Interview with Sarah Jarosz

Sarah Jarosz
Sarah Jarosz

Interview by Scott Preston

Sarah Jarosz (pronounced juh-ROSE) shares her talent and love for music through her powerful, soulful voice, songwriting, and multi-instrumental skills which include mandolin, guitar, and clawhammer banjo. Sarah currently performs as a solo artist. At the age of 16, she has already been invited to perform on stage with many great musicians including Earl Scruggs; Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder; The David Grisman Quintet; The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience; Tim O’Brien, among many others.

In March of 2007, Sarah Jarosz won an Austin Music Award during the SXSW Music conference. She is the youngest individual to win an AMA since Charlie Sexton won in the mid-80s. Sarah was awarded a scholarship to attend “a Mandolin Symposium” at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the summer of 2007 for the fourth consecutive year. Sarah has been selected for seven years as a member of the OAKE (Kodaly) National Honor Choir. In the spring of 2007, she was inducted into the National Honor Society. Sarah’s goals are to continue to grow as a musician, singer, and songwriter, to strive to be the best person she can be, and to travel the world to share her music with people from all walks of life. She says it best herself: “I see myself spending my entire life doing what I love, and that love is music.” (from

Cincy Groove: So I understand you are at the airport right now? Where are you leaving from? and where are you heading?

Sarah Jarosz: I just came from Santa Cruz where they has the Mandolin Symposium. I haven’t slept yet because of all the jamming that was going on. I am actually now in Seattle, headed to a camp called Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend. Its with Derrick Powell and Tim O’Brien, I have never been there before so I am really excited.

Cincy Groove: What were some of the highlights for you from this years Mandolin Symposium?

Sarah Jarosz: There was a really great jam one night with Ronnie McCoury, David Grisman, and Andy Statman. The finale concert was a lot of fun also. They also do ensembles all week where the group will prepare pieces to play and the instructors give a concert as well.

Cincy Groove: I noticed you just recently signed with Sugarhill Records?

Sarah Jarosz: I feel so honored, it really feels like the right thing. So many of my favorite artists have been on Sugarhill Records. All the artists on the label have been really supportive of my music.

Cincy Groove: Have you had a chance to meet Sam Bush (Sugarhill Recording artist)?

Sarah Jarosz: Funny you mention Sam, I was just at Telluride right before the Mandolin Symposium and had the chance to see him play there. He is absolutely amazing. I also got to play a couple tweener sets over the weekend. One of the real highlights for me was getting to introduce Tim O’Brien, Hot Rise, and Uncle Earl.

Cincy Groove: Who did you listen to growing up?

Sarah Jarosz: I really listened to every type of music you can think of. My parents are really great. My mom plays rhythm guitar and writes songs and my dad collects all kinds of music. I was raised to have a very open mind as it relates to music. The first thing I ever heard that made me want to play music was a song by Hot Rize, Colleen Malone. Also Nickel Creek and Tim O’Brien.

Cincy Groove: What was the first instrument that you played?

Sarah Jarosz: The first instrument I every played was the piano, I started when I was six. I took lessons for while. But the first instrument that I became completely obsessed about what was the mandolin. I started playing when I was 10.

Cincy Groove: Who are some of your influences?

Sarah Jarosz: Tim O’Brien, Mike Marshall, Chris Thile. Abigail Washburn has been a really great mentor to me. Aoife O’Donovan from the band Crooked Stills, and Darrell Scott.

Cincy Groove: So you just started recording your first record?

Sarah Jarosz: yes, I think we will be recording for the rest of the year in Nashville. The release date is probably going to be April or May of 2009. There will be special guest appearances, but its still very early in the process. Being in the studio for the first time is a really great experience.

Cincy Groove: Was there a moment where you were discovered or was it more of a gradual buildup of attention?

Sarah Jarosz: It really was more of a gradual buildup, just from going to festivals and networking talking with people. I guess one of the first opportunities I was given to meet a lot of people was at a festival called Rockygrass. I was just jamming early on in the week and the producer of the festival Craig Ferguson overheard me playing Blue Moon of Kentucky in the campground. He ended up letting me do a tweener set during the weekend, which was incredible. I also got to meet David Grisman and Pete Wernick that weekend.

Cincy Groove: Have you had a chance to play in Europe?

Sarah Jarosz: Yes, I was invited by Mike Marshall this past November to be a part of a group of young musicians he was putting together called the Young American Mandolin Ensemble. We got the chance to play at a festival in France, which was one of the neatest experiences of my life.

Cincy Groove: What do you like to do when your not playing music?

Sarah Jarosz: Honestly it always seems I’m involved in music in one form or another. If I’m not playing music I am listening to music. I’m going to be a senior in high school so that takes up a lot of my time. During the school year its a real balancing act of going to music events on the weekends and going to school during the week.

Cincy Groove: Do you usually play by yourself?

Sarah Jarosz: Most of the time I play by myself, I just don’t want to get tied down to a band right now. I usually perform as a solo artist but recently I have been playing with Sam Grisman and Alex Hargreaves. Sam is David Grisman’s son and an amazing bass player. Alex is really one of the hottest fiddle players on the scene.

Sarah Jarosz tour dates:
For complete show details visit
Jul 18 2008 Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival Oak Hill, New York
Jul 19 2008 Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival Oak Hill, New York
Aug 31 2008 Kerrville Wine & Music Festival Kerrville, Texas
Oct 18 2008 Austin String Band Festival Driftwood, Texas
Nov 8 2008 The Rice Festival Fischer, Texas