Singer-songwriter Sara Kays is on the road as opening act for artist Max Schiender (better known as MAX) is North American round. She opened the tour’s first night at the Santa Ana Observatory on October 17.
Kays is exceptionally open and forthright about her day-to-day experiences with everything from love and friendship to body image and mental health. She uses her music to fight life, and her fans have found it easy to do the same.
“Meeting people who relate to things that I’m sometimes very scared to talk about in my music, meeting people who that resonates with, makes me feel good about it. It makes me feel like I’m being seen too,” Kays said in an interview with New University.
She had just come off stage minutes earlier after performing an eight-song set for the packed Constellation Room at the Santa Ana Observatory. Dozens of fans patiently lined up to meet her at the sales booth.
“I’ve been listening to Sara for years, since ‘Remember that night?‘ came out of [in 2020]said one fan online, “Honestly, I came to see her tonight. MAX is awesome, but Sara is my girlfriend!
Earlier on stage, Kays, cozy in a dark green and purple flannel button-up shirt and her signature sage green knit beanie, opened her ensemble with “Rear rider“, followed immediately by” When you look at me “. The third song in his set, “House for the summer“, is Kays’ second most-streamed song to date, currently at nearly 33 million plays on Spotify.
Kays’ home is Carmel, Indiana, where she was born and raised. She then moved to Nashville to attend Middle Tennessee State University. Three years ago, while still in college, Kays’ goal was to be able to make a full-time living from music.
“Now that I’m doing this, I’m trying to figure out if there’s a bigger purpose than that and the purpose of reaching people who relate to what I’m talking about,” Kays said. “Obviously it would be amazing to play in big venues in the future and do bigger things, but I would say I’ve achieved my biggest goal since I was a kid.”
She continued her set with her latest release, “Watch televisionwhich was released on August 19. Next, Kays invited the audience to sing the fifth song of her set.
While most audience members were familiar with Kays’ music, many were introduced to her smooth, emotional sound for the first time.
“I didn’t know what to expect with this crowd,” Kays said, “but they seemed super engaged, which is really nice, and I’m excited for the rest of [the tour]. MAX sent me a DM and said ‘I love your music!’ and i thought that was so great so i wrote him back and a few days later he asked me if i wanted to open for him on tour. I said “absolutely, yes!”
She followed “Fireflies” with “Chosen last”, – another song from his 2020 album,“Camera shywhich also includes “House for the Summer”. Kays has amassed nearly 2 million followers on ICT Tac since the start of the pandemic. She has gained a lot of popularity through the social platform and often posts extracts of songs throughout his writing process, sharing the journey with his fans.
“I kind of came during COVID, that’s when I started gaining an audience,” Kays said. “I was talking to people via DMs and seeing the interactions online, but finally being able to see people in person has been amazing.”
The penultimate song of his set was his ballad about body issues, “smaller than that.” She told the audience that this song was “probably the most direct [she’s] never been about it,” and his lyrics about always wishing for a smaller body prove him right.
Kays closed the set with her most-streamed song, “Remember That Night.” A viral hit, the song has amassed over 240 million plays on Spotify since its release in 2020.
“Usually I start with lyrics or a concept and go from there with the musical side of things, but I like to know what I’m talking about or writing in advance,” Kays said. “My favorite part is probably writing the songs, when I hit a part where I’m like ‘Woah! That came together and packed it all together, it’s so cool. I think that’s still my favorite part , but having played shows and stuff recently, that’s kind of a close second. I appreciate it!”
During the main act, Kays returned to the stage to perform “Butterflieswith MAX – lending his melodious vocals to another song about insects.
Kays said she felt fulfilled by her work and grateful to be able to once again take the stage and sing for the people her music is for.
Dhanika Pineda is the editor for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at [email protected]