Her first stage performance came in a suburban Denver bar, where, at the tender age of 12, she played drums behind a bunch of bluesmen on open mic night. She first picked up the sticks in junior high band class, after bumrushing the kit to show the percussion students how to play. And her earliest instrument was saxophone, though she busted her own reeds to keep from practicing.
Unorthodox beginnings surely, but Cahoone has often plotted an unorthodox route on the way to Only As the Day Is Long, her quiet, country-noirish second album and Sub Pop debut, out March 18.
That path has also included a notable tenure as drummer for rock outfit and Sub Pop labelmates, Band of Horses (she plays on their acclaimed 2006 album, Everything All The Time), as well as a stint for the late indie band Carissa’s Weird.
But in 2006, Cahoone decided to step out from the cymbals and snare and focus on singing, songwriting, and guitar playing, skills she’d been honing for nearly 15 years on her own.
“You can’t really write songs on the drums,” says Cahoone, who’s lived in Seattle for the past decade. “I needed to find something to get my creativity out.”
The fruit of her newfound dedication was Sera Cahoone (2006), her self-released first album of thoughtful country songs that was lauded by indie-rock tastemaker KEXP-FM in Seattle along with NPR.
Now on Only As The Day Is Long, the airy gentleness of the arrangements is counterweighted by tension in the lyrics. “I know I’m safe for now, but I know the rest is on its way,” she sings on the title song. Time and again, characters mired in the present cast either skeptical or hopeful eyes on the future: “It’s got to get better than this” (“Runnin’ Your Way”), “I wish this night would pass on by” (“Shitty Hotel”), “Time’s been moving too fast” (“You’re Not Broken”).
“I go to a darker, sad place when I write,” she says. “For some reason, that’s the way my songs always seem to come out. But I’m not a very sad person, really.”
Sad, no. Risky yes. (Perhaps it comes in part from having a father who sold dynamite for a living -- which must’ve meant great Fourth of July celebrations, right? “I’m not supposed to talk about that,” Cahoone says.) She’s the kind of woman who as a teenager could nail Slayer covers on her drumkit and nail vertical drops on her snowboard.
As it happens, the stage is where she found her calling, something she knew even as a 12-year-old, backing up strangers in a bar. “It opened my eyes,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is amazing. This is what I want.’”