too. So what is it about Cee Lo? I guess the lesbians just love him.

SG:
[Laughs] Well, Cee Lo likes the ladies, I would say that’s a safe assumption. I think the other person on my team has very feminine qualities [that] I don’t know many guys wouldn’t like. We were actually roommates — Erin and I were roommates, which was ironic. And I told the show, I was like, “Really? Of all the people, you’re going to put me with the other lesbian on the show?” I mean, they couldn’t be any dumber here; they put me with a totally not-ugly lesbian. Thank you for that. I was calling home for that.

But ya know, [Cee Lo's] kind of different. He’s outside the box. I think there’s a kind of magnetism. I mean, I can’t speak for her, but I know that she and I really bonded a lot. And we talked about how she had a really unique sound. And it really is kind of a different thing. It would make sense for her to pick – and I didn’t know her before until we became Cee Lo team members and we were roommates – but it kind of makes sense. He’s a different kind of guy and he doesn’t fit in a box. And I don’t think either of us do either, so it just seemed like it was a natural thing. It just so happens we’re the two lesbians.

AE: Right. What can you say about your record label experience? You talked about on the show how you were told to change your look, because you hear about that all the time from lesbian artists that they’re asked to look less dykey or be more feminine. What was your experience with that?

SG:
The minute I got out of high school, I was hot and heavy in music and played 24/7. I played seven days a week. I was totally driven and pretty enthusiastic about it. And I made a CD and had it out in stores, in Borders and all over on the internet. It was everywhere and I was kind of making my way up. I was super stoked about it because I had that crazy, young drive, like I could take over the world. And I’m also not a big quitter.

But, as a lesbian – and I’m sure any gay or basically any person who’s not a straight, white male can attest – growing up in the life has not been the easiest. For the record, anyone who’s said being gay is a choice, has never been a lesbian. Way too much drama and estrogen — no one would choose that life.

So, anyway. I wasn’t shocked, initially, but when I was 18 or 19, I had really kind of started making a name for myself. And a [record] label who I will refrain from mentioning, but a big label, a major label, everyone knows it, contacted me and said they were interested in meeting me. So, we when through this multiple day rigmarole of, “Give us your song lyrics. Tell us what they mean.” And they kind of listened to everything. And at the time, I was in my first relationship, ever, and all my songs were about a girl. And I probably said “she” and “her” 20 times through each song.

And at one point, I had shaved my head and I was just very much like, “I’m going out and I’m going into it and I’m so excited and I’m going to be super gay.” And so, the first label said, “We really like you and we have agreed that we do want to sign you. But you have to agree to some stipulations.” And I was like, “OK, what’s that?” And I’m a pretty stubborn person. And they said, “We will agree to sign you as long as you agreed to never cut your hair. And you have to wear dresses, and you can’t talk about girls. And we’re going to go through every interview before you have it and make sure that no one asks you about your sexual preference. And that’s how it’s going to be.” And I said, “No. I’m totally not interested in that. That sounds like a terrible life.”

One thing that I will never forget was that I played a show when I was young and there was a woman, probably in her 50s. It was a festival. And I watched her walk by and she stopped and ended up leaning or sitting on a post and she watched my show the entire time. And I played like a two or three hour set. And I was like, 16 or 17 or something. And when I finished, she came up to me, and she was crying. And I was like, “Oh my God. Something bad happened.” And she said, “I just want to tell you, I’m 55, and I’m still not out. And the fact that you’re 16, 17, and you’re so out and you just don’t care, and all of your songs are about how gay you are. That has been the hugest inspiration and that has changed my life. And I want to tell you, ‘Please don’t ever change that.’”

And that made me start crying. It makes me start crying when think about it. It impacted me that much. And that was, honest to God, the first thing that came to mind when this label tried to get me to sell out. I was like, “No, man. If only for that one lady, I can’t do it.”

AE: [Laughs] That lady would come after you.

SG:
[Laughs] I never saw her again, but she would not have been a fan anymore. The same thing happened with another record label a few years later. But with that first one, I really didn’t care. I couldn’t have given a damn. But then, it happened again with the subsidiary of a company that was interested in me so I thought they would be cool.

They knew I was gay, were totally pumping me along the whole time, but at the end, they said, “We want to go ahead and bring you onto our label — but we do have some stipulations.” And I swear to God, it’s like they had the same manual. It was literally the same conversation.

AE: No!

SG:
I was like, “Are you kidding me? Is it always going to happen?” And they said, ” Look. You’re just not marketable the way you are.And I say, “I’ll tell you what. There are no young, gay artists out there. And this would be for any of these reality shows out there — any of these people were brave enough to come out or be out, or whatnot. And there’s no young, gay artists. And sure, I’m going to suck with the middle market demographic, middle America, but there’s going to be a ton of people who are intrigued. Didn’t you ever see the band, t.A.T.u.? They’re weren’t even really lesbians, but they made a killing.

AE: That’s true.

SG:
That was my mentality. The guy was like, “Look. Just first, make one million dollars. Then you can be as gay as you want to be.” And it just sucks, to me. I feel like, the Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge and Ellen, and everybody else who has had to work their butts off to just get the same kind of respect and then not be able to come out until they were already famous, I think that sucks.

And I appreciate whole-heartedly that they did that for my generation. And I don’t think we would be doing them any kind of favors if we did the same thing. I think it’s to show America, the people that you already love, like Ellen, people that you already trust in making you laugh – I mean what the hell does her sexual preference have to do with anything? But people that you already love are out. And you still can’t help but still love them because you’ve already loved her for 12 plus years. Get over it. And the young person who happens to be gay, too, get over that. I’m just another person.

It didn’t turn out that way. It was very much the same end result. And the guy who was being a scuzzball was like, “You’d look really hot in a summer dress.” And I was like, “Yeah, you, too. I haven’t worn a dress since 1996. There’s no way in hell I’m going back.”

AE: [Laughs] If people like you were changing for them there would never be any progress made, so obviously, you chose the right path. Good for you!

SG:
[jokes] Way to be to have a real job and not ever be the musician you wanted to be because you’re so freaking big.

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