Q&A with rocker mom Sarah Shook

Pittsboro resident Sarah Shook and her band, the Disarmers, are coming to Cat's Cradle on June 17. Staff writer Davis Rhodes talked with Shook about motherhood, the inspiration for her lyrics and not conforming to a single genre.

Daily Tar Heel: What is it like to be playing at Cat's Cradle, a place close to your home of Pittsboro?

Sarah Shook: Cat's Cradle Back Room is definitely special for us. It’s the venue where we released our first full-length album in October — it’s a great room, great sound.

DTH: How do you balance being both a mother and a touring rocker? 

SS: Well at this point we’re not really touring in the sense of jumpin’ in the van and going out on the road for a month, or a couple solid months. Being that I have my son, we’re touring on the weekends that I don’t have him. He’s only nine, but he and I have talked about it — I’ve told him that he’s definitely the priority.

DTH: A lot of your lyrics, for example on the song “Fuck Up” are self-deprecating, — “I’m lousy in a fist-fight even if I have a knife." Would you also say there's a careless sense of humor in lyrics like these?

SS: Absolutely. There’s definitely a sense of self-deprecation that is a sort of underlying theme in our music. And I think part of that is just simply the fact that, to me, it’s really important to be self-aware and to work on myself and work on my flaws, but at the same time to not take it too seriously, to keep some lightness in there and I can do that through self-deprecating humor.

DTH: How do you go about coming up with your lyrics?

SS: Typically, I’m not a disciplined writer. I don’t sit down and say, “Okay today from 10 'till noon I’m gonna work on some new songs,” I just kind of go around living my daily life doing my thing — writing a song for me is basically just my subconscious throwing everything on a page in 15 or 20 minutes.

DTH: Lyrics like “I got cocaine in my bloodstream” and song titles such as “Fuck Up” don’t fit within the realm of conventional country music, but do you guys try to conform to a genre?

SS: Well, I’m sure you get this too as someone who consumes music — you get online and if there’s something specific you want to listen to, it’s going to be helpful for the band and for you if they have some kind of loosely based genre that you can type in. That just kind of makes sense. While we refer to ourselves as a country band, and a lot of our styling is country, there’s definitely a lot of punk rock, rock ‘n’ roll that are involved — especially in our live shows.

DTH: Your music really combines a lot of different elements: rockabilly, Americana, punk, country. Do you think fans are drawn to the way you guys really don’t fit into a single category?

SS: I think so. I think that not limiting ourselves and not pigeonholing ourselves to one genre where we’re really stubborn about like, “Well we’re just country and that’s it." I feel like if I did that it’d be selling myself short. I don’t intentionally write songs to be country songs, it’s just that most of them come out that way — I have a few that will be on the upcoming record that are straight up punk-rock, and I’ve talked to my band-mates about it — for them it’s just another Sarah Shook song, your songs all make sense together. They don’t have to be confined to one specific genre.

DTH: You grew up in a very religious home, but now consider yourself an atheist. When did you find yourself in that way, and has music helped in the process? 

SS: When I first started writing songs, I was nine or ten. I was raised in this very conservative Christian household and homeschooled, so the first songs that I wrote as a kid were about the Lord — not as a joke that was just my world at the time. But there were certain inconsistencies and things about Christian religion I started really seriously inspecting and soul-searching for myself as well. I think that letting go of all of those restrictions and — you need structure, people need structure, but you don’t necessarily need religion to live your life well, and love others well. Just because you’re religious doesn’t automatically mean that morally you’re more intelligent than others — love is something that comes from you. While I’ve definitely thrown off all religious affiliation, to me more than ever its important to love people. 


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