Country-punk band Sarah Shook & The Disarmers will perform in Manitou Springs | Culture & Leisure
Try not to take it personally, but Sarah Shook is one of those people who has achieved all of their quarantine goals.
Well, those two quarantine goals.
Shortly after recording an album, titled ‘Nightroamer’, in early 2020, Shook realized the country-rock band they fronted, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, wouldn’t be performing those songs live anytime soon. .
Unusual weather off the road offered unusual opportunities. “I wanted to work on my solo record,” Shook decided. “I can also start therapy.”
Two years later, this solo disc is finished. It will be released later this year. And Shook can say this about their mental health: “I’m in a much better place than when the pandemic started.”
And, fans can finally listen to “Nightroamer.” The album’s release was delayed by the pandemic, meaning the band had to relearn some of the material before the tour. They play Friday at Lulu’s Downstairs in Manitou Springs.
“I was talking to my partner and I was like, ‘yeah, I’m relearning the songs because it’s been two years,'” the North Carolina-based musician said. “And then I’m like, ‘Oh my god, two years? That’s crazy.'”
Shook, who is non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them, still can’t understand how “surreal” it is to be back on stage.
And it feels weird to sing lyrics they wrote years ago.
You can hear in the title track that something was brewing for Shook. “Nightroamer” is about someone trying not to turn back down a dark path while not knowing “where this road will take me.”
For Shook, the road ahead was one of sobriety.
It was an uncharted path for someone who introduced themselves to the world with punky honky-tonk tunes about morning whiskey drinking.
By the time 2020 rolled around, Shook was ready for change.
“There was a new sense of self-awareness and self-discovery,” they said. “Like, wow, I’m coming off a decade of drug addiction, alcoholism and depression.”
These are some of the topics discussed with a therapist, who became a “conduit and catalyst to get where I was going”.
“I expected to have to work on myself a lot,” Shook said. “When you start to understand your own thought process and motivations, that’s when the real magic happens.”
Listeners have seen the magic of Shook’s sound from the start, when the band released their debut album in 2015. A 2018 follow-up was praised by Rolling Stone and Vice. Shook also caused a stir with an outlaw image that drew comparisons to Waylon Jennings, but in a smaller, blonde-haired frame.
Shook feels like an “outlier and a weirdo,” they said.
Consider Shook’s upbringing. They were home-schooled and sheltered to the point that Shook didn’t really listen to music until they were 17, when they brought home CDs borrowed from colleagues at the grocery store.
“I can’t even describe to you what it’s like to be under the covers with my headphones on and listening to Belle and Sebastian,” Shook said.
Due to Shook’s background, they decided to be “honest from the word ‘go'”.
In making music and talking about it, Shook has been open about it all. Drink and stop drinking. The past. Struggles. Identity.
And those messy moments that don’t sound great, but signal growth.
It’s perhaps telling that Shook’s favorite song on the latest album is called “If it’s Poison,” which is about the silver lining of a relationship gone bad.
“If it’s poison, baby,” they sing, “we’ll know.”
This is Shook’s unique mark of optimism. At least you know when something is wrong.
“It’s not an entirely positive outlook on life,” they said. “It’s like an opening to some really wonderful things about being a human being and being alive.”
And the little things can be wonderful. At a recent show in San Francisco, Shook noticed a white butterfly flying around the lights.
“I was like, ‘a moth came to our show!'” Shook said. “That’s so cool.”