Sarah Jane Scouten finds authenticity in cowboy music roots

[Photo by Jen Ochej/@jenochej]

By Kristi Alexandra
@kristialexandra

“Whenever anyone talks about ‘authenticity,’ it all kind of sounds like bullshit,” Sarah Jane Scouten declares over the phone from a tour stop in Clinton, BC.

When Loose Lips reaches the Canadian singer, she’s recovering from farm-induced allergies, thanks in part to a few animals on a ranch she’s visiting.

“If you’re going to sing about a place, it’s important to only do it really authentically. Whether it’s a place in Canada or a place in the US — or anywhere in the world — it’s got to have a true experience there,” she says, referencing the dirt roads, Nashville-mentions and ballads about the Bayou typically heard in Americana-country tunes.

As far as imagery goes, a country singer making a tour stop on a rural ranch is the quintessential picture of “Americana” music — a descriptor commonly juxtaposed alongside Scouten’s name.

Hailing from the small community of Bowen Island, BC, Scouten doesn’t necessarily identify with the overarching genre so often blanketed over her brand of country music.

“As a Canadian, I’m very reluctant to call it Americana because it’s giving force to the Americans what Canadians have as their own musical cultural heritage as well. You only have to travel this country once to realize that it’s not just a recent phenomenon. Country music is very popular in Canada; we have a very similar cultural heritage, but with things that are our own in our own right.”

Such is the case for her most recent full-length album, The Cape, named after Bowen Island’s Cape Roger Curtis, on which Scouten sings about “Our Small Town” and “Southern Ways.”

Her latest set of recordings can be heard on the Railtown Sessions Vol. 1, a live-off-the-floor compilation record produced by Andy Bishop (White Ash Falls/Twin River) and released by Light Organ Records.

“Andy Bishop came to one of my shows. He approached me and asked if I wanted to be on this series of EPs,” the singer explains.

The Railtown Sessions promises to bring four “lesser-known” songwriters into the spotlight through a series of original recordings done at Light Organ Records studio in Vancouver’s Railtown. Scouten serves as the series’ inaugural artist, with four original songs being digitally-released this Wednesday, July 13 via Light Organ’s website.

The four-track EP shows off Scouten’s varied chops, from the country-rock romp “Bang Bang” to the languorous ballad “Mount Royal Cemetery.”

“It was a few weeks before we even went into the studio, and I wasn’t sure. We had just finished recording The Cape but he presented me with this opportunity that I couldn’t refuse,” Scouten admits.

Where her previous recordings allowed her to do studio-free tracking (her debut album was recorded entirely in the Loyola Chapel in Notre-Dame-de-Grace), setting down tracks with Bishop and engineer Colin Stewart was a different experience.

“There’s one track on the album called ‘Bang Bang.’ In order to get into the spirit of that song, we made somebody go out and get us a bottle of Jack Daniels, so we were feeling pretty loose. I had never performed that song. I had felt, up until that recording experience, that [some songs] weren’t ready to be recorded,” she reveals.

Whether she’s singing old cowboy songs (look out for the traditional Albertan folk tune “Where the Ghost River Flows”), or sticking to her guns when it comes to writing songs and recording them in the way she’s most comfortable, Sarah Jane Scouten is channelling it all with authenticity.

Sarah Jane Scouten performs the exclusive Railtown Sessions EP release show at Light Organ Records July 13 and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival July 15 to 17

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Kristi Alexandra is an unabashed wino and wannabe musician. Her talents include drinking an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon, singing in the bathtub, and falling asleep.