When indie pop singer Sarah Christine wrote “The Year: Hang on Mom,” she was thinking about her mother who was fatigued during her battle with breast cancer.
On July 9 during a concert at The Zephyr Theatre, the audience will be the first to hear the new song. And Sarah Christine’s mom, Stillwater resident Christie Cotner, will be in the crowd, celebrating the recent news that her disease is in remission.
The song was penned as a private gift to buoy her mother’s spirits, the 36-year-old songwriter said. Now, she hopes the new song — to be released July 23 — will help anyone who is sick or tired or feels like giving up to hang on.
Sarah Christine grew up in Stillwater, where locals knew her as Sarah Cotner and cheered for her, No. 54, on the Stillwater Area High School basketball team from 2000 to 2003. The 6-foot-2 high school athlete was eyeing a Division I college scholarship before she severely injured her foot during a game.
“Doctors prepped me that there was a chance I might not run or play basketball again,” Christine said.
She not only ran but also played — at St. Cloud University and Bethel University in Arden Hills.
Her mother’s cancer, some serious injuries of her own, and then a recent devastating truck accident — she was struck as a pedestrian in a crosswalk — have given this gritty singer/songwriter a lot of personal pain, suffering, perseverance, perspective and gratitude to weave into her music.
In fact, she wears a tattoo that reads: “Everything on my mind ends up in my lyrics.”
The loving, encouraging, sometimes apologetic lyrics of the new song for her mom are testimony to that.
Discovering her voice
Sarah Christine studied classical piano as a child. Then while earning a business degree at Bethel, she taught herself to play the acoustic guitar and ukulele and found her edgy voice.
How did that happen at a private, evangelical Christian school?
“I’m the rebel of the family,” she said.
Her first music gig was accidental. While visiting a Breckenridge, Colorado, wine bar with her best hometown friends from Stillwater, the shy singer ended up on stage, performing with a borrowed guitar for the noisy and then suddenly attentive audience. “I remember the crowd going totally silent as I played, followed by a standing ovation,” she said. “That was my magical moment.”
Back in Minnesota, she was juggling a corporate career — as a regional vice president for the staffing agency Robert Half — and her love of music. She found her way back on stage, performing with the Minneapolis band SarahLou in 2014.
Drawing influences from pop, indie, folk, and electronic sounds, she released her first solo album, “Unheard,” in 2017. Her second album, “Breaking Silence,” was released in 2018, followed by recent successful singles, including “The Choice,” “Aspen,” and “The Year: Vices” in 2020 and 2021.
Making the commitment
Sarah Christine left her corporate career in May 2020, following her dreams to work as a full-time musician living in Aspen where the Rocky Mountains inspire her and the vibrant indie pop music scene in nearby Denver energizes her.
“Life is too short to not follow your passions,” she said about her decision to focus fully on singing and songwriting.
In 2020, “Breaking Silence,” was named best pop album by an independent female songwriter by Akademia Music Awards, which represent independent artists.
Christine was touted as an “up and coming artist to keep your eyes on” when featured on the Music Boost podcast hosted by Grammy Award winners John Seymour and Eugene Foley this year. And in February 2021, she was named Colorado’s artist of the month by Loudspeaker Radio in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Recently, a music writer described her voice as a mix of Sara Bareilles with the rasp of Ellie Goulding.
“I was flattered by that review,” she said.
Another happy accident for this solo performer was meeting Boulder-based Taylor Tuke at a benefit concert in Denver.
“I was looking for a voice like his,” she said of the baritone. “He’s just amazing,”
Now, the duo is on a national tour, which includes stops in Stillwater and Minneapolis. But certainly, The Zephyr gig will be the most emotional. It’s the concert for mom.
Sarah Christine and Taylor Tuke will perform at 7 p.m. July 9 inside at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 N. Main St., Stillwater. Tickets are $25 at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org.
Zephyr event schdule
Back Up & Push, June 26
This new four-member band, launched at the beginning of the pandemic, claims to take traditional bluegrass seriously so you don’t have to.
Back Up & Push will perform at 7 p.m. June 26 on the outdoor stage at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 N. Main St., Stillwater. Tickets are $20 at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org or at the gate. Cash bar open.
When Writing Meets Art, June 27
When Writing Meets Art, a literary reading series, will feature eight authors reading from their works of poetry, memoir, and fiction.
When Writing Meets Art will be held at 2 p.m. June 27 outside at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 Main St. N., Stillwater. (In case of rain, the reading will move to the theatre’s indoor stage.) Donations of $10 or more are suggested to benefit the theatre. Beverages and snacks will be sold. For more information, contact Elissa Cottle at 612-925-2249 or
Fourth of July celebration
The annual gathering will feature free root beer floats, sponsored by Lift Bridge Brewery, from noon to 3 p.m. and music by Riverside Swing Band from 3 to 5 p.m. A special performance by a duo from Valley Chamber Chorale will be included.
Festivities will be held from noon to 5 p.m. July 4 outside at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 Main St. N., Stillwater.
Brian Wicklund and Mike Cramer, July 10
Fiddle and mandolin player Brian Wicklund has been an integral part of the national acoustic music scene for decades. He teams up with guitarist Mike Cramer, a champion flat picker and jazz phenom.
Wicklund and Mike Cramer will perform at 7 p.m. July 10 on the outdoor stage at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 N. Main St., Stillwater. Tickets are $20 at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org or at the gate. Cash bar open.
Curtis & Loretta, July 18
Minneapolis-based folk-singing, songwriting, husband-and-wife duo Curtis and Loretta Simonet offers performances that feature tight vocal harmonies, guitars, folk harp, mandocello, banjo and ukulele. Loretta is a Stillwater native; Curtis is originally from Texas.
Curtis & Loretta will perform at 2 p.m. July 18 inside at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 N. Main St., Stillwater. Tickets are $20 at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org or at the gate. Cash bar open.
“Mamma Mia!” July 22-25
“Mamma Mia!” will be performed at 7 p.m. July 22-25 in Lowell Park in downtown Stillwater. General admission tickets are $30 for adults and $22 for children and students with valid ID. Select reserved seating tickets are $40 for adults and $30 for children and students with valid ID. Reserved VIP seating in the first two rows is $75 and includes a drink and pre-show gathering in The Zephyr tent. Chairs provided. (In case of rain, a performance will be rescheduled July 26.) For tickets, go to stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org.