Smartists: Sarah Jarosz

(Published on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls)

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23-year old bluegrass-folk singer and Smart Girl in the Arts, Sarah Jarosz, has always seen the value in community. “I love that music can be a connector between people… The communal aspect of music was one of the first things that drew me to it when I was a little girl attending the jam for the first time.” After hearing her crystal clear voice through my car radio, falling in love with her music and learning her story, I thought it only natural that she be unveiled to our Smart Girls community.

Sarah Jarosz was born in the small town of Wimberley, Texas, to a family and greater community that were big on music.

“I’m lucky to have parents that love music, so I was surrounded by it for as long as I can remember. I started singing when I was about two years old, took piano lessons when I was six for a few years, but then when I was nine, my parents bought me a mandolin for Christmas. I fell in love with the instrument and never looked back,” Sarah said.

Soon after her introducsj_finaltion to the mandolin, Jarosz discovered a weekly bluegrass jam in her city, and instantly clicked with her fellow Bluegrassers, if you will.

“[…I just] fell in love with the music and the community of musicians. I played a lot of local gigs around Austin and Central Texas, and began to branch out by attending music camps and festivals during the summers, such as RockyGrass Academy and Festival in Lyons, CO, and The Mandolin Symposium in Santa Cruz, CA …” Jarosz said.

But it’s safe to say her visit to Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2007 was one of her most memorable camp experiences. There, as a girl in her mid-teens, she had the opportunity to play her first main stage set. Gary Paczosa, producer, engineer, A&R at Sugar Hill Records, was in the audience and approached Jarosz after her show. Gary took a liking to Jarosz’s music, and that meeting eventually lead to her signing with Sugar Hill at just 16 years old.

Since then, Jarosz’s life has been a tornado of touring, schooling and writing her music. Instead of taking off after high school to tour, Jarosz decided to attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She received her Bachelors in Music in May 2013.

Now, Jarosz devotes herself entirely to touring and writing. You’re probably thinking, how does she stay so generative?

Jarosz said, “I…collect lyrical and melodic ideas along the way… Whether it be listening to music I love or listening to the world and people around me. I do find it challenging to write songs on tour, but that is normally the time when I collect the most ideas, and then when I have time to chill out and be home, that’s when I sift through those ideas and figure out what works together, and normally, hopefully, that leads to a song.”mg_7113-credit-scott-simontacchi

Her openness to the offerings of the world has brought about dozens of original songs and utter courage has brought them to listeners’ ears.

“From an early age, that was always the fastest way to learn [and share my music] – to put myself in a situation that scared me, like jamming with my heroes, for instance. I would always walk away from those experiences having learned something new and being so fired up to practice and write and become a better musician,” Jarosz said.

That, in a nutshell, is Jarosz’s advice for the Smart Girls reading this: don’t let obstacles like fear scare you away from what lights your creative fire.

“Recogniz[e] what excites you. Once you have that figured out, latch onto it and do anything in your power to make your goals a reality… and always remember to make time for yourself. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin when opportunities start rolling in, but I find when I start to become discouraged, if I set aside a little time for myself, whether it be to write or just do something completely unrelated to music, that’s when I’m able to get back to the good stuff and feel re-inspired,” she said.

So there you have it, Smart Girls, Jarosz has given you permission to pursue your passion and buy yourself that pint of Cherry Garcia. How could you not love her? (I can guarantee you you’ll love her music too. Jarosz has completed three albums, and her most recent release, “Build Me Up From Bones,” received two Grammy 2014 nominations!) For more information about her songs, touring schedule, and upcoming projects visit sarahjarosz.com.

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