Singing sensation Sarah Reyes, born Sarah Ashley Ramirez, in Houston, TX of Hispanic descent, grew up surrounded by references of a rich Latin culture as relatives also pursued musical endeavors.; her Uncles sang Mariachi songs and brought life to many of the community parties; her cousin sang, played piano and led the choir at a local Catholic church; one of her cousins performed as part of the Houston Symphony; and Richard Reyes, aka “Pancho Claus,” performs in and around Houston. Despite such a colorful and lively upbringing, Sarah, like Selena, does not speak Spanish and learned lyrics by ear and from the coaching of her grandmothers. These lessons were cherished as the style of her ancestors came to life in the sound and story of the lyrics, and the rhythm of the music at its foundation.
“My grandmothers were a big influence because they were very proud of where they came from,” Sarah explains. “I loved listening to them talk about the music and hearing how beautiful the words were written in Spanish. I’ve always known I wanted to incorporate that Latin vibe with soul and I’ve been able to do that with both of my projects.”
Sarah is most vulnerable when she takes the stage to bare her soul in front of a crowd of eager, and often discerning, fans. Yet, it is the one place she feels the most at home and alive with confidence. A public stage is a seemingly odd platform for such comfort and inspiration for one struggling with shyness, but Sarah is the first to acknowledge that her desire to sing and entertain is her saving grace.
“I was quite shy growing up, often to the point of isolation,” Sarah recalls. “I discovered early on that through singing and performing I could get outside of myself and really express what I was feeling. As an artist you have to always challenge yourself to go outside of what you’re comfortable with and live in the uncomfortable; I used that to gain the confidence needed to break out of my shell.”
Active in both church and high school choir as she grew up in Houston, Sarah found inspiration in the Latin music of such popular artists as Gloria Estefan, Santana, Celia Cruz, Christina Aguilera and Selena (her first standout performance was “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom”). Thriving on the rhythms and beats of this music, Sarah would also “lose herself” in the unique soulful styles of such greats as Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and the bluesy notes of Etta James.
Debuting in 2011 with the EP “In My Way” (released under Sarah Ashley Ramirez), Sarah made waves in the Latin Pop scene with the help of fellow Houstonian Tim Ruiz (best known for being the bassist for the Grammy Award winning La Mafia), and renowned jazz pianist, Jose-Miguel Yamal who worked together to produce the project. A five song collection, “In My Way” was a fitting introduction to “New Latin Soul,” a fusion of styles pulsing with a strong undercurrent of Latin influences. Sarah later decided to record/perform as Sarah Reyes (her Grandmother’s maiden name) since some fans were confused, when they tried to find her on the internet, the search would bring up Sarah Ramirez an already established singer and the star of Grey’s Anatomy.
Appealing to those looking for a twist on traditional R&B and Jazz grooves, Sarah adds a layer of pop to an already heady mix of sounds on her sophomore effort, an EP produced by Shane Stevens (who has written for and worked with such artists as Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Jesse McCartney, Jordin Sparks, Katharine McPhee and more). Featuring a polished and stylistic approach, which allows for greater mass appeal in a society demanding the utmost in talent and originality, the compilation’s delivery provides a glimpse into the heart, soul and true life of its messenger.
“It represents life; it's the story of my life,” Sarah states. “I wrote these songs with Shane to reveal who I really am. From a break-up to dealing with temptation, from triumphing as I regain emotional strength after undergoing a dark period in my life after being assaulted on a blind date during college, to later finding that one person who shows love and acceptance for who I am and then being able to move on start my loving little family. It’s all there out in the open. Each song is part of the journey and is relatable in that others can say right along with me, ‘yes bad experiences can change your life but for those who have gone through similar situations, you don’t have to let it control you and yes’ I made some good and bad decisions in my life but, because of them, I am who I am’.”
Reyes, who performs regularly in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, has played shows during New York City’s "Fashion Week" (including a SRO gig at The Village Underground), sang the “Star Spangled Banner” for the Houston Astros and San Antonio Rampage, and played at noted venues in Houston including Warehouse Live and Stereo Live. One of Sarah’s proudest achievements was fulfilling a lifelong dream of performing at the House of Blues; to date she has played HOB on two separate occasions and once shared the stage with Andy Vargas (Santana) and David La Garza (La Mafia).
As Sarah continues to build her repertoire of music and shows, she is reminded of the days when pursuing a career in music seemed out of reach because of her shyness. Blessed with a divine self-awareness, Sarah is ready for the many challenges it takes to succeed and encourages others to follow their dreams and do the same.
“I know from experience that with faith and focus, no matter how many times you’re told ‘you can't do this’ or ‘you'll never be that,’ that you can be whatever you dream,” she says. “Use that as fuel to fire that inner drive and ambition and know that, if nothing seems to be moving, something bigger is working in the background! That’s the message I hope to send as I release new music and share my story with new audiences. If I can reach just one person, then it’s all worth it.”