Sarah Jarosz talks Follow Me Down

It’s been a big week for young Sarah Jarosz.

Having just finished exams in her fourth semester at the New England Conservatory of Music, she started touring in support of her new record, Follow Me Down, which hit on Sugar Hill yesterday (5/17). On top of all the CD-release publicity, Sugar Hill had her all over NPR on Monday, where she was interviewed on All Things Considered and World Cafe.

Fortunately for us, we had a chance to speak with Sarah a couple weeks back before the craziness set in, and she shared some thoughts about the music on the new album, and what she has planned for her summer vacation.

Follow Me Down finds this talented singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist juggling those roles across the various tracks. The bulk of the material was written or co-written by Sarah. Two are instrumentals of hers, and two are covers from artists that she especially admires (Bob Dylan and Radiohead).

“For me, its important to include a couple of covers, if only to display how much music I listen to. Of course I want to feature my own songs, but in representing myself as an artist, I want to perform other music that catches my ear.

They reflect what I love and have been influenced by, and it’s a challenge to pick ones that blend with my own music.”

The one track that first captivated me on the CD is one that she wrote with Cameron Scoggins, an adaptation from Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee. The poem has a very musical quality to it, particularly the line “We loved with a love that was more than love,” which Sarah and Cameron incorporated into their original work, titled Annabelle Lee.

“The whole thing happened in about half an hour. Those words draw on such an old timey feel, so clawhammer banjo was perfect.

This song, and all my original songs on the record, all start out with just me. It’s cool to have them work solo – just raw words and music. And it’s cool to see them go through different phases getting to a finished track.”

Annabelle Lee: []

Sarah said that starting solo was the theme for the way she worked in the studio with producer Gary Paczosa as well.

“I would start by recording my instrumental and vocal part. We went from there to deciding how to build it up.

Gary and I had so many ideas for each song, and when the musicians came in they had ideas too. It really made me think about each song in depth.”

And such musicians she has on this record! Béla Fleck, Casey Driessen, Viktor Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Mark Schatz are among the guest pickers, with Darrell Scott, Shawn Colvin, Dan Tyminski, Sarah Siskind and Vince Gill providing harmony vocals.

“I feel so blessed that they all have been so generous with their time to contribute their genius to this record.”

The Radiohead cover she chose is The Tourist, which was recorded with Punch Brothers.

“I went to New York for a day last September and we just had the most awesome time. All the guys were just so pumped.

I’ve been a Radiohead fan for a long time, and backstage at a festival one time I heard Chris Thile playing that song, and we jammed on it a bit, and talked about maybe recording it together.

The arrangement happened pretty naturally, and we went with the form that Radiohead did on their record.

We recorded live in the studio, with minimal overdubs.”

The Tourist: []

Peace, an instrumental that closes the CD showcases Jarosz on the mandolin. Tracking with her were Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Edgar Meyer on bass and Seamus Egan on wooden flute.

“This is a good representation of how a piece of music has evolved from before I went to school and now, being almost halfway done. I started writing it when I was just 12 years old, and played it for one of my instructors at NEC. He listened and told me ‘You have an A and C part, but you need a B.’

I always heard bass and strings on this, but when I went to three parts I heard the Irish flute.”

Peace: []

With Follow Me Down on the street, Sarah has an exhaustive tour schedule set up for the summer. In addition to crisscrossing the US, she has shows in Canada, Denmark and the UK.

“It will honestly be my first time touring this extensively. I’m looking forward to it. And with my trio [Nathaniel Smith and Alex Hargreaves]… That also makes it very exciting.

There’s about a week while Nat will be teaching at the Mark O’Conn0r camp, but otherwise trio all the way.”

With only two days of sales figures in, the CD is already in the top 25 at both Amazon and iTunes. Not bad for a college sophomore, no?