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Alt. Country Artist Spotlight: Sarah Shook & the Disarmers

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers' Years fortifies equal measures country (“Good As Gold”) and rock (“New Ways to Fail”) with razor sharp songwriting (the title track). We recently talked with Shook about the new collection, her creative process and growing as a songwriter.

“I've never really written a song with the intention of having it fit a record,” the North Carolina native says. “The song we as a band think are the most cohesive are the ones that go on the record. Some songs on Years were a few years older but a handful are newer.”

Alt-Country Specialty Chart: Tell the story behind writing the title track. 

Sarah Shook: I wrote “Years” about two weeks before we went into the studio. I was uneasy and felt like the album was missing something. “Years” was a culmination of the themes and ideas presented earlier in the record and the song tied up things nicely at the end. I think “Years” is the most self-aware track on the record. 

Describe the album's common lyrical theme.

There's drinking, murky introspection and relationship conflicts. Writing songs from your own perspective is easy, but I tried to tell the story from the both points of view in the song “Good As Gold.” I put myself in the other person's shoes and had empathy for their perspective. I was trying to understand where things are in this relationship and how and why they got to where they were. 

Writing from another perspective probably develops more empathy for people in general.

Absolutely. Writing from another perspective shouldn't be confined to only romantic relationships. (We) should have the ability to see things from someone else's perspective even if you don't agree with them. Then you can empathize and understand why people do what they do, but it's still important to hae boundaries. You shouldn't allow things just because you understand them more. The healthy thing is remove yourself from the situation if the other person isn't respecting those boundaries. 

Describe your songwriting process. 

Lyrics, melody and chord progressions usually come at the same time. I'll write a loose arrangement and bring the song to the band. Then we collaborate with the arrangement we feel fits the song best. Our bassist Aaron (Oliva) might have an idea for an intro part. (Lap steel guitarist) Phil (Sullivan) and (lead guitarist) Eric (Peterson) might come up with where they want the solos. Everyone contributes to the final arrangement, which is a special finishing touch we have as a band. 

Describe how 'New Ways to Fail' took shape.

I was in a failing relationship and was literally so depressed I couldn't get out of bed. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, as my dad used to say, when I wrote that song. I was aware I was coming to the end of my tether, but I also felt pretty trapped. There's always that fear of the unknown and anxiety with anyone ending a relationship. 

You must be working on a new record.

Yeah. Definitely. We've had a few rehearsals, but then we're back on the road. It's been a rollercoster. There really hasn't been time to sit down and rehearse. So, we decided to take this December, January and February off. We just have a couple shows each month. We'll spend the next three months at home and have a pretty rigorous schedule to get songs ready for the next record. I'm really excited about that. 

– Brian T. Atkinson

Interviews copyright Brian T. Atkinson. All rights reserved


Chart Climber - Jason James

Artist: Jason James 

Hometown: Texas City, Texas

Album: Seems Like Tears Ago

Release Date: October 4, 2019

Record Label: Melodyville Records

Artist Website:

Label Website:

Common Lyrical Theme: Most of the songs are about loss of some sort on this record with some really great glimpses into bliss. It's real life, at least for me. I try to write with a universal perspective with words and feelings that just about anyone can relate to. Some people could say the lyrics are laconic in nature. That's okay with me. I also try to keep the songs as simple and catchy as I can on purpose. I've only got so much time to grab the listener and I'm not here to mess around. I go straight for the heart – Jason James