The title track to Sarah Potenza’s new album, Monster is a soaring declaration of self-acceptance.
“So I put my big thighs in my ripped jeans/Use my big feet to chase my big dreams/People line up to hear me scream/This is my real life, it ain’t no daydream,” sings the Rhode Island native in her wildly unique – but if forced to describe, perhaps Janis Joplin-meets-Charles Bradley — voice that got a four chair-turn during her blind audition on NBC’s The Voice.
The song was inspired by Potenza’s time on the reality competition show. A member of Blake Shelton’s team, she made it to the Top 20 and saw her fan base — which she’d started years earlier with her band, Sarah Potenza and the Tall Boys — grow by legions. Performance rounds showcased her as a rock goddess with a malleable voice that can belt soul, R&B, pop, country and everything in between — while behind-the-scenes clips showcased her infectious personality. It was another contestant who made the singer realize that a combination of talent and charisma was her monstrous advantage.
“One night, this really beautiful girl came to my room — she was one of the contestants, and she told me she was jealous of me, jealous of my confidence. She told me she felt like the only reason she was on the show was because of the way that she looked. She didn’t have any confidence in her singing,” Potenza recalls. “My whole life as a big girl, I’ve always felt like I was this big sloppy monster around these really beautiful women. But then I realized I was a monster in a whole different way.
“My confidence is something I have because of experiences,” she continues. “I’ve never opened a door with my looks. Because I’ve always relied on my personality and my talent, I’ve really flourished and feel strong and confident. I don’t know how to get someone to buy me a drink in a bar, but I’ll sing you a song! [Laughs]”
“Monster” changed the whole direction of Potenza’s album. She was going to title it My Turn, after a song on the LP about perseverance in the wake of so many doors closed in her face. [See her perform “My Turn” below.]
“All of a sudden, I felt like I was not the one with the handicap,” she explains. “So the record became a little bit more about being proud about who you are and where you came from and a little less about failing and trying to keep going.”
With slick percussion, guitar and piano accompaniment that never overpowers Potenza’s show-stopping vocals, Monster bridges rock and soul, hardships and victories. She tells stories of her long road to fame, her happy marriage, her childhood and one captivating tale of her husband’s grandfather – a man she never knew but whose advice she’s been taking throughout her career. “Don’t you ever buy a car you can’t sleep in,” she sings on “Granddad.”
Her late grandfather-in-law would be proud of the mindset Potenza has going into the wild new world that comes with releasing an album after gaining so-called “instant fame” on a television show. She still approaches it like she did in the decade-plus years before The Voice, when she played for peanuts and sold her own merch after concerts. Potenza takes marketing her music very seriously — and very hands-on — working tirelessly to earn every fan, one by one.
“People see it like a shortcut or an easy way in, but it’s not,” she insists of shows like The Voice and American Idol. “When I say you have to work 200 percent, it’s not an overstatement. You have to be the best version of yourself every moment of every day. It changed my life, and I’m so grateful for it. It’s been hard sometimes with critics because people do sometimes overlook me because I was on The Voice, but I hope my record can prove them wrong.”
Sarah Potenza’s Monster is out now.