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Posted on 21 Nov 14 Latest Headlines | No Comments

[Thanks to Leader-Telegram! — article by Jocelyn Syrstad Leader-Telegram staff]
Dreams Come True For UW-EC Grad Who Gave Up Teaching For Music Career In summer 2007 Sarah Lou Richards took a risk. She gave up her ca­reer as a teacher, her steady in­come and her life in Con­necti­cut to move to Nashville, Tenn., to pur­sue her dream to be a mu­si­cian.

Now, more than seven years af­ter she picked up her life and started fresh, Richards re­leased her third al­bum, “The Wo­man Be­hind the Cur­tain,” this week. After six and a half years of hav­ing to nanny on top of per­form­ing to pay the bills, Richards, a UW-Eau Claire grad­u­ate and Hud­son na­tive, has fi­nally made mu­sic her sole source of in­come — some­thing she al­ways as­pired to do.

“I think I knew in col­lege that I wanted to pur­sue mu­sic and that I didn’t want to teach, but I put a lot of time into that (teach­ing) ca­reer path and the seeds had al­ready been planted,” Richards said. “I moved af­ter col­lege to Con­necti­cut to teach and went on a trip to Nashville in 2007. Once I vis­ited Nashville, it was a no-brainer. I knew I didn’t want to teach and do mu­sic, so I gave up my teach­ing career.”

“I do be­lieve peo­ple are meant to do cer­tain things, and it’s been cool un­cov­er­ing this ca­reer, which I think I was meant to do, piece by piece. There’s noth­ing else I’d rather do.”

Richards de­scribed “The Wo­man Be­hind the Cur­tain,” which is a ref­er­ence to “The Wizard of Oz” just like her pre­vi­ous two al­bums “Emer­ald City” (2009) and “Ruby Red Shoes” (2010), as a “re­ally great catchall.” She said her style is mainly Amer­i­cana, but the al­bum has touches of tra­di­tional coun­try and folk-rock as well.

“It’s pretty eclec­tic with­out feel­ing spas­tic,” Richards said. “It melds re­ally well to­gether. It’s re­ally a mixed bag of my life over the past three years.”

This al­bum also is the first al­bum Richards has re­leased that con­tains a full band. “Emer­ald City” was just Richards and her gui­tar, and “Ruby Red Shoes” was “still pretty stripped down,” Richards said.

Although Richards usu­ally plays on her own when she is on the road, she al­most al­ways plays with her band, The Hand­some Devils, when she is in Nashville.

“When I first started, ev­ery­thing I did was just me on gui­tar and singing,” Richards said. “It was all I could see. I liked the in­ti­macy that gave me. But slowly I got com­fort­able adding oth­ers to the mix, and over the years I built up a band. It’s such a dif­fer­ent vibe. Although my mu­sic has stayed pretty con­sis­tent over the years, the songs just take on a new life with a band. I feel like a rock star when I’m on stage with them!”

Richards guessed she prob­a­bly plays 80 to 100 shows per year. She mostly stays in the Nashville area, but she also trav­els fre­quently to the North­east and Mid­west to per­form.

She said she plays in Eau Claire a lot, with a gig at Acous­tic Cafe usu­ally twice a year — in­clud­ing a per­for­mance loosely sched­uled at the venue for Jan­uary. Be­cause the singer went to school in town and grew up in Hud­son, one of Richards’ big­gest goals is to play at The State Theatre.

“That is on my bucket list,” Richards said.

“But I think peo­ple keep com­ing to my shows be­cause my mu­sic is re­ally hon­est and re­lat­able. It’s new, which at the same time feel­ing like some­thing you’ve known for­ever. Peo­ple who know me said my mu­sic mir­rors who I am. There are no sur­prises to how I sound.”

Richards songs can be heard on her web­site,, or on iTunes, Spo­tify, Ama­zon and Pan­dora. Her al­bums also are sold at The Lo­cal Store and Re­vival Records.

Be­cause Richards got a “late” start to her ca­reer by not pur­su­ing mu­sic un­til she was 25, the Wis­con­sin woman still feels like she has a lot to show, although she has come a long way. Now she’s com­fort­able enough on stage that she no longer shakes when she per­forms. She also tak­es more risks in her song-writ­ing and per­form­ing. But there is still plenty Richards wants to ac­com­plish.

“I make a com­fort­able liv­ing now by just do­ing mu­sic, and mu­sic is fi­nally my main fo­cus,” Richards said. “The in­come could be more, but I still have no rea­son to quit or to turn this into a hobby. Doors keep open­ing for me, and I am still hope­ful to have an es­tab­lished ca­reer. This is what I’m sup­posed to do, and I want to keep do­ing it as long as I am able.”

Syrstad can be reached at 715-833-9206, 800-236-7077 or jo­ce­

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