By now, Sarah Potenza’s story should be familiar to most Rhode Islanders. The popular singer grew up in Smithfield and attended Smithfield High School and later Rhode Island College. She moved to Chicago where she honed her singer-songwriter chops and toured the country with her first band, Sarah and the Tall Boys.
In 2015, Potenza went out on her own and appeared on NBC’s The Voice, where she famously received a “four chair turn” behind a powerhouse performance of the Faces “Stay with Me.” Since then, she’s released two acclaimed albums and toured relentlessly. Her latest release Road to Rome is describes as “self-empowered R&B, swaggering soul, and contemporary blues.”
Potenza shared a few thoughts in an e-mail interview earlier this week ahead of her upcoming show at Chan’s this weekend. Here’s what she had to say.
1) We’re excited to hear you’re returning to Chan’s. What’s a “homecoming” show like for you?
A homecoming show for me is like a dream come true every single time. I get to share my passion for performing not only with my loyal fans, but my friends and family too. The love and support I get from my Rhode Island fans is such a joy. They are a zesty people, and they give as much as I give. They really get into the show. I flew my keys player (Justin Wiseman) up from Austin, Texas to be with us. He co-wrote the entire Road to Rome album! It’s gonna be a blast having him at Chan’s. I am not gonna play guitar, I just want to rock out in some diva outfits and sing my heart out.
2) Tell us a little about your new album, Road to Rome.
This album is really my greatest musical achievement. It’s everything I love about songs. The music is fun and meaningful with hooks for days. It’s the first time in my career that I got what I wanted.
3) You’ve become a major spokesperson and role model for the body positive movement. How did your career arc lead you to this point?
It was sort of just a natural progression for me. I did realize that by just being myself and being confident I was gonna inspire people. I started getting a lot of comments about my age and size from women who felt that they were invisible. They shared things with me, everything from going to an open mic for the first time in years to something as simple as wearing a tank top in public. And I realized that my clothing was about more than just fashion. It was activism. For someone my age and size to wear a leotard fearlessly was an act of defiance. And it started a conversation about size and beauty.
4) It’s been a few years since your appearance on “The Voice.” You’ve been a full-time musician for several years now. What have you learned about the music business?
I still feel like I know nothing. Every time I learn something, it changes. The industry is in chaos. Selling CDs is like trying to open a blockbuster video store. It (the industry) failed to evolve. And that’s one of the things about fashion that I love. I think more and more of us need to evolve and diversify what we sell. I just opened an Etsy shop called Sarah Potenza’s Fat Fashions. It’s second-hand plus-sized clothing. I have lots of ideas about merch and how to change the game for myself.
Sarah Potenza plays two shows (8PM and 10PM) at Chan’s in Woonsocket Saturday night June 15th. Kaitlyn Tarro, recent winner of Wakefield Idol, opens. She’ll return to RI for the Rhythm and Roots Festival Labor Day Weekend. For tickets and further details on the Chan’s show, click here.
Buy or stream “Road To Rome” here: http://smarturl.it/sarahpotenza.