Sera Cahoone’s impact on the Pacific Northwest is inimitable, textured, and narrated by pastoral compositions. The singer-songwriter’s deeply personal music, seen on releases such as Deer Creek Canyon and Only as the Day is Long, is not only ethereal and raw but complexly moving. On the Seattle artist’s latest EP, The Flora String Sessions, Cahoone re-imagines her songs by reassembling them with string accompaniments. With the help of celebrated violinist Alex Guy, the selected collection of work takes on a new, wind-swept layer of unearthed emotion. Cahoone, whose background as a drummer in the beloved Carissa’s Wierd and Band of Horses, has a rich background in creating untethered and uncompromising imagery. Here, like in much of her previous work, there is an unpretentious dichotomy of sadness and resiliency. In advance of Sera’s show at the Capitol Theater in Olympia, Washington, we interviewed the musician about her creative process, the greatness of Frank Ocean, and the possibility of a future Jenn Champion/Sera Cahoone album.
Rob Patrick: All of your music has been largely personal and autobiographical. When you’re writing and composing with the string trio, how do the additional layers of instrumentation change the way you bring these emotions forward?
Sera Cahoone: I think the string parts bring an extra amount of sadness and emotion to the songs, drawing out these special undercurrents. And I’ve been playing some of the songs for a really long time, so it’s been amazing to hear and play them in a new way.
Alex Guy is a wonderful musician and violinist. How did touring with her, initially as a duo, lead to the current iteration of your songs?
Alex is an amazing talent! We had talked about doing something like this on and off, after I was offered a show at St Mark’s Cathedral last December it seemed like the perfect time to go for it. I had no idea how much time it would take for her to write all those parts. It was a really cool experience and so great to collaborate with her. And it blew my mind the first time I played the songs together with the string trio!
There are so many terrific artists in Seattle (Chastity Belt, Tacocat, Lisa Prank, SassyBlack, and countless others). How has the city changed, both musically and artistically, since you first arrived to the Northwest?
I’ve been here 20 years so it’s changed quite a bit! And I feel like this city has always been very supportive. When I first moved to Seattle from Colorado, I was really inspired by the music scene I found here, including Jen Wood, Aveo, 764-HERO, Carissa’s Wierd and Death Cab. And as I started to write my own music, KEXP and Sub Pop were a huge support for me and for a lot of others too. And we have so many other great bands in this town including the ones you named. Unfortunately, a lot of artists are moving away because they can’t afford to live here. I really hope we can get a hold of this huge problem.
What are the odds that we ever get a Sera Cahoone and Jenn Champion album?
Haha, well Jenn and I talk about this a lot actually. At least trying to write some pop “hits” for fun. But I do hope one day we actually do it. She’s one of my favs.
Zoe Muth is a terrific musician, and someone who will be joining you for your show at the Capitol Theater. How has her music affected you as an artist?
I was so honored she said yes to playing. I am a huge fan of her and her songs. She hasn’t played a show in over 2 years, so I’m so happy she is doing this. She is an incredible songwriter.
In a recent interview with Tom Tom Mag, you said you were enjoying the latest Solange and Frank Ocean records. In the near future, is there any chance we see a Sera Cahoone String Trio cover of one of the aforementioned artists songs?
Ha, well I haven’t thought about it, but I will talk to Alex about this 🙂
Finally, what’s an Olympia story you can tell us from the days of Carissa’s Weird?
Well, when I first moved here in 98 my brother was going to Evergreen so I went down to Olympia a lot. I love it there. I’ve only played down there as a drummer, never my own music, so I am really excited! I can’t say I have a specific Carissa’s Olympia story, but I did have a really fun time at Homo-a-Gogo way back when playing drums in a band with Lisa Orth called Model’s Own. And hopefully we’ll collect an Olympia story or two from this trip 😉
Sera Cahoone and her string trio play the Capitol Theater with Zoe Muth on 4/21. Tickets are available online and at the box office.