By Charlie Swanson
“I fell in love with music from an early age, it was always surrounding me,” says Austin, Texas-born singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz. “It just seemed like a natural thing to do.”
Gifted with nuanced lyricism and sublime vocals, 25-year-old Jarosz has turned her love into an impressive career, earning Grammy nominations and touring the country from the time she was 16 years old.
This summer, the rising folk star releases Undercurrent, her fourth album. She performs at Mill Valley’s Sweetwater Music Hall on June 9 and Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage on June 12.
Music turned from a love into an obsession when Jarosz received her first mandolin at age nine. From there she began playing open mics and soon local festivals, studied music with a disciplined intensity and caught the attention of Sugar Hill Records rep Gary Paczosa, who signed her to a record contract in 2009. “And the rest is history,” she says. “It all came together really naturally.”
Recently, Jarosz graduated with honors from the New England Conservatory of Music. She relocated to New York City and began work on Undercurrent, her first album comprised entirely of original songs and the first she recorded without also being in school.
“It feels extremely personal and honest, almost more than ever before,” Jarosz say of the new songs. “In a way, I felt a lot more present and able to devote a hundred percent of my time on this new record.”
Jarosz says she now approaches songwriting as a craft, a full-time pursuit that requires a dedicated work ethic even if the inspiration isn’t forthcoming on a particular day.
Yet, she doesn’t have to go it alone. Undercurrent also contains a lot of collaboration and Jarosz co-wrote several songs on the album with the likes of Jedd Hughes, Aoife O’Donovan and Joey Ryan of the Milk Carton Kids.
Even though Undercurrent isn’t officially released until June 17, Jarosz will be playing all of her new songs and will have copies of the album on hand when she appears in the Bay Area with her touring band. Though Jarosz has performed in the area numerous times, this will be her first time playing at both Sweetwater and Freight & Salvage. “I have heard about both of these venues for a long time, and I’m especially excited for both shows.”
Sarah Jarosz performs on Thursday, June 9, at Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; 8pm; $27-$30; 415/388-3850; and on Sunday, June 12 at Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley; 7pm; $28; advance tickets are sold out; 510/644-2020.