wears the trousers magazine

sarabeth tucek: “music means i never have to feel alone or helpless”
July 1, 2008, 8:46 pm
Filed under: feature, interrupting yr broadcast | Tags: , , ,

interrupting yr broadcast: sarabeth tucek

Sarabeth Tucek is one of the most refreshingly unpretentious artists you could hope to meet. Despite growing up in Manhattan (not exactly renowned for its easygoing nature), working with a host of incredible artists including Bill Callahan (aka Smog) and Anton Newcombe (The Brian Jonestown Massacre), appearing in infamous rockumentary ‘Dig!’, and being handpicked to support her long-time idol Bob Dylan, around Sarabeth is an air of modesty and togetherness.

Her first single ‘Something For You’ emerged on tiny indie label Sonic Cathedral but had a monumental impact on her future career. “It got a lot of radio play,” she explains – including the title of Record of the Week on Steve Lamacq’s 6Music show – “which really forged the way for the record to be made. The climate here musically is very different from the States, people are so excited about music. There are a lot of music lovers, guys running little labels. Sonic Cathedral’s essentially one guy who contacted me when he heard me through The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and it went from there.”

Lyrically, the song sums Sarabeth up pretty well with its gorgeous simplicity and directness. “I wanted a little Velvet Underground touch to it. The thing is there’s so much different music I like from light stuff to Black Sabbath, I guess not one song will totally reflect my taste. That’s why I love the cover of the record”. Said cover features six Sarabeth faces in profile, giving a classic look to what has all the hallmarks of being a timeless album. “I think it’s sort of dangerous to limit yourself. A lot of people choose one niche and stick with it, but I wanted to be a bit more free. I mean, Led Zeppelin had crazy, folky songs!”

But how did it all start? “I met Anton when I was going back and forth from New York to LA, and one night I was just messing around on Anton’s guitar and I started writing songs. Someone had taught me, like, three chords, but then I started learning more. I was at a party and everyone was drunk and passing a guitar around. I met Colin who plays with Will Oldham and he asked if he could record me, so I played on his record that Bill [Callahan] produced [little known gem Goodbye Little Doll by EZT], then much later Bill called me in to sing on his record,” which ended up as the much revered Supper.

She may have a fairly enviable list of collaborations, but for her first record she was looking forward to working on her own and is very much reflected in the eponymous title. As she wrote more, songwriting for Sarabeth became something to keep her well-being intact. “I noticed that writing became a way to make myself feel better, and, you know, seeing as I don’t enjoy going to the gym or yoga, it really changed my entire life! I feel like I never have to feel alone or helpless, I’ve got my guitar and I can get lost.” Perhaps this is why her songs have a very striking honesty to them and, despite living in the confines of Manhattan, retain a wonderfully organic feel. “I do feel very much like a New Yorker but I’m not sure that translates. I guess my interior landscape is probably different from that of New York, there’s a lot more space in there! I don’t sit down and try to write, I kind of have to be swept away by it all. The songs come out. I’m not very prolific. I do wish I had more discipline, but I just don’t have it!”

Then of course you have the event most people dream of – meeting your idol. “It was so bizarre, so surreal,” she says of meeting Bob Dylan after opening for him in Massachusetts. Most people couldn’t imagine what that must be like. “Neither can I!” she laughs. “I remember hearing Paul McCartney talk about how still to this day he can’t believe he met Elvis, saying he kept asking himself, ‘did I actually meet him?’, and it was just like that. I feel very detached from it. I don’t think anything could prepare you for that!”

One might ask what she could hope to achieve beyond meeting her idol and near universal acclaim for her first single. “I’d love to understand more of the recording process. I don’t really know too much about production, and when you’re in the studio and someone says to you ‘what kind of sound do you want here?’, or ‘how do you want this bit tweaked?’, I’d really love to know what to say!” Maybe the understatement of her talents begins to explain the uncluttered sound of the record, where each song sounds pretty perfectly judged. “I’d love to learn to play more instruments too.”

So with all of her impressively high-brow connections, her critically acclaimed material, stunning live performances and almost guaranteed glittering future, is there anything that doesn’t quite fit the frame? “I do have a guilty pleasure CD. I don’t know if I still have it but my parents used to have a Barbara Streisand cover of ‘Life On Mars’!”

Rod Thomas


‘Something For You’


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