Seattle musician Sera Cahoone contains multitudes. In one moment, she’s a delicate acoustic guitar player, lending her voice to a song as strings swell and fall behind her. In another, she’s a ball of energy on the mic or while banging on a booming drum kit. Her latest accomplishment is a seven song EP showcasing some of her older tunes, stripped down with a full string section built up behind them (courtesy of collaborator and friend, composer Alex Guy). And Cahoone will celebrate the release of this record April 20th at the Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya. But before the show, we wanted to catch up with the musician and see how her latest EP came together.
Why did you decide to strip away most of the instrumentation and rebuild these songs with new string arrangements?
Alex Guy, my violin player, and I had been touring a lot as a duo. And we got a show at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle about a year ago. So, we basically came up with all these arrangements for that show. I’d always wanted to play with a string section. And she wrote all these different arrangements and people just loved it. So, we just thought we should incorporate them on an album.
After re-recording them, did your orientation to these songs change at all?
Yeah. Some were songs I’d played a long time ago, like older songs I’ve been playing for years and years. So it was really fun to add a new voice to them. It didn’t change the whole song, but it changed the tone in a way – to make it sadder sometimes in some of these older songs. I’ve always had pedal steel, which is totally beautiful in and of itself, but it was just really cool to hear of a full string section behind them.
Did you learn anything about your songwriting that you hadn’t consciously noticed after reworking these seven tunes?
It was cool to just remember how much I loved these songs. I’m really excited for people to hear them again, too. Strings, to me, always bring a certain amount of sadness and that’s kind of why I love these so much.
What do you mean by “sadness,” specifically?
Like a melancholy sadness. The arrangements bring a certain sadness mixed with beauty.
Was it scary at all to rework the songs?
When we were getting ready for that St. Mark’s show, I was a little bit scared. I didn’t know what the songs were going to sound like or how it was going to work until we did it. I wasn’t used to playing with string players. Everything was charted out – it was a really interesting experience for me. Usually I don’t read music, I just play it. But we had it all charted out. It was a really beautiful experience to work with someone like that. Strings in general are a whole new bird, you know?
The song “Up To Me” is such a lovely tune about autonomy and striving for connection. How and when did you write it?
I wrote it, I think maybe in 2013, in Whidbey Island at a writer’s retreat up there. I actually wrote that one in about four hours. It just happened to come out, which is really weird. A lot of my songs take a long time, especially lyrically, to come out.
You’ve been a drummer for many years. What is it about singing that keeps you coming back?
I guess I just love singing. It’s kind of weird because I don’t consider myself this amazing singer. It’s more like – because there’s only so much that you can do on the drums when you’re playing with people – I need the outlet of writing songs and singing. It’s good for the soul.
It’s been about a year since your last LP. What do you hope to accomplish in the next 12 months?
I’ve been writing a lot. I’m hoping to write some more and get another record, but nothing is set for sure. So I’m just writing and playing songs. Growing.