Sarah Sample’s “Old Barn Owl” Finds Catharsis in the Mystical

Article Contributed by Sarah J Frost | Published on Saturday, November 14, 2020

In the six albums she’s released, Sarah Sample has created a reputation for weaving a trail of stories through folk, Americana, and country music. “Old Barn Owl” continues the tradition, written on a songwriting retreat in the Chihuahuan Desert in West Texas, an ode to nature written out past the confines of judgment. The song is out today, with AudioFemme noting how the soothing, hopeful track "lets the wisdom of nature guide" it.

“I wrote ‘Old Barn Owl’ with my sister, Cate Graves, under a star-filled sky in West Texas,” Sample says. “We were attending a songwriting retreat where we learned a new method: cutting up old books into bits and pieces and then creating new lyrical phrases from them. My sister and I sat under a fall moon and wrote the chorus. As we started singing the lines, something cathartic was happening. It was quiet. It was healing. We reflected on what can happen in nature, with no one to judge you and the acceptance that you are worthy just as you are. You never know what kind of song you’re going to write, but sometimes when you’re in a mystic place you get these kinds of odes to nature.”

The song follows the release of “Nothingman” in October, both stand-alone follow-ups to 2018's Redwing, noted for Sample’s cut-to-the-bone storytelling, framed with empathy and compassion, and told with the best singing of her career. Produced by Sample’s longtime producer Scott Wiley (Elliott Smith, Bonnie Raitt), Redwing came to life over a few weeks of sessions at June Audio, as well.

Sample has played several prominent festivals—Merlefest, Cayamo, Folks Fest, Sisters, Telluride, and Kerrville, among them—and has warmed up stages for artists like Darrell Scott, Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers, Marketa Irglova, and Over The Rhine.

She’s also a founding member of the folk-gospel collective The Lower Lights, who take on gospel classics from old hymnals and Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, and even Stevie Wonder. She lives in the welcoming, wild wide open of Wyoming with her husband and two daughters, where she is also a nurse.