Music has always been a way of life for Sarah Siskind who NPR calls “an under-exposed treasure.” Born into a musical family in North Carolina, both parents were musicians and frequenting festivals, radio stations and recording studios was the norm. Always surrounded by music, Sarah started writing songs at 11 and by the time she was 14, released her first full-length album. Two more followed at 17 and 21, at which point she relocated to Nashville, Tennessee to further immerse herself in a musical community.
A veteran in the studio at age 22, Siskind set out to make “Covered” and enlisted producer Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket) to help her flesh out a special batch of songs she had written in her formative late teens and early twenties. One of her biggest musical heroes, guitar giant Bill Frisell, joined the project after Martine shared with him Siskind’s work tapes. Jennifer Kimball, who’s Boston folk duo The Story had greatly influenced Sarah also joined the already solid band of local players. Recorded to 2 inch analog tape over a couple of weeks, Siskind made an album that “exudes intelligent, emotional atmosphere and moody electricity” (The Tennessean). Performing Songwriter called it “utterly captivating.” But, amid plans for a national release, 9-11 struck and Siskind stepped away from promoting herself as an artist, taking time to reevaluate everything. Sinus illness followed, as well as multiple surgeries and “Covered” was independently released on a much smaller scale than originally planned.
Years later, once recovered, Siskind was eager to start a new project and went on to release the boutique double EP “Studio.Living Room”, followed by the widely-acclaimed national release “Say it Louder” which won Nashville’s “Americana Album of the Year” followed by tour dates with Swell Season, Paul Brady, Bon Iver and more.
As word continued to spread of Siskind’s unique artistry and songs, other singers across genres started covering them, most notably Alison Krauss, who earned a Grammy nomination for her performance of “Simple Love.”
Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) was also one of these people. Vernon discovered the album “Covered” through his admiration of guitarist
Bill Frisell, but quickly became a fan of Siskind’s music. He continued to follow her career and learned her heartbreaking ballad
“Lovin’s for Fools” which he began closing Bon Iver shows with. Vernon states “Sarah Siskind is one of very few songwriters that is a
true student of American music. Her lexicon is incredible and her voice... well, She's a teacher.”
Siskind continued to make albums and write songs in true individual form, listening strictly to her muse. “Novel” was released in 2011, featuring Sarah as the sole musician, producer and engineer, which highlighted Siskind’s pairing of lush electric guitar and soaring Appalachian vocal. At SXSW that year Time Magazine called Sarah “one of our favorite singers.” A tour with Bonnie Raitt followed in 2012 when Sarah also released the boutique EP called “In The Mountains” inspired by her move to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia taking her full circle, back to the region where she grew up.
Extensive Bio:Sarah Siskind’s music is not easily explained or contained. She’s a singer and songwriter based in Virginia and grounded in Appalachian roots, but one who transcends category with a beguiling fusion of the traditional and the modern. Whether solo, fronting an electric band or in her harmony-laden trio The Novel Tellers, Sarah creates emotionally charged soundscapes that consistently delight and surprise even her long-time fans.
Alison Krauss has championed Sarah and values her songs so highly that she’s recorded two of them, both of which became singles and videos that received widespread airplay. Boston folk icon Jennifer Kimball once dubbed her the perfect hybrid of Joni Mitchell and Gillian Welch. Steve Binder, the legendary LA based TV/Film Producer who has worked with Elvis Presley, Dianna Ross and Liza Minnelli calls Sarah “the best female singer-songwriter in America today.”
Sarah grew up in a music-filled household in North Carolina, surrounded by not only the bluegrass and old-time her parents played at countless jam sessions, but a wide slice of the best that’s been composed and recorded across all genres, including Celtic, gospel and jazz. Her love of and affinity for music was obvious, and by four years old she was singing and playing piano. She wrote songs starting at eleven, and when she was 14, she completed her first album. Over the next few years she won numerous songwriting competitions and appeared on stage with luminaries like Doc Watson and Maya Angelou.
By the time she moved to Nashville at age 21, she’d released her third recording and astonished those around her with the boldness of her songwriting voice and became a respected and acknowledged master of her craft in the crowded scene.
In 2002, Sarah released the full length album “Covered”. Despite its title, it featured mostly original songs that dealt with love, family and relationships. It included contributions from special guest Jennifer Kimball, whose 1990s vocal duo The Story with Jonatha Brooke had been an important influence on Sarah and who supported Sarah’s development with performance opportunities and generous praise. Sarah’s inspired choice to invite Bill Frisell, a modern-day giant of jazz guitar, to anchor the studio band gave “Covered” a shimmering, unforgettable sound, while Sarah’s striking lyrics and melodic ideas made the songs both hummable and sophisticated. Bon Iver’s frontman Justin Vernon plans to re-release this under-discovered album on his record label Chigliak in late 2012/early 2013.
Sarah battled sinus ailments that threatened to derail her career during her 20s, braving several surgeries in the process. Despite the setbacks, she continues to achieve new landmarks in what are still the early stages of her career. She made a keepsake double EP featuring intimate performances from her home aptly titled "Studio. Living Room" then collaborated on the first album by Old Black Kettle, a vocally thrilling, genre-bending band with friends and fellow artists Julie Lee and Jodi Haynes Seyfried. Her song “Simple Love” became the signature single from Alison Krauss’s “A Hundred Miles or More” compilation album of 2007. The recording earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Performance. In 2006, Sarah signed with prestigious Nashville publisher Big Yellow Dog Music, home to such extraordinary writers as Mindy Smith and Shawn Camp. There she spent five years exploring the intricacies of co-writing, and also recorded her highly acclaimed full-length album “Say it Louder”, which Bonnie Raitt called “a masterpiece” and made numerous feature spots on NPR.
The self-produced, performed and engineered album “Novel” followed in 2011, which was mostly written and recorded during a summer in the mountains of Colorado. “Novel” may be Siskind’s most intimate full length album to date, exploring all aspects of human relationships as well as solitude, and and ode to Mahalia Jackson on her foot-stomping rendition of “Didn’t it Rain.”
Sarah’s extraordinarily unique voice and songwriting caught the ear of Bonnie Raitt and among inviting Sarah on stage to sing “Angel From Montgomery” with her in June 2012, Raitt has asked Siskind to support her on a string of fall tour dates in 2012.
Sarah will release an EP “In The Mountains” which includes songs written in and inspired by her new surroundings of Nelson County, Virginia where she moved in early 2012. All songs were recorded live with one microphone.
Along the road on tour, Sarah collects beads and charms and creates unique jewelry which she then includes at her merch table and online through Etsy, adding yet another creative dimension to her multi-faceted career.
Sarah Siskind would be writing and performing even if this attention wasn’t coming her way. Hers is a natural gift and an overflowing expression of someone with an alert ear and a full heart.