Sarah Jarosz

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Sarah Jarosz

For some time she was considered a prodigy, but we should be well past that point now when referencing Sarah Jarosz. After all, the talented artist has put in her time and even at the young age of 22-years-old, Jarosz is a polished veteran with her third full-length in hand. She has, in other words, already arrived. There’s no need to hold on to old storylines.

What is worth noticing is the music itself. Build Me Up From Bones is an organic masterwork for Jarosz, a warm, nuanced collection that wraps and enchants the listener. If you’re curious what brilliant natural talent paired with an ongoing commitment to learn and grow can produce, Sarah Jarosz’s latest is a perfect example.

Stereo Subversion: So you’re in New York City now? How it is?

Sarah Jarosz: I just moved here. I guess it’s been almost a month now and I’m just loving it.

SSv: What prompted the move to New York?

Sarah: I’ve gone to school at the New England Conservatory in Boston for the last four years, and just graduated from there in May. There was such a great music scene in Boston, and there still is, and a lot of my closest friends were making the migration down to New York, so that was definitely a factor, wanting to continue to be surrounded by a great music scene here. And it’s also just that it’s New York; I’ve wanted to live here since I was 15. [Laughs]

SSv: Has it been what you thought it would be, or has it been different?

Sarah: It’s been what I thought it would be. It’s just so energizing. There’s always something to do, and even though I’ve lived here for about a month I technically haven’t been here for more than like two weeks because I’ve been on the road. But even in those two or three weeks, I’ve seen so much great live music and it’s super inspiring to have access to so much of that.

SSv: Where are you in New York?

Sarah: I’m in Manhattan on the Upper West Side, so it’s great. I love it.

SSv: In the past, a release date for an album used to be this grand event with all this attention happening at once, but now it seems like more of a slow burn. So how does all of this feel for you, leading up to the album’s release?

Sarah: I guess there’s still a lot of excitement involved with the actual release date, but I totally know what you mean. It’s like you have to keep energy and momentum going pretty much nonstop these days, even though there is that sort of day off in the future. It does seem like you just have to sort of go for it all the time and try to work as hard as you can to keep that momentum at all really. I feel very fortunate because from a very early age I’ve been surrounded by a really great team of people that have made that process a little smoother than if they weren’t there.

For me, I guess with this record release it does feel like there’s more build-up leading up to the release because I just finished school. So in a sense, this is my first time not having to juggle the two and I can really dedicate my time to going out on the road and doing this big release show and getting really stoked for it because I’m not also doing homework. [Laughs] So in that sense it is kind of a different situation this time around even compared to my last two, just because I feel like the momentum has really built up until this point.

SSv: How much have you been looking forward to that? Have you been longing for the day when you didn’t have to have your attention going in multiple directions?

Sarah: Yeah, for sure. With that being said, I totally loved my experience at NEC [New England Conservatory of Music]. I don’t regret that decision in the least bit, but it’s also nice not to be spread so thin all the time and now to really get to focus on something I have been working so hard at for so long. Even though this sort of feels like the beginning, it really isn’t. [Laughs] So it’s nice to just be able to focus on it.

SSv: When you look back at your time at NEC, do you think how you were equipped and what you learned there shows up on this album?

Sarah: Definitely. Really this feels like the first album where there is that evidence. I think it really took the full four years for it to start sinking in. It was great. Even though I was working on my second record while I was in school, I had barely been there for two years, and I don’t think it had necessarily had time to affect me, and not just school but my experience in Boston in general and moving away and all those kinds of “growing up” things. [Laughs] But yeah, I guess my energy just feels a little more focused on this record. I feel like I had a better idea going into it of what I wanted it to sound like.

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SSv: Where does the title Build Me Up From Bones come from? What makes that a good banner to place over all these songs?

Sarah: That song, “Build Me Up From Bones,” was one of the first songs I had written in this batch of songs that’s on the record, and I felt particularly excited about it. But that being said, I had been working on that song for a long time and it wasn’t finished yet, and it wasn’t until I was in the process of really getting going with the record that I was able to finish it. I don’t know. There’s something about the vibe of that particular song that seems to encapsulate the feeling and the vibe of this record. And something about the title just seems like the right aesthetic for the album, and the right timing for that kind of title and what it means.

SSv: Do you have some special things planned around the album that you hope to do?

Sarah: It’s interesting. A lot of people are asking me that now, and it still feels so fresh that this is my life now, being able to dedicate my time to all this, so I think with graduation and finishing that big life goal, it’s almost still sinking in since it only happened a few months ago. I think it will actually take some time for me to realize what my next set of big goals is outside of recording and touring and all that. I think it’s still too soon to say, outside of those things, what my next goal will be, but obviously I want to keep professional things going aside from just the music making. But right now I can say that I am really excited to be touring as much as I will be and to have the time that I will to dedicate to that, because that is a new thing to me. [Laughs]

SSv: You wrote most of the songs on the album, correct?

Sarah: Yes. I wrote or co-wrote nine of the songs on the album and then there are two covers as well.

SSv: Do these songs go back a ways for you, or are they all fairly new?

Sarah: In terms of the songs I wrote on my own, I guess I had been working on them over the past couple years. I had been writing tunes for this record basically since the last record was released. The co-writes…those are interesting because co-writing was something I was actually hesitant to get into in the first place because writing for me is just a real personal, solo process. But I had a lot of people around me prodding me to do it and I really fought it at first, but now I’m really glad that I did it.

I got paired up with some really awesome people on this record, like Jedd Hughes, who is just an amazing musician and writer. We hit it off on the writing front pretty much immediately, and we wrote “Over the Edge” and “Mile on the Moon.” And then also, getting to write with my hero, Darrell Scott, that was a real treat. That was actually the very last song that was recorded for the record. It was kind of a last-minute thing but I feel like it rounded the album out in a nice way.

SSv: Was there ever a chance that song wasn’t going to happen or make it on the album?

Sarah: Yeah. What happened was that I had been working on that song, “1,000 Things,” on my own. It had been in the works for many months. It was unfinished for a long time, but I knew that I loved it and it was basically just the words that weren’t finished. So thankfully enough we recorded it with Alex [Hargreaves] and Nat [Smith] from the trio. We got all the music down first because they were only there for certain days. And I was like, “Well at least I know it’s just the lyrics I have to finish and the music’s in place.” So we got the music down and then I had this co-writing session with Darrell set up in Nashville.

We had expressed interest in writing with each other and finally we were there at the same time. We actually wrote a completely different song the day we got together to write, which isn’t on the album, and then after I left the co-writing session I was thinking “Maybe Darrell’s the guy to help me finish this song.” We were coming down to the wire with the record and I emailed the song to Darrell and my initial lyrics ideas, and we bounced a few emails back and forth and a few days later it was done.’

SSv: You had wanted to work with him for a while?

Sarah: Oh yeah. I’ve grown up listening to Darrell and he, like a lot of other people on the record, are just musical heroes of mine. We’d had the opportunity to play with each other over the past few years. And he’s always been something of a mentor to me with my songwriting, encouraging me to keep it up, so at a certain point he was like, “Let’s write together,” and finally it worked out.

SSv: I love that Joanna Newsom track. What made you zero in on the covers you chose?

Sarah: I’ve been a big fan of hers for a while now. That particular song Aoife O’Donovan showed to me at a music camp many years ago before I even knew who Joanna Newsom was. I loved the song pretty immediately and we’ve been playing it in our live show for a couple years now. I just thought it would make a nice cut on the album. So I knew I wanted to include that for a while.

But the Dylan track was a surprise. I wasn’t expecting to record two Dylan songs in a row on two CDs, so it wasn’t in the plans, but then I was back stage at a show and Matt, who plays cello, he suggested that song. Blood on the Tracks is probably my favorite Dylan album. We just started jamming on it, the two of us, and pretty much the way you hear it on the record is the way we first played it. I was just intrigued to include something so sparse and stripped down on the record because there’s nothing else there that’s just that simple with the voice and cello. So that was cool to include.

SSv: Does it feel like a lot is going on for you right now? It seems like it would feel like a bit of a whirlwind.

Sarah: Yeah, it’s definitely a whirlwind, but I’m excited by it all and I’m definitely curious to see how the next few months will go. So it should be a fun ride! [Laughs]

*Photo by Scott Simontacchi


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