Sitting in the local Champaign coffee shop, Cafe Kopi, with Sara Siders a musician, composer, and guitarist, is a dreamer and believer. She is a boundary pusher not only in her music but life. Sider's is a transplant to the Champaign, Illinois music scene. She brings a strong sense of rock, blues, and funk to her performance and music.
Siders is the lead singer for Mank and Sass, she grew up around the music world. Her father Bruce Hall is the lead guitarist for Reo Speedwagon. Siders states, "My father has lived his dream so you cannot tell me that dreams do not come true." Seeing her father's happiness she learned that you can make anything happen.
Siders enjoyed her childhood staying out of the limelight most of the time. Siders recalls, "going on stage with the 'fambamfamily' to sing Can't Fight This Feeling." As a child, she enjoyed pushing the boundaries. She says, "The joke is sports or jail for me."
She enjoyed playing softball. She earned a place on the practice team on the Olympic Women's softball team at the age of 15 she states, "I could not even drive myself to practice." and awarded a scholarship to Purdue for softball. This was a great opportunity for her, but her junior year she was no longer able to play softball because of 5 knee surgeries.
The day she found out she is no longer able to play sports. She locks herself in her room. She was not sure what she was going to do with her life at this point. "School was not my Forte." Her roommate, Matt Zimmerman, threw her a guitar and told her to figure it out. That was the first time she had taken an interest in music. She did figure out the guitar and then she could sing.
Siders discusses how she has huge stage fright. She began singing with her back to the audience. To this day she still has stage fright. She is still trying to get over stage fright. She has recently made a choice to stop drinking and that has intensified the fear. Her approach now is singing with her eyes closed. Sometimes friends will come up to the stage and stand there for minutes before she realizes someone is there. The smaller intimate performances are much more frightening for Siders than the larger arenas. She states, "she feels like the intimate settings are more personal and come with expectations of more talking." The expectation that she should tell her story about each song and the inspiration behind the music.
She has taken the challenge of facing a change in her dreams to figuring out a new passion and facing her own fears of performance to make her new dream come true. She feels that the uncomfortably is present in her performance. She remembers even as a young child being coaxed to the stage to sing with her family. Her performances include music she composes as well as covers like My Neck My Back.
She is also a music composer.She is able to hear the song and play them. Siders is like her father in that there was no formal structural music training. She is able to write the lyrics and the music without the ability to read music. She believes that her family is genetically inclined to be music performers. This gives her the believer and dreamer aspect of the world. She was a child she was guided to believe in yourself and what you're doing. Her dad lived out his musical dream. How can anyone tell her that a child of a dreamer it is not possible?
Strict playing is something she feels takes away from the art of music. She has a sultry raspy voice that is just intoxicating to listen too. She has always tried to stray away from the structure. "Structured music scene is difficult when you enter a venue that is small or empty," Siders feels. She goes on to discuss that when any musician is starting out they do to the various audience and by the time you have made the big house you have played to every kind of audience there is out there. She wants to go with the flow. She never starts with a set list again there is no structure.
Jared Manker, Mank of Mank and Sass, is classically trained in music. He has the strict background insight into music. He assists her with the theory and structure of the songs. Mank has a strong structure in music and is learning to enjoy the improv with her personality. His schooling allows for Siders to see where she is with her music and how to find her personal style of music.
She met her wife in high school here in Champaign, even though she was living in California. Her family often visited family in Champaign. She met her at a high school party. She feels in love with Erin Siders right off the bat. It took a journey to get together. Between college and military, they stayed connected. Eventually, Siders moved from Indianapolis to Champaign where she reconnected with Erin on Valentines Day 2012. They married in 2015. Siders does not understand the confusion over love.
She knows that even walking down the street she is not the pretty straight girl. Her mother was concerned with her moving to the midwest. Having grown up in California the comfortably being gay was not found in Indianapolis. She says, "There were many times I felt like the only gay person walking in the state." Her philosophy is if she is the only gay person someone meets she wants that will be a great encounter. Be good to people."
Siders influences to keep going is that it makes her heart happy. The work she did before this time there was no connection. This just makes her happy. Her father being so happy with what he does was a great lesson she learned. She grew up around good timeless music. Her musical inspirations include:
She said, "you got to give it to a woman who looks like she is going to pass out every time she is singing on stage."
"A truly amazing talent," she says
"You got to love Bowie. You got to love someone who can be himself," Siders states
She said, "She is strong and a great achiever."
Mornings are her favorite time of the day. She is a very early riser. She makes her bed every day. It is a challenge at this time her wife works the graveyard shift, but she makes the bed when Erin gets up in the afternoon. It is a closing to the night and a beginning to the day. Makes the room a lot better. She enjoys a morning of songwriting and coffee. She drinks at least a cup of coffee every day. She really loves coffee, mornings, and writing. Recently wrote More Than Caffeine.
As we finish our coffees she discusses her family and wife. How much they bring to her life. She has embraced the struggles she faced, stayed true to herself andcontinues to believe and dream.
She is releasing an album this summer and you can catch Mank and Sass at:
4/21 Fox Family Anniversary Party Fishers IN.
4/25 Clark Bar Champaign IL. (Every other Wednesday after that)
4/28 Fieldhouse 219 Monticello IL.
5/1 Whiskey Business Indianapolis IN.
5/3 Sammers II Gibson City IL.
5/5 Fox Gardin Fortville IN.
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Photos John Moore Photo
[Submitted by Tammy Forchion]