When we talked with Sera Cahoone in 2012, she shared the inside joke about "Rumpshaker," a curiously light-hearted title for a song from her otherwise somber third album, Deer Creek Canyon.
"I tend to write sad lyrics — pretty much everything that comes out of me is sad or depressing, in a way," she told us, laughing.
“I would send a lot of these [songs] to Jay Kardong, the pedal steel player, with funny names, and I was just like, intending to change them to something more serious. But with that one, I thought, 'I'm just going to keep that name.'"
So when we caught up with Cahoone recently, we had to know: Were there any funny placeholders that were used on her latest album, From Where I Started?
"Well, I guess I got a little boring in my old age," she jokingly laments. "I didn’t do that as much for this record. I have about three or four I called 'F-ing Around Number One,' 'F-ing Around Two'..."
At 42, she’s hardly in her "old age,” but the artist has clocked in a staggering wealth of experience as both a songwriter and touring drummer for bands like Band of Horses and Patrick Park.
One of her favorite memories from her “wilder” years happened right in Phoenix.
“All five of us were all staying in one motel room. I went to bed, but my band went out after the show and stumbled in super late,” she says.
“I woke up at 4 a.m. to a massive crash in the room," she recalls. "I turn on the lights and my old drummer had tripped on something and fell through the front window. Thankfully he was okay — sorry about that motel, we've grown up since then!”
From Where I Started indeed serves as a deeply personal yet universal love letter to growing up. It’s about finding the ever-elusive peace of celebrating your past, being present, and letting both inform your future.
“I had been touring a lot, and when I started this new record I was home, pretty settled, a lot of sweetness in my life at that time. I was in a good place.”
However, when it came to putting the album to tape, she opted for a change of scenery. She hit it off with Portland–based producer John Askew (Neko Case, Laura Gibson). After recording a few demos with him, she decided to head down from Seattle to do the rest.
Askew helped rally fellow Portland musicians like Rob Burger (Iron and Wine, Lucinda Williams), Dave Depper (Death Cab For Cutie), and Annalisa Tornfelt (Black Prairie) alongside Cahoone’s Seattle bandmates, Jeff Fielder and Jay Kardong.
Bringing in musicians with such a deep repertoire allowed a lot of new ideas into the room and Cahoone wholeheartedly embraced the chance to go back to her roots.
“I approached this record a lot like I did my first self-titled one. I went in and did all the guitar, drums, and vocals first. Then we brought in piano and fiddle," Cahoone says.
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"My last two records, I went in with a band and had a pretty good idea of what the instrumentation would be. This record, I didn’t really know how things would end up. Very happy with everything, and everyone that played on it blew me away.”
She’s expanding further, enlisting Seattle musicians Jonas Haskins, Alex Guy, Aaron O’Neil, and Kardong for her first full band tour in several years, kicking off September 12 in Redding, California.
While Cahoone is excited for fans to get the full band experience, she’s also pumped to have friends to geek out with on the road. “We have [Sirius] XM in the van so we always listen to Howard Stern and NFL football games. Sometimes I can be a total bro!”
Sera Cahoone plays The Rebel Lounge on Saturday, September 16, with Dylan Pratt and The Sunpunchers. Tickets are available for $12 on Ticketfly.