Sarah McQuaid announces another marathon tour

Sarah McQuaid

Building a fanbase one gig at a time

She’s been mentioned in a quiz question on BBC Radio 4’s Counterpoint, featured on the O2 Music Map, supported by the Arts Council, presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her guitar work, and earned critical raves for her albums (all seven of them) and live performances — but Sarah McQuaid remains largely unknown to the general public.

The Cornwall-based singer-songwriter aims to go a small distance towards changing that with a 55-show autumn UK and USA tour that brings her total number of gigs this year to 98 — not quite as many as the 118 concerts she played in 2023, her first full year of touring since the pandemic, but still an ambitious undertaking.

“I’m basically trying to build a fanbase one gig at a time,” Sarah laughs. “It’s why I do a lot of village hall and library concerts, because those shows draw an audience that hasn’t necessarily ever heard of me, but goes along anyway because it’s in their local area and it’s not a big investment for them — the library concerts are almost always free to the public and the village halls tend to be subsidised.

“And then if they come up afterwards and buy merch and sign up to the mailing list, I know I’ve got another fan or two, and hopefully they’ll tell their friends to check out my music.”

Sarah’s autumn concert dates are as follows (see https://sarahmcquaid.com/tour for full details including times, booking links etc.):

AUGUST – SEPTEMBER 2024 – UK

August 30      Falmouth: The Poly
August 31      Hay on Wye: the globe at hay
September 1         Launceston Folk Club
September 3         Tewkesbury: The Roses Theatre
September 5         Petersfield Museum and Art Gallery
September 6         Ipswich: St Peter’s by the Waterfront
September 7         Royal Tunbridge Wells: The Green Duck Event Space
September 8         Tolpuddle Village Hall
September 13      Much Wenlock: The Edge Arts Centre
September 14      Silsden Town Hall
September 15      Sheffield: Live At Sam’s
September 19      Norwich: Anteros Arts Foundation
September 20      Lincoln: Southside
September 21      Newbury: ACE Space
September 22      Upton Cross (Liskeard): Sterts Studio
September 26      Llanelli: Ffwrnes – Stiwdio Stepni
September 27      Rhayader: The Lost ARC
September 28      Buxton: The Green Man Gallery
September 29      Burnham Deepdale: Deepdale Festival
September 30      Bath: UstiNovember Studio – Theatre Royal Bath

OCTOBER – NOVEMBER 2024 – USA

October 10       Waterford, NY: Waterford Public Library
October 11       Ocean City, NJ: Ocean City Free Public Library
October 12       Luray, VA: Performing Arts Luray
October 13       Richmond, VA: The Tin Pan
October 15       Warsaw, IN: Warsaw Community Public Library
October 17       Williamsville, IL: Paris-Belle House Concerts
October 18       DeKalb, IL: DeKalb Public Library
October 19       Des Moines, IA: Progressive Voices
October 20       Unionville, MO: The Bixler 108
October 22       Kansas City, KS: West Wyandotte Library
October 23       Valley Center, KS: Valley Center Public Library
October 24       Tulsa, OK: House Concerts Unlimited
October 26       Johnson City, TX: 290 Texas House Concerts
October 27       Missouri City, TX: Nancy Brand’s House Concerts
October 28       Aransas Pass, TX: The Rialto Theater
October 29       Beaumont, TX: 7 Oaks Event Garden
November 1         Chicago, IL: First Unitarian Church of Chicago
November 2         Chicago, IL: Guitar Workshops at Old Town School of Folk Music
November 3         Orland Park, IL: Orland Park Public Library
November 7         Grass Lake, MI: Green Wood Coffee House Series
November 8         Livonia, MI: Trinity House Theatre
November 9         Marietta, OH: First Settlement House Concerts
November 10      Greensboro, NC: Fiddle & Bow @ First Moravian
November 11      Dataw Island, SC: Folk at the Cannery
November 14      High Point, NC: High Point Museum
November 15      Hardy, VA: (1pm) Westlake Library
November 15      Rocky Mount, VA: (6pm) Franklin County Public Library
November 16      Lansdowne, VA: Lansdowne Woods of Virginia
November 17      Washington, DC: The Lucky Penny Living Room Concert Series
November 18      Phoenixville, PA: Phoenixville Public Library
November 20      Wayland, MA: Wayland Free Public Library
November 21      Millbury, MA: Asa Waters Mansion
November 22      Simsbury, CT: Simsbury Public Library
November 23      Freeport, ME: Cadenza
November 24      Middleborough, MA: Middleborough Public Library

Born in Spain to a Spanish father and American mother, Sarah McQuaid grew up in Chicago, touring the US and Canada as a member of The Chicago Children’s Choir. In the mid-1990s she made her way to Ireland, where her authorship of The Irish DADGAD Guitar Book led to invitations to write regular music columns and reviews for Hot Press magazine and Dublin’s Evening Herald.

Following her move in 2007 (with her Irish husband and their two children) to Cornwall, she swiftly struck up a friendship with a fellow mum outside the gates of their children’s school. That fellow mum turned out to be Zoë Pollock, writer and performer of 1991 UK Top 5 single “Sunshine On A Rainy Day.”

The pair soon found themselves co-writing songs for an album released in 2008 under the band name Mama, lauded by MOJO’s Colin Irwin as “a pleasingly maverick mix” and by The Irish Times as “Janis Joplin’s freewheeling spirit crossed with Joni Mitchell’s lyrical density.”

“I owe Zoë a massive debt of gratitude for getting me into songwriting in a serious way,” says Sarah. “Prior to that I’d thought of myself basically as a folksinger who happened to write an occasional song, but through working with Zoë I not only learned a hell of a lot about the craft of songwriting, but also just the fact of someone of her calibre wanting to co-write with me was what finally gave me the confidence to start focusing on my own original material. And of course, if it weren’t for Zoë I’d never have met Martin”

Martin Stansbury, a longtime collaborator and former bandmate of Zoë’s who produced and engineered the Mama album, then became Sarah’s manager and sound engineer, accompanying her on all her tours worldwide since 2009.

Most recently, Martin produced and engineered Sarah’s sixth solo album, The St Buryan Sessions, recorded live in lockdown in the beautiful medieval church of St Buryan, just over a mile from Sarah’s home.

Released in October 2021 on CD and limited-edition double LP, the album made it onto “Best of 2021” lists on three continents and features stunning solo performances by Sarah on acoustic and electric guitars, piano and floor tom drum, her lush, distinctive vocals echoing through the soaring space.

“McQuaid’s voice, a fragile, starkly resonant alto, has always been a thing of folk-trad beauty,” wrote reviewer Kenny Berkowitz in Acoustic Guitar magazine, “but here, with ambient mics placed around the church’s interior, it takes on a new joyfulness and a deeper darkness.” Ink 19’s Bob Pomeroy called it “a starkly minimalist recording of exceptional beauty”, and Folk Radio UK described it as “a wonderful, expressive and intimate live album from a consummate performer.”

“There is an audience,” wrote Adrian Jones in Folk London, “– it’s you, and you’ve kept shtum in the back pew. It’s an intimate and changing 70 minutes, ending with the silence of this hallowed setting. Sneak out quietly. And then listen to it again!”

The entire album was filmed as it was being recorded, and videos of all 15 tracks can be viewed on Sarah’s website – https://sarahmcquaid.com – together with details of the forthcoming tour and more information including a 10-minute video intro to Sarah and her music.

‘Sarah McQuaid’ – a brief introduction: