Sarah Clanton is bringing people together and building a feel-good machine. The Nashville singer-songwriter, who has brought the classical and pop worlds together with her use of a cello, rather than a guitar, to front one of Music City’s most unique bands, has been on a feel-good mission since long before she plucked her way into town. But it’s never been more apparent than on her new album, Here We Are.
A classically-trained musician who began playing cello age 9, Clanton grew up in a conservative Southern Baptist household, where MTV and certain radio and tv shows were off-limits. Then, her life changed in college, when she discovered holistic alternatives to calm her life-long anxiety, and the new sounds of the Greenville, South Carolina open mic scene. “It opened up this whole world to me,” she said. It was a world which Clanton ultimately traveled to Bonaroo, where in 2008, she saw someone doing something unheard of: “I saw this guy plucking cello and playing Fiona Apple and Gnarles Barkley, and I was like, ‘Oh my God’… I’d never thought about singing and playing cello at the same time.”
Things moved quickly from there. She attended The Swannanoa Gathering, a folk music and songwriting workshop near Asheville, NC, where she was taught how to strum chords on a cello and hone her songwriting. She found herself performing more frequently, and even organizing a couple festivals of her own like Music in the Woods - a weekly solar powered festival at Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, South Carolina.. And by the time she left Greenville for Music City in 2014, she had already recorded her first album, and was doing 200 dates a year, playing bars, weddings, “Anything I could do,” she says.
Here We Are may be a solo album, but Clanton says it could not have been made without others — from co-producer Eric Loomis, to a group of top Nashville session musicians and many more. But mostly, she says, the album was made for others. She jokes that the uplifting, “big and awesome” pop album is a “feel-good machine,” built to bring people together in these difficult and divisive times. “We’re not going to make any progress being divided,” she says. “If I can get some of that mindfulness out there to negate some of the hate, that would be so great.”