Music behind her words
It’s tempting to call Sarah Siskind Nashville’s best-kept secret, but that would belie her reputation as a preeminent songwriter covered by the likes of Alison Krauss (who had a hit with Siskind’s “Simple Love’’) and Justin Vernon, the Bon Iver frontman who often ends a show with her “Lovin’s for Fools.’’
Siskind, who’s been penning songs (good ones, at least) since her teens and kicking around Nashville for the past 11 years, has made her name as a writer but only recently stepped up her status as a performing artist.
“Say It Louder,’’ her new album of hard-driving country and folk-rock tunes, is a good place to start in her discography, presenting her as an honest troubadour concerned with everyday life and its ups and downs.
We caught up with Siskind, 31, as she drove through the South en route to the East Coast for a string of shows, including a two-night stand opening for Lori McKenna at Club Passim on Friday and Saturday. Shows at 7 and 10 p.m.; tickets $30 at www.clubpassim.com or at 617-492-7679.
Q. It seems like folks tend to discover you through high-profile supporters like Alison Krauss and Bon Iver. Is that a misconception?
A. No, it’s been that way up until this new record. I’ve been making records since I was a teenager, but I’ve always done it on a real independent level, and for several years I was just focused on songwriting. But now with “Say It Louder,’’ I’m more focused on getting out there as an artist.
Q. So how does a young songwriter like yourself get noticed by heavy hitters like Krauss, Randy Travis, and Bill Frisell?
A. Well, with Alison, it was one of those divine-intervention stories. I struck up a friendship with another Nashville songwriter named Julie Lee, who happened to be good friends with Alison. She felt moved to give my music to Alison and asked me to put together a CD of my songs. The first song of mine that Alison cut was “Goodbye Is All We Have,’’ which I wrote when I was a teenager. I remember my mom and dad said back then, “If you ever meet Alison Krauss, you need to give her that song.’’ I rolled my eyes like, yeah, OK, whatever. Fast forward maybe four years later, and I was making a CD for her, and I put that song on there for my dad.
Q. What do you think people hear in your songs that compels them to record them?
A. I’ve been told that there’s a style of melody structure that I use that tends to stand out and speaks to people. When I write a song, no matter what it’s about, I try really hard to be true to the story I’m trying to tell. I think that’s why the songs come off as pretty intense or emotional. For me, if I’m not going to write in the most truthful and personal way, why do it?
Interview was condensed and edited.