A new album by Wimberley native Sarah Jarosz is a deeply personal one, inspired by her family’s time vacationing on the Texas Gulf Coast and her mother’s battle with cancer.
Jarosz told Texas Standard that “Blue Heron Suite” is, in part, an homage to Port Aransas – not a “polished” place, she admits, but one that holds special meaning. It was one of the first places she traveled with her family outside of her hometown. Memories of the birds that are part of the landscape were an entree into writing about her mother – and not being with her while she underwent breast cancer treatment a few years ago.
“It was really intense and I needed a place to put all of that, all of those feelings of just feeling so far away from her while she was going through this really intense thing,” Jarosz said.
Jarosz was touring at the time, and felt conflicted about continuing to play shows while her mother was getting chemotherapy and radiation. Ultimately, Jarosz’s mother encouraged her to keep those commitments.
“My decision not to just put everything on hold was based on the fact that my dad was at home and with her and recently retired and he could be with her throughout all that intense treatment. And she was kind of saying, like, it’s going to be better for me if you’re out there doing your thing… which is incredible,” she said.
In “Blue Heron Suite,” Jarosz looks back on that time with some perspective. The great blue herons she sings about bring her back to the many walks on the beach she took with her mom – memories she treasures today.
“A lot of the other birds had this, like, frantic energy. And the blue herons have this very stoic, calm, strong nature which really stands out in that place,” Jarosz said. “Those birds kind of came to be a symbol of hope and grace and strength and tough times.”
Jarosz confronted the prospect of losing her mother and how painful that would be. She says she wanted to capture the intensity of the “mother-child connection” in the album as plainly as possible – without too much artifice or poetry.
“Just trying to get to the root of that … and just say it like it is,” she said.
Like many other songwriters, Jarosz says she uses the songwriting process to bring herself solace. Now, she hopes the finished album will bring others solace, too.
“Initially you’re almost speaking to yourself and then you hope that that will connect to other people as well,” she said.
Jarosz’s mother has been in remission for three years. Jarosz says after five years, she will be “in the clear,” and for that, she’s “very, very thankful.”