Sarah Jarosz was recently at Tucson’s Fox Theatre playing a gig with her friends Sara Watkins and Aoife O’Donovan of I’m With Her. The band has been touring this year in support of their album release, See You Around. Collectively, they have rich, textured voices that are fresh and timeless. Their live show mirrors the album flawlessly.
Success came early for the 27-year old two-time Grammy winner. She graduated from the New England Conservatory and moved to New York City from her home state of Texas. AXS was able to explore her musical beginnings as well as her future plans in a telephone interview. Here are the highlights of that conversation.
AXS: You have been described as a child prodigy. One source said that you got a mandolin at the age of eight years old. What drew you to the mandolin?
Sarah Jarosz: I was actually nine almost ten years old when my parents got me a mandolin for Christmas. They were big music lovers. There was always music being played around the house. I had heard the mandolin in recordings and I wanted to give it a try. That’s how it got started.
I started going to a bluegrass jam every Friday night in my hometown of Wimberly, Texas outside of Austin. I fell in love with it and I continued on from there. My mom plays guitar and sings as a hobby. My dad was a music lover, but they were teachers professionally. They didn’t teach music.
AXS: What was childhood like for you being wrapped up in music? Did you do the normal things that kids do?
SJ: My childhood was great. Being located so near Austin, Texas, that is such a great music town obviously, I was constantly being taken to concerts. Music was always a part of my life and our life as a family for as long as I can remember.
I grew up in a small town. I was very involved in school and other activities besides music. Music was very much the center focus.
AXS: Who was your favorite artist when you were growing up?
SJ: I was exposed to a lot of different genre of music with my parents playing records around the house. When I first got into to playing the mandolin, my favorites were Nickel Creek, Tim O’Brien and Gillian Welch. Those were the big three for me.
AXS: What were your dreams when you were a child back then?
SJ: Initially I was just so obsessed with the mandolin I was just excited to play it and sing as often as I could. It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I had the opportunity to play my own set at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. I thought ‘oh, this could really be my career. This could be my life.’ That’s when I started having dreams of making a record and having a tour and all that stuff.
AXS: Those dreams have come to pass. What are your dreams now as an adult?
SJ: I just want to keep doing it. I want to have longevity and I want to keep finding new ways to be inspired musically. I find inspiration now being in this band with Sara and Aoife. It has been a major way to keep inspired. We’ve all toured around with our solo careers for a long time. It’s kind of nice to come into this band and do something different and create a new sound together.
AXS: If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
SJ: That’s a tough one. I’ve just always known I would be a musician. Otherwise, I’ve had dreams of being a baker in a tiny baking shop in some cute little town.
AXS: What inspires your music now?
SJ: So much of my inspiration now comes from listening to other people’s music. I listen to both new music and old music. There is always so much to discover. That’s the thing about music. It’s a never-ending ‘rabbit hole.’ My favorite music is always changing. I’ve recently been listing to Jordie Lane from Australia and I really like his new record, Glassellland. I’m always listening to Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. They are still very much relevant. I’m always shifting, but the Jordie Lane album is the most recent music I’m really into.
AXS: Let’s talk some more about I’m With Her. There were some more tour dates announced for 2019. It seems like the band is doing very well. Will you return to your solo careers?
SJ: It is going really well. It was always the plan to release this record and to tour for about a year and a half. Absolutely the three of us will return to our solo projects after touring behind this record. That being said, the three of us have hopes and dreams of this band being together for a long time. The dreams would be to do both. We would love to be able to make solo records and be involved in different things. It’s kind of balancing different projects along the way. We will be revisiting our solo projects after next year.
AXS: Do you all get along really well on the road?
SJ: We do. We have a great team spirit.
AXS: During your show, Sara Watkins spoke about how the band got together. She mentioned that you and Aoife were playing backstage at a festival and she approached the two of you and said you needed a fiddle added. Is that accurate?
SJ: No, she was joking a little bit about that one. We were all at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2014.
More accurately we were all scheduled to be at a songwriting workshop with some other women. The way it went down was that the three of us got together ahead of time to work on some music for the workshop. That was when we sat down backstage, worked up some tunes, and it was magical from there. We knew from that moment that this would be something that would be really important to us for a long time.
AXS: Your vocals together are so incredible and spot on. It was so quiet in the theatre when you sang. The band is described as a supergroup and there is no out there like I’m With Her. What would you call the genre of the music that the band plays?
SJ: I don’t know that we like to classify ourselves within a genre. Not with just this band but in general. It’s tough to say what genre you are. This is true especially since we are influenced by so many types of music. I really do agree with people who say good music is good music and it doesn’t need to be labeled. If other people want to say what they think it is, that’s fine. I feel it’s not my place to say what genre we are.
AXS: Have you guys written any new songs? Do you have time to do that while you are on tour?
SJ: We have actually. It’s not announced yet. We’ve written one new song and it will be released as a single next year.
AXS: If you could only listen to three albums for a year, what would they be?
SJ: That’s a tough one. Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, and Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott’s Real Time. I keep thinking of all the music I’m leaving out.