Photo Credit: All Eyes Media & Scott Simontacchi
This Is Our Jam recently caught up with the ever-so-talented Sarah Jarosz, one of our favorite bluegrass singers. In addition to just releasing her third album, Build Me Up From Bones, Sarah graduated from the New England Conservatory in May (and we thought we were stressed out balancing school and work…). We chatted with Sarah in the middle of her tour about all that she’s accomplished, what’s on tap next, and the life of a 20-something.
Listen while you read:
1) Tell us about yourself. How long have you been making music?
I’m 22 and I grew up in Waverly, TX, which is just a little town South of Austin. Music has been a big part of my life for pretty much as long as I can remember. When I was about 10 years old, I picked up the mandolin for the first time and really fell in love with it. I started playing music around my town in a weekly Friday night bluegrass jam and just really fell in love with the music scene.
2) When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
My parents are both huge music lovers. My dad would always have music playing around the house, and my mom plays guitar and has written songs her whole life as a hobby. So I was always surrounded by them, and they would always take me to see live music in Austin. I was lucky when I was young to have really great music teachers at the school that I went to. One thing led to another and I really fell in love with music and was lucky to be surrounded by great teachers all along.
3) Your music is primarily bluegrass but you’ve done amazing covers in all types of genres (including Radiohead, Tom Waits, and Bob Dylan). Where do you find inspiration for your music?
I definitely started getting into music because of bluegrass, which is a great tradition of music because it forms a culture around this very strict first chorus – break – first chorus – break kind of formula — but there is room for improvisation within those breaks. I think that having been my first outlet to really play a lot of music, it naturally led me to discover other kinds of musicians who weren’t playing bluegrass but still incorporated acoustic music into their sound. So, I think that was a big part of it for me, and just always being really inspired by musicians who didn’t do just one thing really well — they were great singers and great musicians and great songwriters. I think I saw that when I was young and thought, “I want to be like that.”
4) You’ve accomplished so much at a young age, including a Grammy nom and performance on Austin City Limits! How does it feel to have done all this and only be 22?
I’m very, very thankful for it all, and sometimes I have to stop and slow down and realize what all is going on — especially when I was in school and balancing a music career with the school load. It’s a balancing act; you know, taking it day by day and not trying to get too overwhelmed with it all. Now I’m just focusing on my career, and I’m really thankful for the things that have already happened, but it all just makes me want to keep working harder to keep it going.
5) What’s next for you?
There are so many things! I feel like it’s still so fresh since I just graduated, so even taking time to let it all sink in. So, in a way, I think it will take a little more time to realize what my next set of big goals and things that I want to accomplish are because graduating college was one of the big ones. Now that that’s over, the next portion of my life will be figuring out what the next thing is. It’s exciting.
6) What advice do you have for other 20-somethings who are trying to figure out their way in the world?
You have to know when to say “yes” to opportunities and know when to say “no.” You have to take time for yourself, because that’s important too. It’s easy when you’re trying to make progress and move forward to say “yes” to everything and get really overwhelmed, so I think it’s all about having the ability to step back and see the bigger picture and say, “What is my biggest priority right now and what do I need to do to accomplish that?” It’s easy when you have a big to-do list to look at it all and get really overwhelmed, but I think it’s all about taking it one step at a time. That really helps me. I would look at the big picture and get really stressed out, and then I would say, “What’s one thing I can do right now to handle this?”
7) What’s the best and worst part about being in your 20s?
I don’t know if I could think of a worst part… the best part is having graduated from college and realizing that now my time is in my control and I can have the freedom and ability to choose how I want to live my life. I think that freedom is really exciting. Maybe that’s also the worst thing… I’m having to figure out how to best use that time and that freedom.
Thanks to Sarah for chatting with us! Be sure to catch Sarah on her tour (http://sarahjarosz.com/tour/) and check out her album Build Me Up From Bones on Spotify (http://open.spotify.com/album/3WgIxB4vFl8i5ZHCypubIK).