Sarah Snead Is on a Musical Mission to Save Lives

Sarah Snead drops her new music video at the Oriental Theater August 3.
Sarah Snead drops her new music video at the Oriental Theater August 3.
Courtesy of Cyndy Stiller.
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Singer Sarah Snead had long wanted to release her songs on an album. Suffering through an abusive relationship as a single mom with three kids in her twenties, she thought that dream was gone.

Still, she entwined herself in the Denver music scene and has been the lead singer of the Rick Lewis Project for the past five years. Through that, she met her now-husband, fellow musician Michael Hornbuckle. Together they built a recording studio, where, along with producer Taylor Marvin, she was able to record and release her own solo album this past February. Wake Tomorrow is a collection of songs about people rallying for each other through trying times.

Tonight, August 3, Snead will release the first music video, "All I've Got," from her new country-and-blues album. The video, produced by Digital Myle productions, will premiere at a screening at the Oriental Theater.

Behind the scenes capture of "All I've Got."EXPAND
Behind the scenes capture of "All I've Got."
Courtesy of Sarah Snead.

Snead's goal for the video and the album is simple yet profound: "It is all organically leading to saving lives. It’s about loneliness and confusion and letting people know they have value. I want people to wake up tomorrow."

Confronting despair is something she has long experienced. "They call it 'victim', they call it 'survivor,'" she says. "They have all kinds of names for it, but at the end of the day, it is something you have to heal from."

And that healing process isn't easy. After her ex-husband went to prison for domestic abuse and left her with three kids under the age of five, the singer-songwriter caught a case of writer's block. "I wanted to write and I wanted to create, but I was so angry and so hurt. And I couldn’t write, I didn’t want to give him any praise or validation," says Snead. Eventually, she overcame that block and focused on her album. "I wrote it for me, and after I wrote it, so many more [songs] flooded after that. It just broke the barrier."

Sarah Snead Is on a Musical Mission to Save Lives
Photograph courtesy of Sunny Blue.

While "All I've Got" touches on Snead's experience of surviving abuse, it's based on a memory of Hornbuckle showing up for her, putting his arm around her shoulder and saying, "I know you need more, but this is all I got." The gesture stuck with her. "Even if you don't have anything to give anybody, sometimes all it is is just your presence and being together."

It's those small moments of support that inspired Snead to release a confessional video on social media right before her album came out.

This video has since gotten over 28,000 views, and in it, Snead details her passion for showing up for others. "You have to let yourself go through the healing process until you’re ready to expose that wound again. ... When you go through things like that, you have a responsibility to turn around and help someone else."

Her attitude toward mental health has evolved over time. "When you’re young and angry, emotional and hormonal, there’s just a lot of growing up that happens in your twenties. You learn so much." And that struggle has made her a better artist. "Being with professional musicians who add to your songs, you get inspired with ideas that I didn’t have [previously]. I think I’ve grown more clever with words, yet more simplified at the same time. ... It’s more relatable to a greater demographic because of the experiences I’ve gone through. "

Through her husband's work at Mile High Sober Living, she has seen countless Denver artists lost to overdose and wrangling with addiction.

"For some reason, there’s something in an artist’s brain," she says. "We are intense and passionate people, and we find it hard to ride that balance, that line between extreme highs and extreme lows. ... That is my firsthand experience. I’m seeing people gifted in all kinds of ways who have struggled with addiction because they don’t know how to manage." Still, she says, "Denver is improving on mental health, a little bit at a time."

But the city and its music community still have room to improve. "There’s a lot of pushback from people who don’t understand mental health," she notes. "They talk about gun control, all this stuff, but it goes back to that intrinsic value of human beings. You know, 'I want to die because I don’t mean anything to anybody; I’m going to drink because my life sucks so bad' — all of these reasons they think they screwed up and are not forgiven, and I think Denver is coming along and empowering one human at a time. ...

"I think it’s a good time to release this album. Let’s save some people’s lives no matter how it looks," she says. "Whether it’s addiction, whether it’s suicide, whether it’s domestic violence — let’s just all come together."

Sarah Snead music video release and concert 7 p.m. Friday, August 3, Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue.

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