Internships do sometimes pay off, as Lake Oswego native and indie pop songstress Sarah Tromley found out upon visiting her sister on an extended stay in Los Angeles.
An opportunity came open at G.O.O.D. Music, the music label founded by Kanye West in 2004, on which he put out the album "Life of Pablo" while Tromley worked there. It was a go-fer job in many respects, as Tromley recalls making Fatburger runs at 2 a.m. and cleaning restrooms. But, she met people, and even visited with West himself "on occasion."
What came out of it was connections, including with one of West's partners, Che Pope. Fast-forward to today, and Tromley calls Los Angeles home, hobnobs with industry folks, and recieved help from Pope with an upcoming EP.
For the 26-year-old Tromley, who was embedded in Lake Oswego before wanting more, it's a good life in LA. She has a single (and video) called "Burnside," inspired by Portland's bridge and with the theme of getting over something, and she has made a sultry music video for another single, "Maybe."
It was 2016 when she took the internship at the G.O.O.D. Music North Hollywood studio that changed her life forever.
"I was down visiting my sister, and I went in for an interview at G.O.O.D. Music and got the job," said Tromley, a 2012 graduate of Lakeridge High School. "I took a flight home, brought my Toyota Corolla back to LA and never went back.
"I always knew I wanted to be in music. It was like the doors finally opened for me. My parents (Russell Jr. and Elizabeth) weren't thrilled with me leaving the nest, but I had to go out on my own … and get uncomfortable to grow. My whole family is from (Lake Oswego) and I never gave myself the space to grow as an artist. Moving to LA was what I had to do."
Making connections in LA and in the music business is paramount for singers, she said.
"Part of it is being at the right place at the right time," Tromley said. "There's no right way to do it, you just have to go for it. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."
She's eight years removed from Lakeridge High. It seems like just yesterday, said Tromley, who has an older sister and younger brother. She says she wasn't part of the popular crowd in Lake Oswego. She performed in musical theater and choir, was admittedly "quirky," but "it's paid off now as I really have come into my own. I like to speak to people who don't fit in."
The single "Burnside" describes her life. It was filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown in Los Angeles — and "it symbolizes getting over something, and it's OK to lean into your vulnerabilities. It's OK to be different, be yourself. Portland grounded me a ton."
Named "Higher Than the Hills," with a theme of self-discovery and signifying where she lives (the Hollywood Hills), the six-song EP is being done independently, and Tromley has been working on it since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's engineered and produced by Vic Wainstein, who won a Grammy Award for work with Tyler, the Creator, and also worked with the late Mac Miller and Frank Ocean.
Wainstein, Tromley said, complimented her by saying that she, too, could win a Grammy someday.
"It's my baby, it's what I've put everything into," Tromley said of the EP.
She would like to go on tour, once musicians will be allowed to do so after COVID-19 and government restrictions are eased. Perhaps a digital concert could happen before the end of the year.
Tromley credits her father's early influence — playing KINK 101.9 FM all the time — for helping shape her. "I still listen to the KINK CDs he gave me," she said.
Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor and Carly Simon are some of her favorite musicians, as are Bon Iver and Summer Walker.
Tromley believes hard work and patience have led to some early success.
"There are so many hours you have to spend on something. It's risky because in the music industry, there is a lot of unknown," she said. "I'm thankful to all my mentors (such as Che Pope) to ask questions and get advice from.
"Especially with COVID, normally you want to put out an album and go on tour. But, you have to be creative, doing shows online and doing collaborations to reach more audiences. I'm thankful to my best friend, Eddie Watkins, for helping me with marketing and PR ideas." Watkins helped arrange a great write-up for her in LA Weekly.
"The more people hear about me, just being in the right place at the right time, you never know. … I've actually started my next album. Stay tuned," Tromley said.
For more on Tromley, visit her website, www.sarahtromley.com.
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