Sarah Proctor’s lyrics are as healing as they are heartbreaking. Proving that there is power in vulnerability, the singer draws on her own experiences of love and heartbreak to unpick the intricacies of intimacy. She also uses her platform to talk openly about coming out as being gay, pushing a less-sexualised and more normalised portrayal of lesbian love. Her recently released single ‘Tired’ acts as a kind of lullaby for lovers clinging on to the last remnants of a broken relationship. In conversation, Sarah exudes the same gentle, comforting energy but with a lightness - a zest for what’s to come. With BBC Introducing giving ‘Tired’ ‘Track of the week’ (for a whole week), the world is just beginning to wake up to her. F Word sat down to chat about romance, finding herself and why you won’t catch her in a karaoke booth any time soon.
Rachel Edwards: Hello! I’ve been listening to ‘Tired’ and it’s so emotional - Is it based on real life experiences?
Sarah Proctor: Yeah I always write from my experience or someone I know. I’ve definitely been in relationships where I’ve been the one trying to keep it going and then in the end I’m just like ‘I’ve had enough’. I’ve definitely been in that position. I love a story as well and I think so many people can relate to that!
R.E: I was watching an interview with 'Sting' the other day and he was saying that if there’s a song where people are happily in love he’s not interested, you need to have the hard, complex part of relationships that people connect to! I think a lot of people lose themselves in relationships, does that happen to you?
S.P: I think I’ve been through that before, my first heartbreak. It’s such a learning experience. At the time I was devastated but now I look back and wonder why I stayed for so long. Why did I put up with that? Everything’s about learning and also learning afterwards what you will and won’t put up with. Now I have some cut-offs, if I see something’s happening then I’m out.
R.E: Do you think you’re a romantic person?
S.P: I am! I think it’s nice to show another person that you love them and appreciate them. I really like taking trips away. Me and my girlfriend will go on little adventures and find places we haven’t been. It’s cute, I like it. Giving experiences to somebody is the nicest thing.
R.E: Yeah and then you both have this beautiful shared memory to hold onto. And your songs have this raw honesty to them, would you say you’re a good liar?
S.P: No! I am the worst liar ever. I’m one of those people where if I even try my heart just drops. To be fair I don’t do anything that crazy anyway that I need to lie but I need to be honest. If I’ve done something wrong I need to tell you! Even when I was growing up my mum would say ‘you don’t have to tell me everything you know?’.
R.E: (Laughs) She’s like ‘stop oversharing!’. Through your lyrics you speak openly about being gay - when did you come out and did you struggle with your sexual identity when you were growing up?
S.P: Well I came out twice and I feel like when you’re gay you never stop coming out, you come out every day! Because I’ve done so much press stuff and everything I put out is very openly gay it’s a bit different but I remember when I was first starting out in the studio people would be like ‘who is he?’ and I’d be like umm no I’m gay… Every session I was coming out! I came out when I was 19 to my parents and then I went to LA and I discovered this whole community and I just decided from 21 that I was just going to be myself. I’m from a small town and I had no gay friends growing up. There wasn’t much on TV or to relate to so I researched online just trying to find anything gay to relate to. The [TV show the] 'L Word' was the first thing that I was like ‘oh my god there are people like me’.
R.E: I guess now there is more. When I was younger I watched ‘Sugar Rush’ and it was shocking to me because you never saw lesbian relationships portrayed on TV. Especially the emotional side. How would you like the representation of queer culture to change in the media?
S.P: I think it is changing a lot and there’s definitely more representation. I think for a long time anything to do with lesbians was sexualised. Anything on TV included a boy, even in a girls’ love story. That’s why in my music videos I want to show two girls in love, two girls breaking up - it’s a normal relationship. We go through the same things straight couples go through! I think it’s so important to show the emotional side of two girls in love because it's one of the most amazing things, it's so nice.
R.E: Do you ever feel like you’re fetishised for being a lesbian?
S.P: Yeah so many times in my life. It’s horrible that even now I won’t hold my girlfriend's hand sometimes if there's a group of men because there have been so many times where I would be holding her hand and a guy would appear in front of us and ask ‘are you two together? Can I introduce myself?’ or ‘did you just kiss her?’ and it's really uncomfortable and even scary. On holiday this one guy just stood there for ages staring and I almost felt like I needed help to get him away. You see things on the news like the gay couple on the bus and a guy asked them to kiss and when they didn't they beat them up. I think a lot of that is to do with the fact that it has been sexualised and men have seen it on porn.
R.E: It’s absolutely shocking. It's shocking that they think you’re doing it for them.
S.P: It's not everyone, the majority of people are so respectful but this handful of guys still have the idea that it's for them and they don't respect that. If I sat with a guy, another guy wouldn't come over and be like ‘hey’. It wouldn't happen!
R.E: It’s crazy! Or imagine a girl going up to two gay guys and doing the same.
S.P: It’s not so bad now but it still happens and has happened quite a lot.
R.E: When did you decide that you wanted to go into music?
S.P: My dad plays guitar and he had this guitar song book about The Beatles songs. I would try to play them but my fingers would hurt so I’d be like ‘I can't do it’ but then I picked it up and played every day and taught myself. I’d learn the old Taylor Swift songs! Then I started writing my own random little songs. I wrote this little song called ‘Dreams’ - I played it to my family on Christmas Day. My grandad goes to this working mens pub where he's gone his whole life, and his friend has this band called ‘The Amazing Spacefrogs’ - they’re like an old punk band and he was like ‘I’ve got you a gig supporting them’ so that was my first gig! Then I just did the North East of England where I'm from, little pubs… Then when I was 20 I had to make the move from the North East of England to London because everything happens in London! I didn't want to be stuck in a circle. Then I went to LA and stayed there for 3 years - I went backwards and forwards, I maxed out my 3 month Visa every time.
R.E: How did you like LA?
S.P: Yeah I loved it! I was doing music and also growing up there. I had my friends and went out and had a good time!
R.E: Did you know anyone when you first went?
S.P: I knew two people! I went for two weeks with my mum and dad cos' I had some music interest. Then I met a couple of really cool people who I'm still friends with now and I ended up going back a month later and staying with a friend. I met my mate online and now she's my best mate! I just lived with her! It was a good time! I met a lot of people in music, did a lot of sessions and figured out what kind of artist I wanted to be!
R.E: I think going off on a limb by yourself is something that builds you as a person so much! What would you say inspires you the most when you’re writing lyrics?
S.P: Love inspires me the most! There's so many elements to it and there's so many different types of love, it can never end. I don't feel like any love is the same. There's never really nothing to write about. And ‘the breaks’ was about mental health. I think that's really important, to be able to take the time for yourself. This year has been a crazy year and it's the first time I've really seen what mental health can do to somebody. I lost someone close to me through mental health and it's the most devastating thing I've seen happen. I can't write about that situation yet, I've tried but I cant but my girlfriend’s mum committed suicide through lockdown and its been the toughest thing.
R.E: I’m so sorry. It’s so hard, only when it affects you in that way and it's someone you know it really hits home how much people need to talk about it. What kind of things do you do for your own mental health?
S.P: I need me time, I need to be with my family. I want to see my girlfriend, I want to have a healthy relationship. I love music and music is my whole entire life but I love being happy more than I love music. I just think it's so important - you're not going to be successful if you don't love what you're doing or you don't take the time away from it to love yourself. Or you're sad because your mind is elsewhere or you’re missing someone. It is important to take little breaks - I never stop for long because I can't stop doing music but it is important. To be with someone that you enjoy being with and that takes your mind off any pressure or stress that you have in work.
R.E: I think it keeps you grounded as well!
S.P: Yeah especially because my girlfriend’s not in the industry or anything.
R.E: Really what does she do?
S.P: She’s a beautician and she's the funniest person. You know you have to do things in music, little videos talking on my phone that I find really awkward and she's just like ‘oh my god’. Any TikToks or anything I do she’s like ‘well I wouldn't post it but I don't even have TikTok so if that's what you gotta do!’
R.E: That’s so funny, it reminds you that it's not that serious! Would you say you’re an introvert or an extrovert?
S.P: Can you be both? I love people and meeting new people! I don't think I'm an introvert - I love getting to know people. But I'm also not the person that really wants to jump on the tables at a party like look at me! I’ll be chilling. I don't feel the need to constantly be singing! I’d rather not, there's a time and a place!
R.E: Obviously a lot of your songs are quite melancholic but do you think you’d ever go completely the other way and do some really fast stuff or is there another style you want to try?
S.P: I actually have this one song and it's a couple of peoples favourites in the label but I'm figuring out when to release it. I love it but it's a different kind of vibe! It's still me but it is different. But I love it, I definitely want to release it! And we do some little remixes which are good. ‘Petit Biscuit’ is my favourite, it’s still a chill remix, it's never going to be anything crazy.
R.E: If you ever go to karaoke what's your karaoke song?
S.P: I never go to karaoke! It's one of things, because I'm a singer… you can't go to karaoke and sing well!
R.E: I know what you mean, because I can't sing I think people just embrace it!
S.P: (Laughs) When I see someone singing good at karaoke I'm just like ok this is over! Because I sing people are like ‘oh here we go’ so it’s gotta be bad, I’m like ‘I have to chant this song’, I'm not going to sing it! And I'm going to be drunk as well! I’d probably do Robbie Williams or something.
R.E: (Laughs) Doing karaoke purposefully bad, that's amazing! What's your relationship like with your phone? What's your screen time?
S.P: (Checks Phone): So it’s saying the daily average is 5 hours 36 minutes! But I do everything on my phone! Emails, social media, posts, calls! I probably handle more stuff on my phone than on my computer - lets merge the two together and it's not that bad!
R.E: Yeah I know people who have 8 hours of screen time a day! It's like the equivalent to the whole time you sleep at night you could just be looking at your phone non stop…
S.P: Oh my god yeah!
R.E: And what other plans have you got coming up?
S.P: This next song is my favourite song! I was sat in the studio and I was thinking back to before I realised I was gay and there were so many moments at school that I’m like ‘wow it was so obvious’ or theres this thing in the lesbian community that you always fall in love with a straight girl at some point. Unrequited love basically. I remember having little crushes but obviously I wasn’t out and no one else was gay so it was just me and they’d all like boys and I was kind of being left out. This isn't just a gay thing, anyone can go through this at some point, if you like someone and they don't like you back. I can't say what it's called yet though I don't think! But I love the story and the music video we have for it.
R.E: Would you ever get your girlfriend to be in a video with you? Would she do it?
S.P: I would but she wouldn't! She doesn't even like to get photos at the moment, she's like ‘I don't look good!’. I think she'd be good at it, she actually filmed ‘the breaks’ video. She did it all on iPhone! And she did ‘the breaks’ artwork, she did the make up on the ‘tired’ video! She’s quite good at taking photos as well, you never know maybe she will switch up careers, she might be behind the camera.
R.E: Wow you’re like an amazing power couple! Ok I have some lasts for you... The last thing you ate?
S.P: Does honey count?
R.E: Yeah! Wait did you just eat honey on its own?
S.P: I put some in my Lemsip and then I just ate a spoonful! I haven't actually eaten today yet!
R.E: The last thing you regretted?
S.P: Drinking too much the other night! Actually it was a good night but the hangover I regret. It's the first time I've been out that late, I got in at 5am in the morning but me and my friend were just sitting on a step for two hours eating McDonalds because he's just gone through a break up! So I don’t really regret it but I did hurt my voice so I regret singing as much as I did!
R.E: OK last person you spoke to?
S.P: My dad!
R.E: The last book you read?
S.P: Oh this is really bad I don’t read. I don't think Ive ever actually read a full book…
R.E: A lot of people actually don't! I was speaking to my friend's boyfriend and the last thing he read was ‘The Witches’ by Roald Dahl at school, and even then someone read it to him! You’re not alone! Last movie you watched?
S.P: I think it was something called ‘Kate’ on Netflix! I fall asleep to a movie every night.
R.E: I do that with podcasts, I only ever listen to half a podcast before I fall asleep and then a different one the next night so I can tell people a lot of half facts! The last time you splashed out?
S.P: I don't really get that much expensive stuff! Probably this jacket!
R.E: Ok lastly… what is your favourite F Word?
R.E: I don't think anyone said that actually! Thanks for talking to us!