Sarah Jarosz is what happens when young women are taken seriously. A huge part of the mandolinist’s story is that she had supportive male mentors and that has added to her confidence. We all know the age old story of “Young woman shows promise, gets exploited by the patriarchy and it affects her work.” We need to hear stories like this. Starting in her hometown of Wimberley, Texas, just 45 minutes outside of Austin – the live music capital of the world – Sarah found the mandolin at 10 years old. Labeled a prodigy, and thanks to the encouraging spirit of folk music, she found mentorship with seasoned professionals like David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Tim O’Brien and Béla Fleck. Following her time at The New England Conservatory of Music, she moved to New York and would go on to collaborate with people like Chris Thile in the Live From Here House Band and her trio I’m With Her, featuring Aoife O’Donovan and Sara Watkins, and won four Grammys.
After making the move to Nashville, on her latest album, the very impressive and sonically expansive Polaroid Lovers, Jarosz collaborated with producer Daniel Tashian, which originally was just a low-stakes co-writing project. The success of her first co-writing experience with Daniel led her to pursue other songwriting sessions with Ruston Kelly and Natalie Hemby. The collaboration found on the record has opened Sarah up to new sounds and new experiences. In our conversation, we talk about Sarah stepping into her own voice with confidence on this record and knowing her musical self enough at this point in her life. She describes her experience with confidence using the Dunning–Kruger effect, in which people with limited competence in a particular domain overestimate their abilities. AKA “fake it till you make it,” AKA “leap and the net will appear.” She also talks about her parents’ influence on her early musicality and how her mom is doing with her cancer remission. An overall theme of this conversation is that Sarah never lost sight of her goal: Keep it all about the music and don’t let noise get in the way of your important work.
Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez