From Warkworth to Nashville On Wings Of Song
“There’s no place like home, you can’ t deny But if yo u don’t leave the nest, you’ll never fly… There’s a great big world, right outside, calling out your name.”
FROM “SMALL TOWN HISTORY,” BY SACHA VISAGIE, 2016
Once upon a time, in the village of Warkworth, lived a beautiful young girl named Sacha Visagie, who dreamed of becoming a country music star. She’d moved to picturesque Trent Hills from Montreal with her family when she was a mere toddler, and it was here that Sacha, her twin sister, two brothers, mom and stepdad, settled into an idyllic, rural lifestyle. “We had the luxury of a big yard and a forest,” reminisces Sacha. “And we played on tire swings and climbed trees, and I remember going down to swim at the rock quarry and going on bike rides for days… We had endless adventures in Warkworth.”
But some of Sacha’s fondest memories revolve around the music that filled her family’s home. Sacha’s parents played in a kind of rock band, and young Sacha would get to watch the rehearsals that took place at their house. “We’d have bonfires in our backyard and our parents would be playing music around the fire. And we’d be up all night chasing fireflies,” she recalls. With her mother’s penchant for Patsy Cline, whose gorgeous vocals permeated the household, it’s no wonder Sacha fell head over heels for the magic of music. “I’d be dancing and singing at the same time, like I was putting on my own little show,” laughs Sacha. “And just the way Patsy Cline’s voice made me feel when I heard her coming through the speaker… I just wanted to emulate that when people heard me.”
When junior high rolled around, Sacha and her family moved to Oshawa. After high school, she began working full time at a number of jobs, forever daydreaming about how she might break into the music business one day. It wasn’t until she picked up a guitar and taught herself to play that Sacha’s vision started to come to life. “I would stand in front of a mirror for three hours a day, playing and performing. Actually Taylor Swift was a big deal for me back then. She was the ultimate eye-opener. I marvelled at this young girl playing guitar and writing songs and hitting Nashville and breaking records and barriers like nobody’s business,” explains Sacha. She began hitting the open mic sessions and singing her own songs. “And people actually liked them! That’s when things started to pick up for me.”
“My dream is to be on the road – live on the road – go town to town and city to city, and play music” SACHA VISAGIE
Though music may be her primo passion, it’s her love of people that helps fuel Sacha’s fires. Her desire to speak from the heart and inspire those in need sparked a life-changing idea back in 2012. As a member of the only black family in Warkworth, Sacha had been called hurtful names growing up, and she’d been taught the old expression: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” One day, just playing her guitar and trying to figure out a melody, the words “sticks and stones” came into her head, and she started riffing on that. Suddenly, an anti-bullying anthem was born! The powerful little song became the backbone for a motivational tour of Ontario schools by Sacha, designed to empower kids through music.
After a few more years of songwriting and performing in Nashville as often as she could, Sacha’s childhood dream really began to crystallize. In 2016, she won “The Next Country Music Star” com petition. The winning prize included a photo shoot in her beloved Warkworth and a spot at the annual Havelock Country Jamboree. In terms of getting cred as a true country artist, Sacha had finally arrived.
Her second indie EP, “The Best Thing” – a blend of traditional and pop country – was released last year, and her song, “Standards” made it into the top 50 on the Canadian Country Billboard chart. She was also named one of the “Next Women of Country” for 2021 by Country Music Television.
As an aspiring black female country artist, Sacha didn’t have many role models growing up. It might have been easier to apply her exceptional vocal talent to an R&B path. But it’s the compelling storytelling at the heart of country music that Sacha relates to so well. “I find that in country music, you’ve really got to tell a story, and have people listen to more than just the sonic qualities of a song,” she tells me. “It’s those personal stories that you can tell with a six-string guitar and some lyrics, coupled with the fragments of my formative years, living in such a rural town, and my experiences and my environmental influences… It’s part of my DNA and I find it’s just something that is most authentic for me.”
Sacha (who performs under her first name) finds great joy in collaborating with others, and the majority of tunes on her latest album are ones that were pitched to her. Still, she says there’s something about writing a song yourself that’s pretty unbeatable. And while most musicians have been negatively affected by the pandemic, Sacha feels putting her music out at this particular time was a good thing. “It’s probably the best thing that I could have done, putting out this album, to just keep that music coming in.” Certainly, Sacha has missed performing in front of people during the pandemic. “The virtual shows have been ‘a thing’ – but definitely not the same as live performing. My dream is to be on the road – live on the road – go town to town and city to city, and play music.”
But doesn’t our former Warkworthian songbird ever tire of flying all the time, and not having the respite of a cosy nest? “If I could move back to Warkworth in a heartbeat, maybe I would, because there are those memories that you hold on to, the good and bad. I realize that’s what made me who I am and I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to grow up in such a small town. But I think you get to a certain point where you have to spread your wings and fly.”
“Still, I would like to retreat back to that vibe whenever I can, when things get really busy and I need to have a getaway.”
Sacha’s burning desire to achieve superstardom just won’t quit – not because she has to prove anything to anyone, but because her art feels so authentic to her. “This is something I took to naturally.” But she also hopes her success can act as a beacon for others who come after her. “And if this means that it makes room for anybody else who is underrepresented or who might feel they have to fit a stereotype… Well, I’m hoping that this will help them to find their place in country music or whatever it is they want to do.”
Still, Sacha just loves what she does, plain and simple. And for now – living in Oshawa with her husband and their little Yorkie, Trooper, and making the music she’s so passionate about while pursuing her Nashville dreams – it definitely feels like Sacha’s well on her way to living happily ever after.