Checking In: The Saving Graces of Sarah Jarosz
Texan roots muse sings of Cedar trees, Bay towns, wilderness
By Raoul Hernandez,
11:47AM, Wed. Jun. 24, 2020
World on the Ground, fifth LP and first since 2016 by Sarah Jarosz, opens “a long, long time ago, in a little Texas town,” where Eve ventures out for a look around and finds music. “Keep following the sound, girl.” Impeccably picked, her natural springs voice stilling the ear, the album and Wimberley-reared, three-time Grammy-winning crier does just that.
Austin Chronicle: Where are you sheltering and under what circumstances? Who else is there and how’s that going?
Sarah Jarosz: I’m in Nashville. I live in NYC, but when things started escalating at the beginning of March, I decided to leave the city and come down here where my boyfriend lives. I’ve mostly felt thankful that I had somewhere outside of NY to go. The ability to be outside in the backyard has helped keep us (mostly) sane.
AC: At what point did COVID-19 shut down operations for you, and what went down with the ship, so to speak, both personally & professionally?
SJ: March 13. I was supposed to fly to Montana for a private gig that weekend, but the gig was canceled the night before. Since I was already checked in for my flight and heading to the airport the following morning, I decided to throw a few extra things in my suitcase and leave for Nashville.
I released a new album, World On the Ground, on June 5. I had a big tour planned to coincide with it, but like all musicians I’ve had to cancel all of my summer touring, and gigs are continuing to be canceled into the fall.
AC: As a global culture, people employ music for every purpose imaginable, obviously spanning religion to entertainment and everything in between. What happens to communities like ours when people can no longer access it in person?
SJ: I think people are hurting right now. As musicians we have this sense that no matter how dark things get, we can always come together to play music for people, so the fact that we can’t do that in person right now is really tough. While it certainly doesn’t come close to the live experience, technology has helped soften the blow with livestream performances, although it will be interesting to see how long that is sustainable.
AC: Everyone’s had to shift or drastically alter their work situation. What does that look like for you?
SJ: As I mentioned, I’ve had to cancel my tours for the better part of the year, and I’m figuring out how to adjust to moving live performances online. I’ve honestly found it to be a very unnatural, challenging thing to stare into a computer screen and play to the abyss, but even in the last few weeks I’ve been learning how to improve the audio and visual quality, which makes it much more appealing than just playing into a phone or computer speaker.
AC: What’s your soundtrack for the apocalypse and what role does music play for you as a fan and scholar of it in times of hardship?
SJ: Continuing to listen to albums that I love has been such a saving grace for me, as I know it is for so many. I’ve been listening to a lot of Bruce Cockburn, James McMurtry, Sam Cooke, Bill Withers, and Gillian Welch. Her album Time (The Revelator), which has always been one of my desert island discs, has felt particularly appropriate in these times.