Our SXSW: SARAH SISKIND

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

For an artist with such popular friends, Sarah Siskind seems to have been fighting a glass ceiling for most of the decade.












For an artist with such popular friends, Sarah Siskind seems to have been fighting a glass ceiling for most of the decade. Despite two noteworthy albums on her own, a Grammy-nominated hit written for Alison Krauss with “Simple Love,” and the fact that polar opposites country star Randy Travis and indie darling Bon Iver have each picked up one of her tunes, Siskind has been a slowly rising star. With her third LP Say It Louder on the way this summer, though, it’s looking like one of Nashville’s best-kept secrets may soon land her breakthrough.

So, does this look like it might finally be the one?

I definitely think a lot of pieces have just fallen together that weren’t there before. I went through some big changes in my personal life over the last four years that detracted from my ability to expand my music. Everything leading up to this point has been part of the journey.

What kind of changes?

I’m at a different place now and I’m feeling very grounded. Team members coming together has made a big difference, as far as having a band that I really trust, and having a publisher. In the past, I would spend so much time doing administrative things that go along with being a songwriter that I was a little more scattered than I am now, creatively. And then finding [producer] Jason Lehning to record this record with me. He put so much into this record, I feel like it’s half his child.

And you had some health issues, too, right?

I’ve had a chronic sinus disease since I was young that’s put me through several surgeries. Obviously, I had to take time off from singing, so that’s been a real obstacle. It’s actually still going on, but I’ve found ways to manage it.

You’ve recently been on tour with Bon Iver. Has that changed or broadened the kind of audience you attract now?

Well, most of my experience with them have been overseas, in December in Europe, and, for the most part, they were very receptive. Every show that I was with them, you could’ve heard a pin drop, because they hang on every word. It’s really the artist’s dream audience.

Because of your success with Alison Krauss, people tend to know you as a bluegrass artist, but Say It Louder clearly takes a different direction.

I grew up in a bluegrass household … but as an artist, I’ve always leaned more towards the electric band sound — a little big more edgy and progressive. Some of the songs I write on acoustic guitar or piano, but writing on the electric guitar, for me, has been much more of an inspiration. That’s why I’m really excited to share Say It Louder, because I think it’s a pretty clear and true picture of my style as an artist.

Listen to and learn more about Sarah at American Songspace. If you’re in Austin for SXSW next week, come listen to her play at a party we’re throwing with some other fine folks: T{ea} For Tennessee.


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