When multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and Colorado native Sera Cahoone calls for our interview, she’s in Laguna Beach, California, waves roaring in the background.
“I just needed to be near the water,” she explained with a laugh.
This setting and sounds were the perfect backdrop for Cahoone, who has been making the kind of acoustic folk music that breathes beautifully in the open air since her solo debut was released in 2006. On March 24, she released her fourth album, “From Where I Started” — the first on her own record label, Lady Muleskinner records, after three albums on Sub Pop.
“I think every song on the album is very personal, and comes from true experiences,” she said.
As the title implies, Cahoone takes listeners back to her country-steeped musical roots — roots that were created and fostered at honky-tonk bars around the state. Just one of the benefits of having a father who was a dynamite salesman in the Rocky Mountain area, and brought the family along with him.
“I grew up and lived in Littleton and went to Columbine High School,” she said. “I don’t remember a lot of the Denver-area music scene at the time, but I remember Big Head Todd was really big, and you had the ska scene going on.”
Cahoone started playing the drums at age 11, and the drums remain her main instrument to this day. She went on to teach herself guitar, and began writing songs, but she still feels most comfortable behind the drum kit.
She moved to Seattle in 1998 and joined the vibrant indie rock scene of the Pacific Northwest. She was the drummer for Carissa’s Wierd and then played drums with Band Of Horses, one of the most well-known bands to come out of that scene.
But the music Cahoone loved has always been slightly sepia toned — old country and blues, as well as 70s soft rock.
“These influences tend to come through in the music I make,” she said. “I did a lot demoing at home before deciding it was time to go to the studio. But once we got there, making the album only took maybe a week and a half.”
“From Where I Started,” is Cahoone’s first album in five years, a break that allows songs to evolve and grow, she said. Time off also leads to some great stories, like the writing of album-highlight “Up to Me” — a song she wrote while on a women’s songwriter retreat on Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington.
“You have all day in the cabin by yourself,” she remembered. “The song just came out, and it’s one of my favorite songs.”
Cahoone is back on the road now, stretching out her musical muscles on stage again, and will be playing a show at the Bluebird on May 12, and one at The Fox in Boulder on May 13.
“I’ve been gone from Colorado half my life, but any time I play there, it feels so great,” she said. “I love playing in Colorado because I get to see my family and friends. And playing the new songs for people is so exciting.”
At a time when arts funding is under attack, its important to remember its unifying power. And Cahoone is one of the voices calling for that unity.
“People need music — without it, this would be the worst world,” she said. “The arts and music world is so strong, and people will always make art and create community with it.”
Clarke Reader’s column on how music connects to our lives appears every other week. A community editor with Colorado Community Media, he wishes there was more cool honky-tonk bars around. Check out his music blog at calmacil20.blogspot.com. And share your favorite Colorado dive bars at firstname.lastname@example.org.