Telluride Bluegrass: Grammy-Winner Sarah Jarosz, Everywhere?

Grammy-winning Sarah Jarosz returns for an encore at the 44th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Her regular set is scheduled for Saturday, June 17, 2:15 – 3:30 p.m. But expect the singer-songwriter to pop up throughout the weekend, joining her many friends.

“Sarah represents the vitality of the modern folk era… reverence for tradition, and passion for the future,” said Aengus Finnan, Folk Alliance International Executive Director.

A few single-day Telluride Bluegrass tickets remain for those days and still available at http://shop.bluegrass.com/telluride or 800-624-2422. (As always, Planet Bluegrass charges no services fees on any tickets. )

Please scroll down to listen to Sarah Jarosz’s podcast.

We hold certain truths to be self-evident.

Day follows night.

Summer follows spring.

And whatever comes out of Tim O’Brien’s mouth.

Sarah Jarosz is a singer-songwriter who plays mandolin, octave mandolin, clawhammer banjo, and guitar.

About six years ago, summing up Jarosz’s formidable, precocious talent, O’Brien remarked: “Sarah is a singer. She’s just flat got it.”

A few short years later, in 2013, Rolling Stone chimed in, describing Sarah Jarosz as “Gillian Welch’s long lost daughter,” while The New York Times said she’s “widely regarded as one of acoustic music’s most promising young talents.”

What was blowing in the wind, took root: Sarah Jarosz is now a Grammy-winning star who is returning to Telluride to perform once again on the Main Stage of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Her set is scheduled for Saturday, June 17, 2:15-3:30 p.m.  – though, according to Brian Eyster, “Jarosz should be “everywhere” given the number of friends and professional colleagues performing over the weekend, including, notably, Chris Thile and Parker Millsap.

Jarosz’s fourth album, Undercurrent, marks a studied departure from her previous records, shifting the emphasis from multi-instrumentalist to songwriting and vocal performance.

And less appears to be more.

 

 

Undercurrent accentuates the growth and maturity that Jarosz, now 25, has achieved since graduating from the New England Conservatory and moving to New York City. That change garnered Jarosz two Grammys in 2017—for Best Folk Album Year for Undercurrent and for Best American Roots Performance for “House Of Mercy.” She also picked up an award for 2017 Folk Album of the Year from Folk Alliance International.

“For Austinites who’ve followed her since her early teens, the fact that Wimberley native Sarah Jarosz blossomed into one of the most stirring musicians of her generation comes as absolutely no surprise,” said The Austin Chronicle.

“This economical approach brings the listener closer to Ms. Jarosz than on any of her previous recordings, and it suits the lyrical theme of passion that, mostly, is forbidden and unrequited,” wrote The Wall Street Journal.

Jarosz ended 2016 and started 2017 building on her previous successes in the UK, with tours in November and again in January and February, including sold-out shows at Union Chapel in London and City Halls in Glasgow, as well as sell-outs in Dublin, Belfast, Cork, and Lerwick. She returned from the UK just in time to attend the Grammy Awards, which was followed by an appearance as a part of the house band on the new Thile-hosted “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Jarosz’s tour in support of Undercurrent –  with musicians Jeff Picker on bass and Anthony da Costa on guitars and vocals  – continues through most of 2017, including her Telluride stop.

We grown-ups often preach to young people about the correct order of things: grade school, college, grad school, career, marriage, kids, the whole calamity.

Another self-evident truth?

Clearly not for a prodigy like Sarah Jarosz. For her, success seemed inevitable and came very very early.

Jarosz was born in Austin, Texas, in May 1991, but she was raised in Wimberly. And she’s been making music most of her life.

After being given a mandolin for Christmas when she was just nine, Jarosz worked tirelessly to master the instrument, learning to play guitar and clawhammer banjo along the way. At age 11, she performed at her first bluegrass festival.

Over over the next few years, Sarah Jarosz gained an impressive reputation as a young phenom on the festival circuit, absorbing a world of traditional influences while honing her own highly original songwriting sensibility. By age 12, for example, she was jamming onstage with David Grisman and Ricky Skaggs, playing her mandolin with a self-assurance that belied her years. It all looked and sounded so comfortable in her agile young hands.

“From an early age, I’ve had a strong desire to create music,” Jarosz stated.  “I was also fortunate to be surrounded by older, accomplished musicians who were my mentors.  From the very beginning, all of my heroes looked out for me and challenged me in the best ways. It was great being raised in music that way. I always felt completely supported, and I think that that attitude affected the way I approach music now.

In the summer of 2007, after her first appearance at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Jarosz Sarah met Sugar Hill Records A&R rep Gary Paczosa, who was impressed enough to invite her to Nashville to record some of her compositions. The following year, the 16-year-old artist signed with Sugar Hill and began work on her 2009 debut album Song Up In Her Head.

Also in 2009, Jarosz left her hometown and headed to Boston’s New England Conservatory to study contemporary improvisation on a NEC Presidential Merit scholarship, stepping outside her comfort zone to play with Jewish and world music ensembles at school. Jarosz also sat in on live jams with Thile and the Punch Brothers and Mumford & Sons.

Sarah & Chris Thile

Sarah’s second album, Follow Me Down, arrived in 2011, and expanded the artist’s sound as well as her fan base. Tireless touring efforts won her new fans from across the musical spectrum.

Just two short years after her first release, there were Grammy and Americana Music Award nominations, a trio of Austin Music Awards, invitations to perform on “Austin City Limits” and “A Prairie Home Companion” and at Bonnaroo, Newport –  and Telluride Bluegrass, where the rising star was reunited with some of her picking partners and admirers: Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Thile again and O’Brien, to name just a few icons.

“By 20, Sarah was being described by critics as the next big thing in Americana/roots music,” said Brian Eyster, marketing guru at Planet Bluegrass.

In 2013, Jarosz released her third album, Build Me Up from Bones, which once again featured an expanded sonic and compositional palette. It also won Jarosz some of the most enthusiastic notices of her career, as well as Grammy nominations for Best Folk Album and Best American Roots Song.

What followed was another year of touring, including more performances across the pond.

In 2015 continued to travel, this time as one-third of “I’m With Her,” a mini-supergroup with kindred spirits Sara Watkins and Aoife O’Donovan.

Sarah with Sara & Aoife

“After singing my own songs for so many years, it was eye-opening to shift gears and be a part of something different,” Jarosz observed. “I’ve learned so much from it already and I definitely brought some of those lessons to Undercurrent.”

Then she added:

“I’m just trying to become more focused and more honest, also a better listener and observer of the world around me,” she asserted. “That’s what I tried to do on Undercurrent and I’m really pleased with how true this record feels to me. In some ways, it feels like my first record, in the sense that it was the first time I could focus all of my energy on it. Everything felt like it was leading to this moment.”

A moment which thankfully includes Telluride.

For more, check out Jarsoz’s podcast.

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Susan Viebrock

Susan Viebrock

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. For 19+ years, Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.

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