Sarah Potenza Salutes Her 'Amazing Husband' on 'Earthquake': Premiere

Jeremy Ryan
Sarah Potenza

For Sarah Potenza, "Earthquake" -- premiering exclusively below from her upcoming album Road To Rome -- is a make-up song for seismic proportions.

The song was born out of a rough patch she went through with her husband and regular collaborator, guitarist Ian Crossman, during the making of the album -- her second solo set after her Season 8 appearance on The Voice. The set features songs Potenza wrote with Justin Wiseman, whom she met during a songwriter session on a Rock Boat cruise, her first collaborator other than Crossman, whom she's known since they were 14 years old. "I think that was the first time (Crossman) and I had this emotional permission to write without each other," Potenza recalls. "So I was like a kid in a candy store, and (Wiseman) and I really connected and clicked with each other."

As a result, Potenza acknowledges, Crossman was marginalized during the making of Road To Rome with producer Jordan Brooke Hamlin (Indigo Girls, Lucy Wainwright Roche). The chemistry of what the singer says was an equal partnership was altered, and that wasn't easy on either of them. "He was super cool with it until we got to the part when he came to the studio to play guitar," Potenza remembers. "He came in with the attitude he'd be making the artistic choices as a guitar player that he always did, but there were other things I wanted that he wasn't giving me. I was trying to give him direction and he didn't seem to want that direction from me, and I didn't want to take his moment away from him. At one point I just broke down in tears and ran off like a baby and was crying in the studio bedroom.

"And he came in and said, 'What we do we do? What do you need from me?' I basically said, 'Maybe it's selfish, but on this particular album I need you to be a studio musician. I need to be able to treat you the way I treat the studio musicians and have you fulfill my vision.' And he was like, 'I got you, and I'll do that...' That blew my mind and was an incredibly selfless thing to do -- and maybe a selfish thing for me to ask for. But it's what I needed for the sake of the album."

"Earthquake" -- which tells Crossman that Potenza "never meant to make you feel like my passenger" -- salutes more than just his playing on the album, however. "During the course of making this album he not only did things like that, but when I was in the studio with 10-hour days he kept the house going and our lives going and all of that," she says. "So on a positive note, this song is about a guy who is amazing -- a husband and amazing partner and amazing man. We're kind of in this time now where there's a lot of negativity going on with #MeToo and everything, so it's nice to put this love song about a modern couple out there. It's such a great, 50/50 relationship, and that's a really positive thing 'cause you don't see a lot of that out there."

The 10-track Road To Rome is indeed different than the Americana-leaning music Potenza has released before, either on her first post-Voice solo album Monster or with her former band Sarah and the Tall Boys. "I wanted to make a more R&B, big diva vocal album," Potenza explains. "That's what was so great about writing with Justin; I was free to write different, to my voice, and that changed the game. I was able to write outside of just the genre of Americana. And all of a sudden I had this pile of lyrics that were much more MY voice. I was able to say things like me and have this sass and attitude and come from a place where I'm this super-Italian chunky goddess sassy bitch from Rhode Island. It was more me and less somebody like me."

Potenza will be performing at this year's South By Southwest festival as well as on the upcoming Melissa Etheridge Cruise. Beyond that Potenza is "trying to get my hustle on" and plans to perform extensively in North America abroad, "to anybody who's willing. This album, for me, is a pinnacle achievement, a real moment for me as an artist. It's by far the best work of my life so far, and I'm into it. I feel like I'm living the music I made right now, and I just want to get out there and play it for as many people as possible."