Sarah & Brad: Married, Musicians, Muses

Sarah Chapman and Bradford Dougherty in front of holiday lights

Sarah Chapman is a local actor, musician, and currently the Education Director of Sweet Tea Shakespeare.  She has been in local productions such as “Evil Dead: The Musical” (Gilbert Theater), “Dogwood” (A Yellow Beanie Project) and “Much Ado About Nothing” (Sweet Tea Shakespeare). Bradford Dougherty, also a local actor, is a solder at Ft Bragg in the 44th Medical Brigade. We both have been musicians and performers since childhood. We married in 2018 and have three children, Tristan, William, and Genevieve.

sarah & brad. photo courtesy A Yellow Beanie Project.

3 Things making your life richer & why

Brad: my family, art, and career; being in a career of service, both by medicine and the army has given me a unique perspective in what I can and should do for the people around me. My art gives me the opportunity to participate intimately with the things I’m passionate about, and my family provides a warm and supportive environment. They inspire me to want to better myself in all aspects of my life.

Sarah: Aside from having wonderful, empathetic children of my own, I love watching appreciation of local artists, and the arts in general, grow exponentially from what it used to be in Fayetteville. I grew up here, and I’m proud to contribute by working with our local youths in theater. I also find wealth in simplicity: occasional peace and quiet is a privilege these days and I don’t take it for granted.

Local artist you admire: We both agree that El’Ja Bowens is an AMAZING artist who has a unique way of delivering profound, impactful performances. We’re huge fans of his work!

What is one of your current artistic experiments? Getting up and performing for the first time was our icebreaker for putting ourselves out there. When Sarah isn’t working on music production for local projects, she’s making original music and when we come together we pick songs we mutually enjoy and practice. We’re also currently recruiting to expand into a full band.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? Between the two of us, we have picked up more ways to artistically contribute and create within our community. More volume has required more practice, the necessity to find new skills and develop abilities (especially with tech), and it’s allowed us to collectively step outside of our comfort zones. We are happy with where this has led us and hope the trajectory keeps moving forward. 

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. We have a “studio” in our home. We recently upgraded it to professional status when we got Sarah top tier recording software and sound equipment. We are also able to house a full five-piece band including 4 mics, plus we have a few classical instruments. Sarah has an old desk in this space where she does her work with pictures of our kids and gifts from friends and past students displayed.  

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? It’s different for both of us. For me (Sarah), my brain is on the go at all times, and everything is sensory overload on my worst day. Music and art is my safe space. When it comes to original work or performing live, I peak when I’m feeling everything in the moment and lose myself. Writing a song when I’m anxious, portraying a character in theater; everything is visceral and authentic.

Brad says: I like a good story, so if there’s something I’d like to recreate, if it moves me, then I’ll want to riff off of that. Sometimes it results in me writing work for intended film projects, sometimes it pushes me toward musical collaboration where musicality communicated between me and other musicians in a jam session. That communication can tell it’s own story. 

Advice to newer artists in your genre.

Sarah: Set realistic expectations, practice, and don’t allow criticism to discourage you. I also believe in staying humble because success comes from others’ appreciation and support.

Brad: Find an influence that’s better than you, and steal as much as humanly possible. Everything you learn playing their licks is going to make you a better musician, and developing skills listening to lots of other musicians can help you develop your own musical identity. Also don’t skimp on your hobby; that doesn’t mean you have to drop a ton if money for top of the line gear, but if you are serious about playing, decent gear will give you a chance to hear and feel when you play well, where cheap or bad gear is going to provide a miserable experience and will discourage you, because it isn’t going to sound or feel like you are improving. The cost incentive is going to make you want to make the cost worth your time as well. 

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