Smithfield, Rhode Island native Sarah Potenza continues her long road to stardom. From humble beginnings singing in the school choir at Smithfield High School, Potenza has shined bright on hit TV shows including “NBC’s The Voice” and most recently, “America’s Got Talent.”
I spoke with the Nashville-based singer-songwriter recently by phone as she prepared for her upcoming tour, her first in almost two years. She’ll be playing The Met in Pawtucket, along with fellow singer Katie Kaden. Of course, the past 18 months have been a challenging time for the music industry, and Potenza was not immune from those challenges.
“We’ve all been kind of like, hanging out, doing nothing – it’s been awful,” she observed.
Her pandemic silver lining came earlier this year, when representatives from the ABC TV show “America’s Got Talent,” reached out. She explained how it happened.
“They contacted me after they saw me on YouTube. When you put yourself out there at a certain level people notice you, so young artists take note, put yourself out there. Put yourself on YouTube – you never know who’s gonna see it.”
“So they asked me to come on the show,” she continued. “One of the things I was so impressed with was that the people who contacted me knew my original music and liked me as an artist. We talked about plus-size fashion and my original songs. It was just really a nice conversation.”
That conversation led to an appearance on the show and a YouTube performance video that so far has amassed over one million views.
“I’m always up for the exposure,” said Potenza. “You never know what’s going to happen, you could end up on there and win, or you could end up singing one song like I did and get a million people to see and listen to you. It’s just always such a blessing. I went to LA and quarantined and COVID tested. I went into the audition and it was really really fun.
“They let me know that I did not make it through to the live rounds. I just thank them for the wonderful experience. I got to share my voice and some of my music with people. What a great way to kick off coming back to reality here, coming back to the public,” she added. “It had been a long time and I had grown so much as an artist and a human being since ‘The Voice’ which was like six years ago. Just being able to show off the last five years of growth was really a special moment for me and I’m so grateful for it.”
Many fans remembered her “Voice” stint, where she impressed the judges with a rare four-chair turn.
“From what I see on Facebook, some people said, Oh I remember you from ‘The Voice’ and I rooted for you then and I hope you make it on this. I think there is a lot of crossover between Voice fans and America’s Got Talent fans,” remarked Potenza.
It’s not uncommon for celebrities to appear on multiple talent competition shows. “I watch some reality shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and they’ll bring back queens for the All-Stars or different seasons. Remembering them from years ago, it’s always cool to see where people are now,” Potenza explained. “A lot of my fans identify with something about the music and that’s what brings them to the party.”
National exposure that comes with these appearances definitely helps sell records and concert tickets. Potenza saw a jump in listenership just after the AGT show aired.
“My album and the single ‘Worthy’ rose to #1 on the iTunes blues charts in that week. It was pretty incredible – a bucket list thing that was really great, especially because 2020 wasn’t the best as an artist financially. You gain like 20-25% followers on social media, more people sign up for your email list, and those are people that are going to come out and buy tickets to shows, or stream your music or buy a t-shirt,” said Potenza.
Potenza acknowledges an incredible experience on “The Voice” in 2015, but noted that she didn’t have much creative control while at the show. The AGT experience felt different.
“It’s kind of funny, the older you get, you realize this is me. To be able to come out and perform in the clothes that I want to wear and sing the song I want to sing to the track that was like the instrumental from my album … it felt like such a redemptive moment. On ‘The Voice’ they chose the clothes, the songs. It felt like, here, you’re the rocker chick, do this. And I felt like hey, I can do more, I can sing like Bonnie Raitt,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Potenza is gearing up for some touring and recording as Covid conditions improve.
“We’re starting to get back out there and play shows. We did one in Atlanta this summer and it was great. It was at Eddie’s Attic, the legendary songwriter venue. We also just hit the Bluebird in Nashville and that was sold out.”
Potenza explained how the homecoming show at The Met on October 23rd will be special.
“I’ve been performing the songs from Road to Rome as a trio but for the show in Rhode Island, we’re going to have a seven-piece band. I’m gonna kick the show off when Chaka Khan’s ‘I’m Every Woman,'” she announced. Sounds like a promising show!