The same ol’ Sawyer
Hometown teen remains true to roots, but showing growth in songwriting and singing since ‘The Voice’
He’s still the friendly town of Glen farm boy with an acoustic guitar strapped at the ready around his neck. In the words of Steve Miller, “Don’t take me too far away.” That sounds about right.
But Sawyer is also two years older, now has a girlfriend, and at the ripe old age of 18 seems a bit more sophisticated dealing with the entertainment machine. His songwriting has grown by leaps and bounds, and luckily for his listeners, he says he never wants to remain stagnant.
“I think it’s just living longer, you have more to say,” Fredericks says, explaining the changes.
The old soul with the unique voice is back in the spotlight, if just locally this week. Fredericks will headline Sticker Mule’s free All-Day Outdoor Music Festival, which starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Wilbur H. Lynch Academy, 4 Diamonds Field, in Amsterdam. Sawyer will perform in the late afternoon following Funk Evolution, Grand Central Station and Big Sky Country.
“I’m very excited,” Sawyer says of the local show, which expects thousands.
Festivalgoers are urged to bring a chair or blanket to enjoy a day of food, vendors and free amusement rides. The event will be held rain or shine.
Fredericks was in Amsterdam Thursday promoting his Saturday appearance at AM radio station WCSS in the Riverfront Center. He is also going to be making a video for a song from his upcoming third album, “Hide Your Ghost,” at the Glove Theatre. He is working with Troy-based Chromoscope Pictures for the video.
In addition to working on finishing that album, Sawyer is in the midst of a nationwide tour. After his Montgomery County appearance, his tour dates in October and November include cities such as: Indianapolis, Ind.; Lexington, Ky.; Columbus, Ohio; San Antonio, Tex.; The Woodlands, Tex.; New Orleans, La.; Philadelphia, Pa,; and Annapolis, Md.
No one really knew Sawyer Fredericks until he captured a national TV audience with “The Voice” in spring 2015. Then-15 and 16, he elevated what he still calls his “contemporary folk” renditions of well-known songs, and his own tunes, to celebrity status. At the time, Fredericks was the youngest winner ever on “The Voice” over country singer Meghan Linsey May 19, 2015 in Hollywood. At the same time, he set a record for having 14 singles on the iTunes Top 200 Singles Chart. The talented youth sold nearly 1 million copies of songs performed on “The Voice.”
In an interview Thursday outside WCSS, Fredericks smiles and seems appreciate when told his lyrics have matured.
A song like, “Hide Your Ghost,” the title track from the new album, shows that.
“Isolated and invaded by the wolves you would not play with. All is stated and is made to be witnessed. And the tyrant has your life spent on the lies he feeds his kind with. And we all will suffer and all will die for the other. Yes we all will suffer and all will die for the other.”
When told that his songs sometimes make the listener sad, he laughs.
“A lot of my songs are depressing,” he said.
But like a great storyteller, similar to the late Harry Chapin, Sawyer Fredericks’ music clutches onto your soul and won’t let you go until you at least confront what he’s trying to say.
“I think my music is constantly evolving,” Fredericks said. “I listen to a lot of different type of music.”
He still lives on the farm he has grown up on in the town of Glen. His mother, Kirsten Fredericks of Windrake Records Inc., is now his manager. He has no contractual obligations with “The Voice.” But by winning, Fredericks took home $100,000, a recording contract with Republic Records, and a Nissan vehicle. He still keeps in contact with some of “The Voice” contestants as friends, although he is too busy to watch the show now.
His major label debut, “A Good Storm,” with Republic Records sold well and mixed a blend of soulful folk, blues, and rock, entirely written or cowritten by Sawyer.
Today, Sawyer said he is “close” to finishing “Hide Your Ghost.” The dark heartache song, “Gasoline,” could be the first single.
“Don’t scream, my body is gasoline,” he sings. “Won’t find no fools who use me. I consume all I love. No, I ain’t no toy.”
Fredericks, who took his first plane ride at the start of “The Voice,” now finds air travel a means to an end.
“I really enjoy traveling,” the young man says.
But he just wishes he could enjoy the cities he’s in a little longer than his tour schedule allows.
When he’s away from home, he misses his family farm and his girlfriend, the latter subject he prefers remain private.
Mother Kirsten Fredericks says her son is still pretty much the homebody he was before the trappings of instant fame on “The Voice.”
“Sawyer hopes to build a home on the farm,” she says. “This hasn’t changed who he is anyway.”
During “The Voice” months, he was home schooled, but his mother says he is now an “unschooler” — simply learning from life around him.
“It’s never over,” she says of the learning process.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.