2008 was a mere four years ago, but to indie-folk singer-songwriter Sarah Jaffe it feels like ages have passed between releasing her first EP and touring to promote her second full-length album.
She’s taken her music across the globe, sharing a stage with performers like Norah Jones and Blitzen Trapper, whom she’ll be playing with Tuesday at The Birchmere. She’s met great musicians and great people. She’s lived through the highs and lows of the inconstant schedule of an entertainer, from running on little sleep and being so busy she thought she might fall apart to just sitting idly at home waiting for the next swell of activity. And she’s learned, and changed and grown as a musician.
Now a few months beyond the debut of her sophomore release, The Body Wins, she feels like she’s crossed a threshold, and the opportunities are endless on the other side.
“I feel like anything is possible now,” Jaffe said. “You can make any kind of music you want; the possibilities are endless. I just want to play whatever I can to the best of my capabilities. It’s the record that I always wanted to make, and it happened, so I’m proud of that.”
For personal and musical growth, it’s a different album from her debut album. 2010’s Suburban Nature is a more stripped-down album, Jaffe says, a collection of songs set to sparse instrumentation behind the singer’s voice. The tracks on that first album spanned her songwriting up until that point, and Jaffe dipped even into her high school catalog for songs. The teenage authorship didn’t halt critical acclaim, though, for her profound and intimate lyrics. But with growth came a desire to transform, and the 26-year-old artist made what she saw as a natural shift into new territory.
“I just wanted to grow, and I did grow,” Jaffe said. “In between the time that those two records came out, I was playing different instruments, I felt differently as a woman, as a person, so those were the songs that were in my brain and that was the way it was recorded.”
The orchestra explodes on The Body Wins, the simple strum of a guitar subsumed by horns, keyboards, and a host of instrumental and electronic sounds.
Through all her releases, though, is the undercurrent of emotional, evocative lyrics drawn from the artist and put on display.
“I think lyrically, I just refuse to write a song that doesn’t really hit home with me,” Jaffe said. “I can’t put a song on a record that I’m not 100 percent behind, that my guts aren’t in. I don’t ever see that changing.”
She’s gone from a teen writing and making music for her own pleasure to a career musician, and she’s certainly aware of her listeners. An audience of one has expanded to include concert-goers and record-buyers around the world. There’s a fear now that once wasn’t there, but taking it on is a challenge she’ll happily accept.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Jaffe said. “I want all of it. The nerves, the anxiety, I want that.”
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