Sadie Gustafson-Zook: Her Music and Influences

By Libby Giannechini, Gallery 263 Music Intern, published December 2, 2019

Those who frequent live music nights at Gallery 263 are sure to recognize Sadie Gustafson-Zook. The Indiana native has become somewhat of a gallery staple over the past two years, lending her crystal clear vocals and acoustic charm to the venue’s comfortable, intimate ambiance and complimenting the ever-rotating exhibitions of local art. Sadie’s music runs the gamut from humorous and relatable to tender and personal. Its clever nature lends itself well to audience engagement, especially given the proximity between viewer and performer granted by Gallery 263’s space and atmosphere.

Proximity is important to Sadie’s performances. She cites house concerts and “venues that are specifically about listening” as her favorite places to perform, reflecting during our conversation on a time when “there were like fifty people, and they were so attentive… they were just eating it up.” “Mainly, I just want people to pay attention,” she says. Sadie describes her music as “lyric-based,” and her lyrics contain blink-and-you-miss-it wit and detail that benefit from a focused audience and intimate setting.

Speaking on her lyrics, she pinpoints some pieces of her song “Alone” that she is particularly proud of. “I don’t want to do any of the things that make my life seem better than yours” and “I paid two dollars to make my Instagram look like I exclusively use disposable cameras when in reality I do not” stick out, as they “work musically even though they are just a sentence.” The lyrical importance in Sadie’s songs can frequently be attributed to her penchant for creating musical narrative. She dates this back to the fifth grade, having written her first song about a childhood crush involved in a playground accident. Musically, Sadie identifies her music as belonging to a camp of story-based folk with intentional jazz elements. However, there is always room for instrumental experimentation, and she expresses a desire to “be all the different versions of my music and see what works best.”

“Self-editing is bad!” Sadie laughs as she describes her current musical influences, many of whom work with her at Club Passim in Cambridge. She notes the “beautiful melodies” written by Liv Greene, and the music of Alisa Amador, whose songs she worries she accidentally borrows when writing her own. The most valuable thing she notes about her circle of influences and role models is that they are at similar places, or several steps ahead of her in their career, rather than at a level which seems unattainable. “The steps you need to take to get to the next thing are more clear,” she notes. Yet, Sadie limits the amount that she listens to music in her free time due to the prevalence that music already has in her work life. She notably takes joy in walking places in her spare time, describing the relaxing nature of not having to worry about traffic and other factors that can make a commute difficult. She can also be found browsing the shelves at Blick, hunting down her next great pen.

As of November 2019, Sadie has released two albums, “I’m Not Here,” and “Melange.” More information, including show dates and contact information, can be found on sadiegustafsonzook.com.

Upcoming musical events at Gallery 263 include The Makam Healing Project on December 8, and The Push Farther Project and Sadie Gustafson-Zook on December 15. We hope to see you there!

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Putnam & Pearl is Gallery 263’s blog covering events, exhibition reviews, and artist profiles both here at the gallery and anywhere in the Greater Boston Area.

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