Rich Sarnacki never really had to find God — God found him.
In September of last year, the Scotia singer-songwriter had reached a breaking point — he was stalled creatively, and wasn’t sure where his life was going at the time. He had already been playing acoustic solo shows for a little over a year at that time, but decided to take a hiatus from performing after enrolling at Hudson Valley Community College.
“I wrote this one song called ‘No Will’ which was … it’s sort of a very dark song, and it talks about how I don’t even have the will to sing anymore, or play,” Sarnacki said recently while at the Moon & River Cafe, where he performs regularly.
“And then through the winter I didn’t do really anything. I even had some shows that I just canceled — I think one was here. I was on the bill with some people and I just didn’t — I told them all that I wasn’t going to be able to make it. And then right around March, things turned around.”
While attending Hudson Valley, Sarnacki developed a relationship with a girl that became the catalyst for both of them to become Christians. While he is no longer in the relationship, Sarnacki believes that God brought the two of them together.
with Filming Ohio
When: 7 p.m. Friday
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“For a lot of people it doesn’t really click until a certain point, and I believe that, that certain point is when God chooses to reveal himself to us,” Sarnacki said. “Basically, I had decided [in high school] that I was content with not knowing God, and I was content with doing whatever I wanted to do, until something changed, and it wasn’t really my choice. So I have to believe He kind of intervenes.”
Split EP ON CD
Sarnacki, now 19, has dedicated his newest songs to exploring his developing relationship with God. Two of those songs are about to be released on a split EP with fellow local singer-songwriter Chris Kovel, at a CD release party at Expresso Therapy in Scotia on Wednesday. Before that, Sarnacki will perform at Emack and Bolio’s on Guilderland Avenue Friday night, along with rockers Filming Ohio.
Needless to say, Sarnacki is a very different musician today than he was last year. But just because he’s a Christian now doesn’t mean his songs have become preachy — like his previous songs, the lyrical subject matter is still deeply personal.
“My songs shifted from my relationships with people to my relationship with God, and so I talk about that nowadays,” Sarnacki said. “But I’m not necessarily writing worship songs. I’m trying to be honest about my relationship with God, because it’s not always easy. So I write songs about the realness of that relationship, because I feel like other people will be able to relate to it in that way.”
The lyrics are always the focus for Sarnacki. Songs such as “Friends,” the first song he wrote after coming back to writing from his hiatus, are story songs that maintain a conversational tone throughout.
“My guitar work is just pretty much chords,” Sarnacki said. “The music just supports the words; it’s just the vehicle I guess.”
He got his start playing bass while in middle school, spending two years as co-frontman of a Blink-182-influenced band called Identity Crisis. In high school he had a band called Radio, but eventually struck out on his own due to his frustrations with the band setup.
“I’m like a control freak, so it was tough for me to do it,” Sarnacki said. “Eventually I just had to pick up the guitar, just out of necessity, so I could write the songs that I wanted to write and play them how I wanted to.”
As Sarnacki delved further into acoustic music, his tastes began to expand from Blink-182 into more indie rock and folk influences such as Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Circa Survive and Bright Eyes. Musically, his guitar playing reflects this mix of gentler acoustic sounds with a punk rock edge.
Now, Sarnacki is prouder than he’s ever been of the songs he’s been writing. He has plans to record a second EP after the split release with Kovel comes out. While his songs have changed with him, he has continued to find a receptive audience at his shows.
“A lot of people say they really like [the songs] because, whether you’re a Christian or not, whether you agree, it’s still a strong song and it’s something that I’m going through, and you can tell that from the music,” Sarnacki said.