[Photo credit to Kyle Johnson]
Singer-songwriter Sera Cahoone has been a mainstay musician in Seattle for almost 20 years since her days of playing drums in Carissa’s Weird and Band of Horses. In 2006, Cahoone self-released her first solo album, Sera Cahoone, landing her a slot on Sub Pop Records, which released her next two albums, Only As The Day Is Long (2008) and Deer Creek Canyon (2012). It’s been five years since ‘Deer Creek,’ and Cahoone is truly returning to her roots by self-releasing her fourth studio album, From Where I Started. It’s an album about falling in and out of love, finding new hope, and learning that the best way to move forward is to remember where you began. The tracks released so far stay true to Cahoone’s folk-country sound with simple yet strong lyrics telling sad stories resolved through major key shifts, steady guitar, twangy banjo, and the occasional buzz of a harmonica.
(Cool fact: Sera Cahoone and band were the first musicians to play at the top of the Seattle Space Needle!)
EP: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions about your upcoming album! I’m beyond excited for the release show at Tractor Tavern. You recorded this album in Portland with John Morgan Askew, who has worked with some awesome PNW artists (Neko Case, Laura Gibson, and The Dodos). Can you tell us what it was like working with John and about the creative process?
SC: I had so much fun working with John. I first did a few demos with him and we totally hit it off. We are both total dorks so that always helps. I loved his energy and ideas. He brought in some amazing musicians and I felt like we were always on the same page which really helped.
EP: You’re on tour right now with Tiff Merritt and will be joining Gregory Alan Isakov (one of my all time favorite artists, his symphony album still gives me the chills) in April and May. How has the touring been going so far?
SC: I just got back from touring with Tift. She is such a sweetheart and so talented. We had a blast with them. I’ve been a fan of Tift’s since the first time I saw her play live 10 years ago, so it was really cool to be able to spend time with her and get to know her and her sweet baby.
I’m very excited for the Gregory tour. I love him and he is a Colorado boy! I toured with him a couple years ago and I love his music and he’s also such a great guy and a good friend. I’m looking forward to it!
EP: I saw you perform a solo set at the Fremont Abbey last year in June with Naomi Wachira (one of my favorite shows of 2016 by far). How do you approach performing solo versus performing with your band?
SC: Thank you!
I’ve learned a lot having to play solo. You don’t have anyone to help you out up there. I’m really comfortable singing and playing instruments but it’s not so easy standing up there by myself having to actually talk to a crowd. My band I’ve been playing with for so many years there’s a level of comfort there. When I’m by myself I don’t have Jay, my steel player, so there’s no one to make fun of or give me shit. Having to play solo has certainly helped to build my confidence in a lot of ways. It’s tough when everyone is talking and you’re at a loud venue. But I’ve learned to deal with that as well.
EP: You’ve mentioned in some interviews that this album feels like you’re going back to your roots, back to an old country feel. Was that intentional or a result of your songwriting process this time around?
SC: No I don’t think it was intentional. I grew up listening to old country and have always found inspiration there so I think it just kind of is where my heart is.
EP: In your singles “Better Woman” and “Up to Me,” I’ve noticed a slight theme along the lines of giving up control and acknowledging the faults of being a human in a relationship with another human being, to put it simply (please correct me if I’m way off base). Was there a particular experience that lead to this, sort of, realization, or is it one of those things you learn just living life?
SC: I will admit a lot of my songs do come from the heart, from more of a personal experience. “Better Woman” is about loving someone but realizing you’re messing it up and deciding to try to do better–which I think is a common human experience. “Up to me” is really just about falling in love. Falling in love is scary and an act of faith because you put yourself out there and that’s a very vulnerable place to be.
EP: “Ladybug” is a really heart-wrenching track and one of my favorite releases of the year so far; it feels raw, honest, and cathartic in some ways. I recently started listening to podcasts and came across your episode of Struggle to Connect with your late friend Amy Vanderbeck (my condolences), and I thought your conversation about being gay and being a musician while trying not to be a “gay musician” was really interesting. I was wondering if you felt any sort of pressure to be outspoken on certain issues like LGBTQ+ rights, domestic abuse, etc. because you have a public platform to do so?
SC: First of all thank you. Both of these losses have had a huge impact in my life. Life is so precious–you really can’t take it for granted.
I don’t feel pressure to speak out, it’s something I want to do. Especially the way the world is right now. On the issue of domestic violence I lost my cousin Tawnee to it. I never planned on speaking out about it because I really am just getting informed myself. I ended up writing Ladybug for Tawnee and basically just want to raise awareness any way I can because it is so important. I do feel raising awareness can save lives. On LGBTQ issues I have always been out and proud since I was a teenager. We have to fight, we have to come out! And we always have to be proud of who we are.
EP: I wracked by brain over the past couple weeks trying to remember one of the covers you played at the abbey, and I believe it was “Rolling Along” by Lucinda Williams. I’m sure you’re tired of talking about this, but what are some of your other musical influences?
SC: Yes, that was the song. Lucinda for sure. Loretta Lynn, Dolly, Hank Williams, Willie, Merle (I could go on and on) Pretty much a lot of old country and blues. I also am a huge fan of Tracy Chapman 🙂
EP: And are there any artists you’re listening to at the moment you’d like to recommend?
SC: Excited to get my hands on the new Hurray For The Riff Raff. Love the new Solange. And Tift Merritt’s new record is awesome.
From Where I Started is out March 24, 2017. Tickets are still available for Sera Cahoone’s album release show on April 1st at the Tractor Tavern with Annie Ford Band and Kevin Large (Widower)! This event is 21+.
EMMA PIERCE | Working on being out and proud | KXSU Music Reporter]