Sarah McGuinness began her musical career in Derry, Northern Ireland, where she grew up singing harmonies of choral classics with her mother and sisters on long Sunday drives around County Donegal. She always felt moved by the soulful tones of Motown and was composing songs at 11 also inspired by the likes of Bowie, Bolan, Velvets and Iggy, while also admiring the aesthetics of The Avengers, The Prisoner and the cinematic scores of Barry, Hermann and Schifrin.
Moving to London at 18, McGuinness studied English and Drama, working with Grammy award winner Ben Bartlett (Walking With Dinosaurs) during her student years.
When Sarah graduated she formed a band and began gigging in London’s bars and clubs as well as writing incidental music, notably for the films Whacked by horror director Jake West and Secrets by Paul Hills as well as for comedian Eddie Izzard. Her first single release,‘Mandy Says’, was produced by fellow Derry musician John O'Neill (The Undertones and That Petrol Emotion) and was roundly applauded upon its release in 1994.
Over 20 years and numerous writing, directorial and design credits later, there are still traces of her classical sensibilities in the detailed and multi-layered vocal compositions. McGuinness has a penchant for the big orchestral atmospheric sweep of a Bond theme, a clash between the Eurythmics and Portishead, set to a Barry score.
Her most palpable hit, the anthem ‘Mama Can You See Me Now’, released in 2010, provided the soundtrack to her 2010 Emmy-nominated documentary, ‘Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story’ - with whom she has collaborated as director and designer for over 20 years. The song has since warranted stunning remixes by legendary producers, William Orbit and Mickey Petralia. Following the success of ‘Believe’ in 2015 she wrote and recorded the soundtrack to the BAFTA shortlisted film ‘Noma: Forgiving Apartheid’ featuring the Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa.
In 2018, together with some illustrious guests, namely producer Ed Buller and bandleader Guy Barker, she released her long-awaited debut album, ‘Unbroken’. ‘Unbroken’ has been carefully curated by McGuinness for years. While she was honing her craft through film and stage work she was creating a catalogue of inspiring, uplifting and exciting songs.
‘Unbroken’ plays host to the creative spirit, of John Barry, Lalo Schifrin and Scott Walker, it showcases a passionate artist with a tireless devotion to the art of song.
Recorded at Dean Street Studios, (once owned by legendary Bolan and Bowie producer, Tony Visconti) Unbroken finds McGuinness in a lush soundscape of strings and brass, with the mighty Guy Barker Orchestra behind her, Sarah belts her way through an album's worth of self-penned torch songs.
The production is high end but the songs are written to be stark naked in their emotional honesty and the atmosphere of the album as a whole, can be thrilling. The vocals are multi-tracked and to the fore, the harmonies and vocal arrangements are as smart and theatrical as vintage Abba.
McGuinness, stepped out from the shadows of her writer, director and designer self with the release of Unbroken and in doing so she wanted to spark the creative soul in all of us and inspire anyone with a hidden talent.