It seems like the word “prodigy” is thrown around a bit too often these days; kids can be ping-pong prodigies, beat-boxing prodigies, even video game prodigies. But every once in a while, true talent comes along—someone who’s actually worthy of the descriptor. Sarah Jarosz, a twenty-four-year-old singer/songwriter/instrumentalist from the Live Music Capital of the World, is one such genuine prodigy.
Born in Austin and raised in the neighboring suburb of Wimberly, Jarosz catapulted into a musical career in a youthful prime before most of us have even finished high school. She first picked at the steely strings of a mandolin at ten; and long before her eighteenth birthday, she had not only mastered the mandolin, but the guitar, claw hammer banjo, and octave mandolin as well. Jarosz easily grasped not just the integral skills of these instruments, but the nuance and style of a passionate—and much older—musician.
From youth, her music harbored the bluesy feeling of an aged artist, blending the meticulous skills of bluegrass and contemporary folk with the gritty feeling of Americana and roots. But her talent isn’t just instrumental: her voice, piercingly clear, at times slipping into an almost ambiguously gendered tone before sliding back into crystalline femininity, naturally harmonizes and blends with her strumming strings. And her lyrics—penned by her own fledgling fingers—ring with maturity and well-earned experience, relatable yet sophisticated. By eighteen, Jarosz had succeeded in cultivating and curating the magical trifecta desired by all musicians: instrumental, vocal, and songwriting talent.
During her senior year of high school, Jarosz signed a recording contract with Sugar Hill Records and began work on her first album, Song Up in Her Head. Released in 2009, the public and critics alike confirmed Jarosz’s status as a prodigy. At just eighteen Jarosz received her first Grammy nod when she was nominated for Best Country Instrumental Performance for her song “Mansinneedof.”
Most musicians who achieve widespread success on the cusp of their adulthood either devote themselves wholeheartedly to their career and abandon their education, or fall victim to the shortcomings and transgressions of success. Jarosz carved her own path and, with a Grammy nomination under her belt, enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music in 2009. Four years later, she graduated with an honors degree in Contemporary Improvisation.
Though Jarosz clearly devoted herself to her education, she did not let her career lay dormant during those four years. She released her second album, Follow Me Down, in 2011, which was met once again with critical acclaim. And in 2013—a time when most college students would have their heads buried in the deep sands of finals and denial of the encroaching adult world—she released her third album, Build Me Up From Bones, to even more laudation. Jarosz’s third album was nominated for both Best Folk Album and Best American Roots Song (for the title track).
Throughout her brief career, Sarah Jarosz has already played, collaborated, and toured with some of the most iconic names in the Americana and bluegrass world. Her Twitter feed is filled with news of collaborations with celebrated musicians like The Punch Brothers and Ben Folds; she’s toured with legendary Garrison Keiller on The America the Beautiful Tour—A Prairie Home Companion; her albums feature tracks with the likes of Chris Thile, Darrell Scott, Stuart Duncan, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Viktor Krauss, and Dan Tyminski. Most recently, she’s joined forces with fellow wunderkinds Sara Watkins on violin and Aoife O’Donovan on guitar for their project I’m With Her, touring the country and performing at festivals and music halls.
Jarosz’s accomplishments are monumental, not because of her inherent talent or youth, but because of her ability to appeal to listeners across generations, genres, and gender. You can find her name in the pages of Rolling Stone and the New York Times, hear it on the waves of NPR and local indie radio stations, see it tagged in the posts of Instagram and Twitter. A brief glance at her Spotify profile reveals that she’s not just an American celebrity—she’s most-played in Spain and London, followed closely by indie havens like Brooklyn and her native Austin. Her sound is both unique and familiar, mature and youthful, her popularity spanning continents and cultures. And all this by the tender age of twenty-four.
HEAR SARAH JAROSZ PERFORM “BUILD ME UP FROM BONES” HERE
SEE MORE SARAH JAROSZ PHOTOS HERE