Sara Kanutski

Composing a life of creativity: Singer Songwriter and Music Marketer Sara Kanutski Shares Her Process

“Getting into the independent artist area was a lot more difficult because you can't really just send your resume out. ‘I wanna be an artist.’ is something that comes from within and a fire within,” Sara Kanutski shares. Her artist name is Sara Kae, and she was born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She left for Toronto to pursue her education,  got a job there and ended up back in her hometown. She now works for the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra here doing sales and marketing and as an independent artist, She applied to work for the symphony with a very diverse resume for a role with less responsibility and ultimately was promoted when her boss left. 

The path to becoming a musician was less straightforward. Starting from the age of 12 working as an artist in reservations and communities, she later started to gig going to contests. Eager to learn, she took classes, went to school and became educated. She’s put out music and is working with people, with an end goal to become a full-time artist. 

A pop singer-songwriter who dabbles in playing guitar and piano, she likes telling a story in her music and is releasing singles to increase her audience. “Putting myself out there as this strong Indigenous independent artist, I think is the new narrative that I'm pushing,” she explains. “I needed more life experience and just to get to know myself better before I put myself out there to the world being like, ‘this is who I am and this is what I stand for’” she continues.  

After her high school graduation, she didn’t want to go to a conventional college. She loved music, but didn’t want to study it in a classical, jazz or music theory approach. She attended Metalworks in Mississauga, Ontario for two years, learning about the music industry, marketing and social media, the craft of songwriting and the art of performance. The practical advice and critique made becoming an artist more obtainable 

As a songwriter, her method is described as “going in there, no expectation and just writing everything down and then going back and dissecting.” A self-critical perfectionist, she learned to refine her craft. “If you ever want to get into songwriting, I think the first step is not judging your work and just writing from whatever space you're coming from,” she explains.

The process of developing a song integrates all those early ideas into something you can be proud of in the end and she recommends to new song writers, “Stop limiting yourself to try and make something great, write from the heart, right from the hop… just going in there, no expectation and just writing everything down and then going back and dissecting.”

Illustration by Shaikara David

She learned not to throw anything away in the creative process. “Before I would be writing and I would write a line and I'm like, ‘Oh that sucks.’ I would just scratch it out or delete it,” she reflects. College taught her a different approach. “They were like, ’don't touch anything, if you get something better, write that underneath, but keep that line because that might be useful down the road,” she remembers. She believes in iteration, and also in community. 

“I think having other creative people around you just inspires you.” 

To become a musician, she recommends getting to know other artists you admire who you can collaborate with, even if it’s intimidating to reach out for guidance or support. Outside of the experience of being vulnerable in proposing collaboration with others, she dealt with performance anxiety and stage fright after not performing for so long during the pandemic. Since then, the nerves are something she’s gotten used to and instead of seeing it as something negative, she finds it drives her to keep going in hopes of entertaining  larger audiences on bigger stages. 

She sees that nervous energy as confirmation of doing something important and has words of wisdom to help new artists get through those tough feelings, “Everyone knows that you're probably nervous and everyone admires you for going outta your way and doing this thing that a lot of people can't do. You get better and better the more you do it,” she reflects.   

“If you are wondering what to do next, as you're getting ready to go into being an independent artist or singing songwriting, my advice is just to get out there and do it. Who cares about the rest? I think everything will fall into place as you're doing it and you learn to just go with the flow,” she advises aspiring artists who want to follow in her footsteps.  

When she’s not working, Kanutski enjoys running, being outside, swimming and getting a good night's rest. She enjoys reading, but doesn’t get to do so often. Kanutski is inspired to read from TikTok recommendations and has fun in the experience of  shopping for a book, even if she doesn’t buy one in the end.

Promoting the music of others, creating and promoting her own work, Sara Kanutski is composing more than just a career in music. She’s crafting a life of creativity and joy for herself. After taking the time to get to know herself and the things she needs to succeed as an artist, she’s sharing who she is with the world, one bar of composition, and one stage at a time. She’s showing up as an Indigenous artist and taking up the space she was meant to occupy, living in harmony with who she is and what she wants to create.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

Oct 2022 Update: Sara now works for CBC News.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
    ,
    ,
  • Province/Territory
    Ontario
  • Date
    July 12, 2023
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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