No creative avenue is left unexplored for  this bluegrass prodigy

Americana singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz’s third album, Build Me Up From Bones, is her most ambitious project yet—an achievement the multi-instrumentalist largely credits to her education at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music. “School was crucial in pushing me out of my comfort zone,” says the Texas native. “It expanded my repertoire and opened my ears to different sounds and possibilities.” Painting and poetry classes also had an impact. “Doing something nonmusical was inspiring. For me, writing poetry is a completely different process than writing song lyrics, and it felt good to get freed up with words.”

Her partnership with producer Gary Paczosa (Chris Thile, Crooked Still), who produced Jarosz’s previous albums, was also vital to the process. “Going into the studio for this record, I had more of an idea of what I wanted to create and how I wanted to create it. But Gary made sure I didn’t count anything out just because I felt set on an idea. He has a great sense of musical curiosity and exploration, and we try to challenge each other,” says Jarosz, 22.

Jarosz recorded Bones in three Nashville sessions scheduled during winter and spring breaks, before wrapping it in May following graduation. Unlike her previous albums, which she tracked alone before overdubbing other parts, most of Bones was tracked live with fiddler Alex Hargreaves and cellist Nathaniel Smith—who’ve toured with Jarosz for several years—and occasionally with Jedd Hughes, one of her co-writers.

Central to the album is a sparse version of Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate,” a song that became a staple of her live shows. Though she wasn’t planning on returning to Dylan after recording “Ring Them Bells” for her previous album, its minimalist arrangement suited the lyric and her dusky alto while providing the variety Jarosz craves. “The fact that it was just voice and cello was appealing to me because it’s so stripped down,” she explains. “It’s important to me to create different textures within one record.”

With school behind her and a move to New York City in the works, Jarosz is adjusting to life as a full-time touring artist with an eye toward pushing her musical boundaries. “I look up to artists who don’t get into the rut of doing the same thing,” she says. “That’s something I want to model myself after. I’m focused on the sound I want to create, but I also want to be open to new ideas all the time.”

–Juli Thanki


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