Sarah Jarosz: Influences of a young Songwriter

Jarosz on Her Family, Her Music, and Her Life

By Daniel Lumpkin

 Sarah Jarosz performs Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 at the Melting Point located on the grounds of the Foundry Park Inn & Spa. Visit the Melting Point’s website for complete information and to purchase tickets.

Acclaimed songwriter Sarah Jarosz performs at the Melting Point Wednesday, January 11th, 2012.

With two critically-acclaimed studio albums and a Grammy nomination to her name, singer/songwriter Sarah Jarosz, 20, is kicking off the new year with a small tour before heading back to school at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

Jarosz began her journey in music as a young girl growing up in Wimberley, Texas and is quick to credit the support from her parents for her career.

“Probably one of my earliest influences in terms of songwriting would be my parents, specifically my mom. She has written songs and played on guitar just as a hobby her whole life. Just having someone to write down little ideas and make me think of the world in, perhaps a more poetic way than I would, that was a huge part of it.”

Jarosz’s parents also encouraged her to attend local bluegrass gatherings and summer music camps to help her grow as a musician.

“It came from being surrounded at an early age by people doing the traditional music, like bluegrass. I started going to a weekly, Friday-night bluegrass jam in my hometown. Also, going to these camps and festivals in the summer and getting to meet people my own age who (were) also into this music. Without (my parent’s) support, I wouldn’t have been able to go to those camps and festivals growing up that were so important to me in my life. I definitely feel fortunate they are so encouraging of what I do.”

A month after graduating high school, Jarosz released her first album Song Up In Her Head (Sugar Hill Records) and moved out to Boston to study Contemporary Improvisation at The New England Conservatory of Music. Her song “Mansinneedof” received a Grammy nomination in the “Best Country Instrumental Performance” category.

Two years later Jarosz released her second album Follow Me Down (Sugar Hill Records) and some of the greatest names in music made an appearance on this album, including: Shawn Colvin, The Punch Brothers, Béla Fleck, Darrel Scott, Dan Tyminski, Vince Gill and Jerry Douglas. One of the main differences between her freshman and sophomore releases can be heard in her lyrics. The songs are written from the perspective of a more mature artist who has transitioned from asking questions about the world to stating poetic verses based on her own experiences.

“The changes I had gone through in the two years between the first and second record,” Jarosz said, discussing the differences between her two albums. “Not only the huge musical changes, but the personal changes, I think, made its way into the songs. It was a big time in my life. I moved away from Texas and came here to Boston and started school.”

While the Texas native prepares for several shows in cities throughout the south, audiences can look forward to hearing her originals as well as her covers of popular artists such as Radiohead, The Decemberists, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. Jarosz pays homage to the artists and bands that she feels helped influence her as a musician.

“A big part of it for me is what I’ve learned through music by learning other people’s songs. I think it wouldn’t be fair to include at least some of those songs that have had such an impact on me or that I just love performing.”

Despite acknowledging her beginnings in roots music and the influences bluegrass has had on her, Jarosz feels that her music cannot be described as such.

“It’s been a pretty natural progression, in terms of just incorporating those (elements of bluegrass) into my own original music. I don’t think I consider the songs I am writing now to be bluegrass. Especially the ones I am writing now. I don’t really know, genre-wise, what you would call it.

“I’m just trying to be as true to myself as I can be. All the different influences I take in on a daily basis make their way into my music. If you are going to be inspired by the things you absorb on a daily basis then they are going to come out in their own way.”

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Sarah Jarosz, “Run Away” Official Video (HD)