Interview by Scott Preston
Photos by Scott Simontacchi
20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Rd, Cincinnati, OH
8pm show, $17 main floor, $20 Orchestra, Buy Tickets
Sarah Jarosz is a multi-Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who hails from just outside of Austin, TX and makes her home in New York City. Now 23-years-old, she graduated in 2013 from New England Conservatory with a degree in contemporary improvisation in the same month her third album, Build Me Up From Bones, was released. Jarosz, who fits comfortably where contemporary folk, Americana, and roots music intersect, has long been embraced for the depth and maturity of her songwriting, her pure and nuanced vocals, and her instrumental mastery—switching between octave mandolin, banjo, guitar, and mandolin as the songs dictate. Build Me Up From Bones received two Grammy nominations and appeared on NPR’s Top Ten Folk and Americana albums for 2013. She has appeared on Conan, Austin City Limits twice, A Prairie Home Companion, and the BBC Series The Transatlantic Sessions.
Cincy Groove: When did you write your first song?
Sarah Jarosz: I messed around with writing melodies for about as long as I can remember, but I think my first “real” song was Left Home which I wrote when I was 12 or 13.
Cincy Groove: Where and when was your first show? What was going through your mind before you started to play?
Sarah Jarosz: It’s hard to say what my first official show was, as I played tons of local gigs around Wimberley and Austin growing up. I suppose one of my first big shows was at the Old Settler’s Music Festival when I was 11 or 12. I just remember being really excited to have the chance to perform on a big stage!
Sarah Jarosz: At that point, it was incredibly important for everyone around me to realize that I didn’t want to be a flash in the pan, and that despite starting a music career so young, I was really serious about creating something that could last. I’m fortunate that the folks at Sugar Hill recognized that and allowed me to really take my time to develop a career, as opposed to just rushing into something too quickly.
Cincy Groove: What do you think you learned at The New England Conservatory of Music that you might not have otherwise?
Sarah Jarosz: NEC gave me the outlet to discover and dig into some styles of music that I might not have otherwise, or at least it would have taken me a lot longer to get into. Within my first year, I was playing Klezmer, Free Improvisation, and learning some Jazz standards. It was such a great environment to be exposed to all of that stuff by some people who really know what they’re doing!
Cincy Groove: You have accomplished so much in a short period of time, Is there something you can point to that would explain it?
Sarah Jarosz: Honestly, I think it’s really just due to a lot of hard work combined with getting to work alongside some of the most incredible musicians and people in the business. I think my main goal all along has been to constantly surround myself with people that inspire and challenge me.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about your newest album “Build Me Up From Bones”, How did your approach differ from your previous records?
Sarah Jarosz: I think the biggest difference with this record was the decision to incorporate the incredible talents of Alex Hargreaves (fiddle) and Nathaniel Smith (cello). They have appeared on my other records, but I knew I wanted them to be a bigger part of the sound of BMUFB. We have toured together as a trio for over four years now, so we’ve had a chance to really develop our sound together, and I think that comes through on this album.
Cincy Groove: Did you enjoy performing in the Transatlantic Sessions?
Sarah Jarosz: It was SO amazing! I’m thrilled that Jerry Douglas invited me to be a part of the TV taping a few years ago and the tour earlier this year. It’s a truly unique environment to be surrounded by all those incredible musicians. I came away from both experiences feeling very inspired!
Cincy Groove: How does it feel to be nominated for the AMA Album of the Year? as well as 2 Grammys?
Sarah Jarosz: It’s a great honor! Obviously I feel very fortunate to have had these things happen at such a young age. The coolest part of all that to me is being nominated alongside so many of my favorite artists.
Cincy Groove: What do you like to do to pass time on the road?
Sarah Jarosz: Honestly, I like to listen to music. It makes the drives go by faster! I also like going for walks to try to soak in at least a little bit of each town we play in. I’m always trying to discover the best coffee and/or cold pressed juice in the area. The rest of the time, I’m on my computer working on emails!
Cincy Groove: Why did you choose to move to New York instead of Austin or staying in Boston?
Sarah Jarosz: I’ve wanted to move to NYC since I went there for the first time when I was 15. Also, a lot of my friends in the Boston music community made the journey down to New York, so that was a big factor in my decision. It’s such an inspiring place to be when I’m not on tour. I’m totally in love with it.
Cincy Groove: I see that you are about to goto the UK, what is your favorite thing to see or do while you are there?
Sarah Jarosz: Very excited to get back over there. I love the music scene in Scotland, and we have a handful of friends over there that we get to play with when we go through. And obviously, I try to get as much sight-seeing in whenever I’m in London! We did get to see Stonehenge the last time we toured through England which was pretty special.