We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Dashew and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, what role has risk played in your life or career?
The funny thing about risk-taking is that I just feel like it’s the tug o’ war between your gut and your head. When your gut is telling you to do something that your head tells you is illogical or dangerous, the space between those two is where the risk lies. For me, in my whole life, whenever my gut has been telling me to do something that made my heart pound and my head was yelling uh-oh, like when I moved to Austin Texas without knowing anyone to start my music career, it’s ended up being the best move in my life. It’s led me exactly where I need to go. A friend of mine told me once that if you follow your instincts, 99.9% of the time it’ll be the right thing and the other .1% is just karma and there’s nothing you can do about that. I love that. I try to remember it always. Especially when something feels risky.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s also the kind of risk that is reversed; like if you really feel like sticking your hand in that burning flame and you know it’s risky and you do it anyway and you get burned. Well. You knew the risk. It’s a guide. It’s a tool. It’s how you use that tool that gets you where you go in life.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I wonder if anyone ever says it’s easy?! On the one hand, living life as a creative and in the arts is the easiest thing in the world, because it’s what my spirit demands. On the other hand, it’s the most difficult path I could imagine. There are no consistent rules. You have to build your own structure, discipline; if you’re an independent artist, you also have to be a graphic designer, producer, publicist, promoter, tour manager, editor, web designer, copy editor, etc etc.
But! When it’s good it’s so so good. I’m almost 49 years old, and I’ve been through a lot. I’m not famous. I call myself a journey-woman. But I’ve damn well earned the right to be here. I’ve been singing/writing/playing/performing professionally for 25 years now. I think I keep getting better. I have a lot to say, and some perspective around experience at this point. I’m not that easy to classify. It might have been easier if I had just slid into one category or another. But I seem to blur lines between folk, roots, blues, country, rock, etc. That used to frustrate me but now I think it’s one of my assets. There is no “one thing”, one category, one genre, one color, in life. Why should there be in music?
You want to know what I’m most proud of? The fact that I’m firmly planted in middle age and I’m excited about what comes next. I’m hungry to learn more. I don’t care about aging (other than my knees hurting more than they used to), I think it’s amazing. And I want to use that enthusiasm to launch more visibility for older artists. Why do we put age limits on diving into endeavors? It’s one of the dumbest things about our culture. And why are we so self-conscious about learning? Who cares? I actually got to do a TedX talk before the world shut down last year, and the theme was “revision”, re-imagining your life. I spoke about how when we’re children we are so unself-conscious about creating and learning, and it’s only as we grow up that we lose that. We spend so much time trying to get back to it, and sometimes we never do. But if we can, if we can take the child and blend that into our experience and perspective as we age, we can really make some new magic.
I just finished recording a new album with my favorite guys. I spent the summer in Colorado, found a terrific studio here (Mad Dog Ranch & Studios), brought the guys out and we went in and made some beautiful music. Not one of those guys is under 40, and let me tell you something –they get it. They have so much experience and heartbreak and love and performance under their belt, and it blends with a continued innocence and a willingness to explore. And we’re just getting going.
So, is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Always. Am I incredibly proud about continuing to learn and keeping the wheel of becoming spinning? God yes.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well I’ve moved to Phoenix, but I will always love Los Angeles. I’ve always said it’s no good to visit, you have to live there to really get it! But if you only have a week here are a few favorites: The Griffith Observatory
Salazar’s (terrific Mexican restaurant in Frogtown in an old mechanic shop)
Summer sundown concerts at the Santa Monica Pier
Leo Carillo beach in Malibu
Little Dom’s, great Italian restaurant in Los Feliz –they make a mean martini!
Any concert at the Wiltern
Any concert at the Greek
Morning pastries and coffee at Proof Bakery in Atwater Village
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh, jeez, how much space do I have? How do I narrow this down? Okay, so first of all, my parents have always lived outside the box and supported me to do the same. The choir director/minister for the gospel choir (Ebony Singers) I sang in at Wesleyan University, Marichal Monts, taught me harmony, gut, and the beauty of only preaching love. The incredible producer Chuck Plotkin who mentored me for years taught me every in and out about songwriting, performance, when to speak, when to shut up, and how to plug into the navel of the universe to connect to the music. My great friend and teacher Terri Cravens is pretty much responsible for giving me the tools to be happy in life. And my wife, Denise LaVey, a fellow creative (interior designer), has given me the never-before-received gift of really understanding what living the creative life means, and the space and support to let me live it truly. That’s a good start. 🙂
Photography by Elyse Dashew, Julie Garside, Nando Esparza, Brooke Wilen, Steve Dashew