Q&A: Model, musician Sarah VonderHaar

Nicole Hong

Professional model, photographer and musician Sarah VonderHaar appeared on “America’s Next Top Model” in 2007. The 22-year-old Lake Zurich, Ill.-native released her first full-length record “Are You Listening Now” in April 2008. The artist, who calls her music Sheryl Crow meets No Doubt, is kicking off the Center for Student Involvement’s Lunch on the Lake summer concert series today at noon on Norris East Lawn. VonderHaar spoke with THE SUMMER NORTHWESTERN about music, modeling and delivering pizza.

The Summer Northwestern: How did you get your start in music?

Sarah Vonderhaar: I got my first guitar when I was 12 years old, but I’ve been singing and doing a lot of musical theater and talent shows since I was a little kid. When I was six years old, my mom got me one of those ghetto karaoke machines. She kind of regretted it because I never shut up. I spent like six months on that thing, singing over and over and over again.

TSN: Did you expect to become a professional musician when you were young?

SV: I just remembered when I was like eight years old, my grandma said to me, “Sarah, go brush your teeth,” and I’m like, “I don’t have to go brush my teeth. I’m gonna be a rock star!”

TSN: What’s your favorite part about performing?

SV: I love meeting people. Just recently, I had a woman who chose my song “Everything I’ll Be” as her wedding song for the first father-daughter dance. What ended up happening was I randomly delivered her a pizza, which is my side gig, and she told her dad. He called my work number, and as a big surprise to her, I got to go and perform that song at the wedding. Seeing her face was one of the most amazing feelings, especially since I wrote the song for my mother.

TSN: When you’re delivering pizzas, do people recognize you from “America’s Next Top Model?”

SV: All the time. It’s so funny because everyone’s always like, “Why are you working here?” and I’m like, “Ha, I didn’t get paid for ‘Top Model.’ “

TSN: You write all of your own songs. Where do you draw your lyrics from?

SV: Everything that happens to me throughout the day. If I have a break-up, I swear to you, I put myself through emotional turmoil because great songs come out of it. Whatever I’m feeling at that moment, I write about it…the song ‘Are You Listening Now?’ was about my father who passed away of drugs in 2004.

TSN: How did “American’s Next Top Model” impact your career as a musician?

SV: The publicity is great. But on a negative standpoint, I have to work even harder as a songwriter to prove myself because a lot people think, “Oh, she was on ‘Top Model,’ she’s doing music now, yeah right.” Then they listen to my record and come see me live, and they realize this is for real.

TSN: Which do you prefer: singing, modeling and photography?

SV: Music, without a doubt. It’s something so much more personal to me than anything I’ve ever done. It’s not like I’m in front of a camera looking pretty or doing something like that. It’s my music, it’s me.

TSN: As a musician, what are your goals for the future?

SV: Win a Grammy? That would be ideal.

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