Up Close With Worcester’s Iza Jane
Monday, September 02, 2013
Worcester's Iza Jane (AKA Sarah Benoit) is almost positive music chose her (instead of the other way around) and one listen to the music of this up and coming local roots, folk and blues musician may give you an inkling as to why the art made such a choice in her.
"I don’t ever remember making a choice in whether or not music would be a part of my life or not, it’s just always been there, ever since I can remember," says the musician.
She did, however, come from a musical family and one with versatile interests at that. She grew up in Sterling, on an old family apple orchard. Her grandmother taught piano and voice, and her father had a passion for classical music. Her mother loved The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, The Band, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, and the like. Her grandfather, who she calls her "knight in shining armor", had an interest in folk music, and this interest she inherited from him.
"I can remember cold snowy nights plowing snow and listening to old folk cassettes in the cab of his truck or sitting out on a lazy, hot summer eve listening to him blow into that chromatic harp of his," she says.
"It’s certainly in my blood." And now she can't help but perform.
"Personally, what I get from playing my music is high. It’s a drug for me, and I’m addicted to it. Pure and simple."
The rest of the members of her band, or the people she usually collaborates with, include Matt McManamon on bass, Dan Linskey on lead and slide guitar, Jon Bonner on guitar and vocals, and Nick Langlois on banjo and harmonica.
Benoit began writing music in college. In the process of finishing her college degree and before forming the band, she spent much of her summers traveling the country, spending time on a ranch in northern Colorado, the Sundance Trail Guest Ranch. This is where her music career began.
"There I gained an even greater love and appreciation not only for folk music but classic country and bluegrass," she says.
"I also got my start playing my music out live there at the local bar of Red Feather Lakes; The Pot Belly, after the owner heard me playing with friends at a local barbeque in town he offered me a gig for Friday night entertainment in exchange for free dinner and 100 bucks! Of course I agreed."
She moved back to the Worcester area and formed her very own project in 2011, taking Matt along with her from the band Northern Company, for whom she also sang.
This project has quickly taken off.
"It’s kind of like opening a box of confetti; there it is out there once you’ve opened it, everywhere," says Benoit. "Perhaps people will be annoyed with it and think its messy or perhaps they’ll enjoy it and it will make them smile, who knows? Sometimes I wonder if I should have ever opened that box at all. But then again, fuck it, life’s about celebration, right?"
"I hear melodies, sometimes symphonies in my head nearly every day and all I know is that I feel blessed and feel I should share this with others," says the musician. And share she does, and often.
Her writing style and performance style seem to go together nicely. Sometimes random, even chaotic, and not necessarily planned, but it always comes together in the end. A blend of folk, blues and country that is easy to listen to.
"I can never sit down with intentions of writing a song. They typically just come randomly, and when they come there’s no stopping them," she explains.
"I’ll feel like I’m getting so built up with whatever emotion might be consuming my life at the time that I might explode and then I write a song and it releases its hold and I can breathe again."
She has an EP on the way, which will be called Dirty Hands, but her band has already gained a nice following on the local music circuit through simply performing. But they have a lot of room to grow.
Iza Jane's goals for the future are simple.
"I think ultimately I just want to be happy, and the rest will follow," she concludes.
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