Monday, October 25, 2010

A Conversation with Sarah Jarosz

I first discovered Sarah Jarosz when a good friend of mine recommended that, knowing how much of an excited-beginning mandolin player I am, I check out her debut LP, Song Up In Her Head. Since obtaining my own copy, the album has been in pretty heavy rotation on my music devices for quite some time.

When the opportunity presented itself, I eagerly jumped at the chance to ask Ms. Jarosz a few questions regarding Song Up In Her Head, as well as chat her up regarding some of her influences, collaborators, and her forthcoming The New 45 EP.

How did your album Song Up In Her Head come about? Can you describe your writing process?

Sarah Jarosz: I think Song Up In Her Head was a result of wanting to be patient recording and releasing my first album. Growing up playing music, I had a lot of people often ask me when I was going to make a CD. But I knew I wanted my first recording to be the best representation of me as an original artist and have the majority of the songs on the album be originals.

I started songwriting when I was about 12 years old, so I was taking the time to grow and collect my songs. In 2007, I met Gary Paczosa at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival after my set there, and he mentioned the idea of us working together. From that point on, all of the plans for the record just started to come about in a really natural way. Looking back now, I am so glad I was patient in making my first record.

You have had the opportunity to work with so many well-known collaborators. How/when did you connect with such wonderful artists? And has this influenced your own playing and songwriting?

SJ: I feel so blessed to have had so many opportunities to work with some of my musical and personal heroes. I was able to meet and get to know many of them by going to festivals and camps around the country when I was younger.

Working on my first CD and having the chance to witness some of my favorite musicians in the recording process was such an incredible learning experience. I am constantly blown away at the generosity and encouragement that so many of my heroes have shown me over the years, and it has definitely influenced my own playing and songwriting.

If you could collaborate with anyone you have not already worked with, who is on your short list?

SJ: I have recently been listening to a lot of Jackson Browne, so he is definitely someone I would love to collaborate with someday. Another musical hero on the short list would have to be Shawn Colvin. I am constantly inspired by her songwriting and recordings.

I especially enjoy your cover of Tom Wait’s “Come On Up to the House”. Out of curiosity, with all of the Tom Waits songs to choose from in his catalog, what was it about this song in particular that compelled you to take it on?

SJ: I learned that song from Aoife O’Donovan (of Crooked Still) at a music camp in California several summers ago. I immediately fell in love with the tune and started performing it at live shows, so when I was looking for covers to put on my record, that song came to mind because I felt like it really blended well with the rest of the record.

Your upcoming The New 45 EP seems to be following a similar path with balancing interesting choices of covers (Bill Wither’s “Grandma’s Hands”) with originals. What can we expect from your next full length offering in 2011?

SJ: I am so excited to be back in the studio again! The next full-length album will be mostly all new originals of mine with another cover or two. I’m working with Gary Paczosa again on this CD.

I’m definitely not afraid of trying a lot of new things the second time around. Having finished my freshman year and now beginning sophomore year at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, I am beginning to see how my writing is reflecting what I’ve been learning. The possibilities are endless!

How is the balancing act of playing/recording music and focusing on your studies?

SJ: The balancing act continues, but I thrive off of it! The playing/traveling/recording part of my life is so exciting, and then on top of that, it’s inspiring to be able to come to my home (away from home) in Boston and get to learn at a school like NEC where I am constantly surrounded by amazing musicians.

Any thoughts on the music community of Boston?

SJ: Boston is definitely an exciting community to be a part of right now. There are constantly concerts to see and people to play music with. There’s a wealth of inspiration to be found in this city, and I feel lucky to be living and learning here.

Lastly, I know it’s early, but any shot of appearing at Newport Folk Festival in 2011?

SJ: Not sure yet if I will be performing at Newport Folk Festival again in 2011, but I sure hope so! I had such an amazing experience there this past summer. I would go back every year if I could!

Sarah Jarosz is currently on tour with Black Prairie, who will be playing together at New York City's Mercury Lounge on Friday, October 29th. Her appearance on Austin City Limits will air November 6th.

The New 45 EP will be released digitally by Sugar Hill Records on November 2nd. The EP will also become available later in the month, as a limited-edition vinyl pressing, through Ms. Jarosz's website, as well as selected merchants.


  1. I really look forward to her next album! Enjoyed the interview - nice work.

  2. Rarely does a songwriter emerge so mature and fully-formed. He debut is spectacular and I look forward to the next album.

  3. Sarah's musical talent and blending of styles in amazing and so welcome in a young person!
    In her songs I hear the celtic roots, as well as classical, folk, and americana , and the heart-felt songs of youth I listened to as a teen back in the 1960s-- doesn't matter what you call it -- its music worth paying attention to, and enjoying!