Sera Cahoone is hilarious.
Don't believe it? Ask.
"I am a pretty hilarious person," the singer/songwriter laughs, discussing "Rumpshaker," one of 12 excellent country rock songs on her latest record, Deer Creek Canyon. But "Rumpshaker" isn't exactly a joke. Lyrically, it's far from it.
Sera Cahoone is scheduled to perform Thursday, November 8, at the Sail Inn in Tempe.
"I know you, at the time / You meant a lot to me," Cahoone sings. "But now I don't care if I stay or leave."
"I tend to write sad lyrics — pretty much everything that comes out of me is sad or depressing, in a way," she says, laughing. "But basically it takes me forever to name my songs. I tend to leave that to the last thing. So 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.'"
Like the rest of Deer Creek Canyon, "Rumpshaker" is plainspoken. Cahoone doesn't dress up her songs in elaborate metaphors, eschewing turns of phrase in favor of direct communication. "I've been shaking these hands all night / When all I want to do is just talk with you," she sings in the aptly titled "Shakin' Hands."
The conversational approach wouldn't work in the hands of a lot of songwriters, but Cahoone has tricks at her disposal. Her voice, a warm, lived-in thing, feels carved out of the trunk of some blue spruce tree from her home state of Colorado, as akin to the pipes of Bonnie Raitt or Aimee Mann as it is to contemporaries like Gillian Welch or Chan Marshall of Cat Power.
The landscape of Colorado displays itself on the record, which Cahoone says was inspired by a profound sense of homesickness. Currently, she's based in Seattle, where she made a name drumming for acts like Carissa's Weird and Band of Horses.
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"[Colorado's] one of my favorite places," Cahoone says. "Wanting to move back home, I wrote the [title track], and that's about my mom and my family. After I wrote that song, it put the album together in a way. Like, everything came together after I wrote that song."
"All the love I have here, sometimes it's just not enough," she sings stridently over an ambling shuffle beat, contrasting her life in Seattle with her family in Colorado. "The mountains are red and the rocks are falling down / I know you're right / I should just take a little time / Deer Creek Canyon's where I'm from / and it's where you are."
It's tinged with melancholy, but something about Cahoone's style keeps it from sounding weepy. And she can be funny — seriously funny when she wants to be. When her label, Sub Pop, came looking for a promotional incentive, she offered a little ditty she and Kardong had been working on called "I Like to Fuck."
"Well, that's a deliberately funny tune," she laughs. "Jay and I are really good friends, and we'd just mess around with it on tour. We played it a couple times at shows and people would freak out and think it was totally hilarious. I was like, 'I don't know what people are going to think about this.' But I didn't really care. I thought it was funny. My core fans are the ones that are probably going to buy it, so . . . I'm slightly a dork. I think they appreciated that."