A little over a year ago, a friend asked Sarah Dashew to pen some songs for an independent film he had written and directed. She put aside her Taylor, cracked her knuckles and sat down at a piano for the first time since she was 11. Two songs later, Sarah knew she was on her way to a new album: something with rhythm and blues, light and dark, whimsical and grounded all at once.
“I was laying on my bed reading the script, and this melody went coursing through my head,” says Sarah. “I could hear the trumpet and smell late-night smoke.” Then she laughs. “That’s so LA—a screenplay inspired the first song I wrote for my new album.”
Where I Belong features 10 original tracks that weave a passionate journey of love, place and belonging. Titles like “Call Me Your Girl,” “Take Me In,” “Everywhere You Go” and “Almost Here,” lay out the pattern before the music even starts. “Home has always been a dominant theme for me” says Sarah. “Growing up on a boat, always moving, all the hellos and goodbyes, made me a kid who longed to be rooted.”
When it came time to record Where I Belong, Sarah had a clear vision and decided to tackle the job of co-producer, along with her producer friend from Austin, Eric Peterson. “I knew this record was going to be lighter, a little sweeter. I was in a lighter place, and I wanted the songs to lift…I wanted a combination of pop and soul and stripped. And horns. I had to have some horns.”
To that end, four of the ten tracks on the album feature horns—everything from the sweet and playful interlude of the title track to the muted trumpet on the languid late-night “Almost Here.” In “Call Me Your Girl” and “Take Me In” Sarah turns herself inside out with honest, vulnerable lyrics that show she isn’t afraid to ask for the love she wants. “Dear John” is a break-up song with moving lyrics that make the listener feel the anticipation of discovery (“Before the sun is even up, before there’s coffee in your cup, before you notice, even notice, that I’m gone”). “Traveling Moon,” inspired by Sarah’s childhood on the ocean, feels like a warm, tropical breeze and the stark piano ballad “Anywhere” is a sweet promise to a loved one.
The Beatles Sgt. Pepper style “Everywhere You Go” came out of Sarah’s desire to write her own la la song for her live shows “because nothing feels quite as nice as singing la la’s together. And what I mean by singing la la la is that no matter what you do or where you go, you take everything you have with you: your fears and sorrows, your love and expectation, your bad habits, your sweetness, your memories, your love of the ocean or love of a dark-haired beauty, your everything… And what can you do about that? Absolutely nothing. You breathe in and out. You live. You sing. You sing la la la.”
The hooky, celebratory horns in “Hey Hey” close the album with its New Orleans style chorus and its life-affirming lyrics (“Hey, hey, we’re all gonna die someday, oh but I’m alive tonight”). “It’s about my longing to live in the here and now and find hope and joy no matter what life throws at you.”
In 2006 Chuck Plotkin (Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan) produced Sarah’s debut album Jealous Girl, which was unanimously praised by reviewers. Two tracks quickly found their way onto NBC’s “My Name is Earl”, followed by another song featured on ABC’s “Ugly Betty” celebrity playlist. Tours followed in New York, Texas and the Pacific Northwest.
“Chuck really taught me how to write a song,” she says. “He taught me what it means to have something that can stand on all fours—that you can’t knock over no matter how hard you try. We would sit on the floor of his boat, slapping our knees and figuring out how to tap into the universe’s navel. That’s what he calls it. But the rest is a secret.” Sarah grins. “I’m not allowed to tell.”
Sarah Dashew (pronounced like “cashew” with a “d”) grew up sailing around the world with her family, listening to Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Van Morrison and Janis Joplin. Out at sea with so much time on their hands, Sarah and her sister spent hours learning how to sing in harmony a la Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear in The Muppet Movie. But as compelling as the Muppets were, the life-changing experience that made Sarah want to be a musician didn’t come until years later. She started college and went to a soul-shaking gospel concert that left her knees weak and her heart full. The next day she joined the choir and started singing in 4-part harmony.
Then Sarah bought a cheap guitar with a bent neck and rusty strings and started playing, singing and writing. What emerged was a soulful, smoky, rich voice and heartfelt, storied lyrics. She moved to Austin, Texas, put a band together and toured all over the US and Europe.
Austin is where Sarah really found her performance chops. From playing alongside artists such as Stephen Bruton, Bob Schneider, Guy Forsyth and Kacy Crowley she learned how to own her songs, how to get into them and take the audience with her. She spirits listeners away with a dynamic combination of restraint and release. Sarah is sharp and witty and has taken to vamping on one of her closing songs with a Love Rant where she rhymes and reasons about everything from the current state of world affairs to the latest celebrity gossip, the traffic on the 405 and the trials and tribulations of getting her harmonica caught in her hair.
Longing for the smell of the saltwater air, Sarah left Texas for Los Angeles and started working under Chuck Plotkin’s tutelage. She’s currently planning to tour everywhere in support of her new album. And that, of course, is right where she belongs.