Sarah Jarosz’s music — from her own original material to her exquisite interpretations of songs by others — seems to exist outside any frame of reference, managing to weave time-honored tradition with a bold, adventurous spirit of discovery and independence.
Growing up in Wimberley, Texas, Sarah, a singer from an early age, was 9 years old when she received a mandolin for Christmas. Spurred on by a weekly jam session near her hometown, she worked tirelessly to learn the instrument, picking up clawhammer banjo and guitar along the way. Shortly after turning 11, Sarah traveled to her first bluegrass gathering outside of Texas, the respected Rockygrass Festival in Lyons, Colorado, and over the next several years she earned a reputation as something of a young phenom, traveling the festival circuit and channeling the traditions of her musical elders while aspiring to the creative heights of her heroes as well.
In the summer of 2007, after her debut set at Colorado's Telluride Bluegrass Festival, she was approached by Gary Paczosa, A&R representative for roots label Sugar Hill Records. He expressed his admiration and invited her to Nashville to cut some songs. She accepted, and from those early sessions a professional relationship blossomed. They corresponded over the next year, and at the age of 16 she signed her contract with Sugar Hill and spent her senior year of high school cutting her debut album, Song Up in Her Head.
The record was released in 2009, between her high school graduation and her first semester of college at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA. Two years later, she released Follow Me Down, a record she describes as a “natural progression” from Song Up, but also one that finds her moving into a grittier realm. It’s little wonder that a Rolling Stone writer once described her as Gillian Welch’s “long lost daughter” — the tapestry of unease she weaves throughout the songs sounds as if it belongs to an older soul. But although her most recent journey leads her deeper into the darkened places of the heart, it's not a journey without beauty or passion, and fans of all sorts of musical allegiances have found themselves mesmerized.
Now 21 and just a few months away from graduating from New England Conservatory with a Bachelor of Music degree in Contemporary Improvisation, Sarah has attracted fans of folk, rock, country and old time music with her voice and multi-instrumental abilities, not only through her records, but also an aggressive touring schedule, sandwiched between academics.
Touring has taken Sarah multiple times to the UK and Canada as well as all over the United States; on one journey, she was honored to perform on the wonderful BBC series The Transatlantic Sessions. She sometimes performs solo, but is more often joined by fellow youthful musicians Alex Hargreaves (fiddle) and Nathaniel Smith (cello), who have traveled in the same musical circles with Sarah for years. David “Dawg” Grisman says that Alex “plays with wit, authority and soulfulness belying his years. In my opinion, he’s destined to be one of the fiddle giants of the 21st century." Nat has developed quite a buzz from performing not only with Sarah, but also with Natalie MacMaster and Jeremy Kittel. Their performances as a trio are jaw-dropping in musical prowess and scope, both meticulously arranged and joyfully spontaneous. Trio performances were captured on the revered PBS series Austin City Limits and in the second season of Bluegrass Underground.
With her first two records each earning Grammy and Americana Music Association nominations, the bar is set high for Sarah’s next album, a project for which she’s currently preparing, and one that is certain to measure up to the standards she sets for herself.