One of the most anticipated new records of 2016 has got to be Sierra Hull’s upcoming Weighted Mind, due January 29 from Rounder.
With five years between this and her last project, fans of the 24 year old singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist are dying to hear her new music. She’s been playing some of the songs on the road, where’s she is performing in her new trio format, and the word has gone out that it’s a new sound as well.
Gone is the bluegrass band Hull had performed with for the past decade, replaced by a stripped-down stage setting with Sierra on mandolin, Ethan Jodziewicz on bass, and Justin Moses on guitar and banjo. It’s still Sierra out front on vocals, but over recent years she had found herself eager to take her music in a new direction.
She has stayed with a rootsy acoustic vibe, but with a more open song structure and a willingness to let the music go wherever it goes, without feeling the need to stick to any pre-set configuration. The subject matter of the new songs is also more personal, and with the mandolin or octave mandolin as the primary accompaniment to her voice, you’ll hear very different rhythmic patterns undergirding her compositions.
Knowing how bluegrass fans can react to surprises, we asked Sierra what sort of reaction she has been getting at live shows.
“I am blown away by how strong the response has been from the bluegrass community. A few people have asked if I’m ever going to tour with the band again, but most people have responded very favorably.
It’s given me a great peace of mind and confidence going forward. They see it as more real the same way I do. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, and the great people I was playing with before, but I was starting to doubt myself. Sometimes I would find myself thinking, ‘This should be awesome; why isn’t it awesome?’
If I don’t like what I’m doing, no one else is going to like it either. I can say that right now I am enjoying what I’m doing so much. It’s things I want to sing – things I want to say.”
A first music video has been released from the album, for a fairly dark song called Black River. The imagery moves away from her earlier efforts in the same way the music does.
Sierra told us that they shot this back in November, and that the rain effect is real. She actually had to sit outside and get drenched to make the shots, but she borrowed an instrument to pull it off.
“Gibson hooked me up with one that wasn’t being used. I asked David Harvey if they had an octave mandolin that wasn’t useable, and he got approval for me to take it. We probably did about 25 passes on the song, which took us 20 minutes or so. It was so cold that day – about 30 degrees!”
Now that’s dedication to your art!
We’ll have more from our interview with Sierra when we review Weighted Mind later this month.