The Sarah Dunn Band visited the WEIS Studios on Wednesday afternoon – joining Kim O’Brien for the afternoon drive home providing some stellar live performances from her upcoming album.
There is nothing that is typical about the Sarah Dunn Band. The lead singer and namesake for the band admits that even her birth was a little bit different – compared to most of her generation.
“I wasn’t even born in a hospital,” the 25-year old recalls. “I was mid-wived in Monett, Missouri, which is in Barry County, in this antebellum home. I like to think I had a special start. From the age of five, we moved in my great grandparents’ old house, which actually began as a one room cabin. They built on to it, and gave it a porch, but we still had the same old Franklin wood stove that had originally been in it. I don’t think of myself as a typical person from my generation. I had kind of an old-fashioned upbringing, which makes everything that is going on right now even more special. It’s all exciting.”
And, what’s going on with Dunn sets her apart even more.
The band has just released their debut single, “You or The Whiskey,” which is also the title of their new album. Take a listen to the record, and once again – there is nothing typical about it. Dunn belts out her music with a passion and a depth that goes far beyond her years. The single showcases their fiery side, while “Anywhere You Go,” is proof not only that Dunn can handle a ballad – but is one of the finest female singer-songwriters to come down the pike in some time.
For Dunn, music was all around growing up in the “Show Me” state. “My folks didn’t have a lot of money and they worked really hard,” she recalls of her youth in Neosho, “but I got interested in playing the fiddle because my Great Grandad actually played. He knew thousands of tunes, and was absolutely amazing. I remember watching him, and picked up one of his old fiddles. I still have it actually. Then, I had a red Little Orphan Annie record player.
That’s all we had. I played old Bob Wills 45 RPM records on it. I would sit and start that record over and over trying to learn those Bob Wills songs. That’s how I started learning fiddle. My mom always had so much music in the house – Bob Wills, Ella Fitzgerald, Tracy Lawrence, it was so far reaching,” she recalls of her eclectic musical upbringing. “Music was the joy in my life. That’s how my mom and I connected, and how I got the idea and the passion that I wanted to perform live.”
But, Dunn is not the first in her family to release a record. That trait runs in the family, as well. “My papa, Max Brown, had some success back in the 70s with a song called ‘Take Time to Smell the Flowers.’ He’s still playing several nights a week and has great crowds all the time. He’s been a great inspiration to me, and one of my heroes forever.”
Sarah recalls the support of her mother – who took her to all the performance venues in her hometown area. “She would take me around to farm auctions, and I remember singing songs like ‘Blue,’ and all of these old timers would gather around and chew the fat. Then, I started singing in Church, and got the passion for playing the fiddle.”
Those experiences gave Sarah a taste of what she wanted her future to be. “By the time I was thirteen, I knew what I wanted to do. I told my mom one night ‘I really want to do this full time. I’ll finish school or whatever I have to do, but I want to do this all the time.’ She said ‘We’ll make it happen.’ The only venues we had that I could play at then were honky-tonks and dives. That’s where all the live music was going on, so that’s where I wanted to be.’ For a while, I couldn’t get anyone to hire me because I was thirteen, and being a young female, I think they saw me as a liability at that time. My mom and I put a band together. She wanted to protect me, and make sure I got to the clubs. She’s also an amazing singer and musician. So, I guess I come by it honest. I started home-schooling so I would have more time to do it. I studied really hard, and graduated early – with a scholarship,” she says with pride.
Dunn made a record while she was still in Missouri, and a video for one of the songs, “If I Never Love Again,” found its’ way to GAC. It seemed that Sarah was on a collision course with the town she had only dreamed of – Nashville. She beams with childlike enthusiasm when recalling her first time in Music City.
“I came down to see what it was all about. We had saved up some money to make the trip. I remember coming down here late at night – about a nine hour drive. When we came over the hill on the highway, seeing the Nashville skyline, I could feel the possibilities. I got choked up, and it was the most amazing moment. It has such energy, and whenever I feel like I am getting a little lost or that things aren’t going in the right direction, I come to Nashville, feel that energy and it renews me.”
Though she had been featured in many bands before, she admits that the group she is a part of has a talent and an energy all their own. “I had come up to Tulsa, and Scotty Bell, my guitar player, was playing in a band up there, and we immediately clicked musically. We had a great interaction on stage, and musically, it just came together. He said he had some other guys he wanted me to meet. So, we all got together, and I played them a couple of my songs.
They said ‘Let’s record them right now. We have a home studio here.’ We did, and it was just magic. It was such a good chemistry – with good people. We have a good thing going on.” Between them, they have played with the best – with their collective credits including Vince Gill, Tim McGraw, and Reba McEntire. In addition, drummer David Kawika’s resume has included gigs at such heralded venues as The Apollo and The Superdome, and bassist Roger Caple has shared a recording studio with Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis on a version of his “Heart Over Mind.”
At the end of the day, Sarah hopes her story and her music just might influence someone to follow their dreams, just like her favorite artists did for her.
“There were some artists that in my early days when I first started that I noticed that did it the hard way. That was so inspiring. I hope that someday I could be that inspiration for someone else, too. Don’t be discouraged. You can get that way when you are trying and trying, and it seems that you hit a brick wall, don’t stop. Keep the faith. God is going to take care of you and good things will come if you just keep believing and have that faith in your heart.”
The Sarah Dunn Band train is about to pull out of the station. You better get your seat early, because it looks like it is going to be pretty crowded!