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Sarah Shook talks getting sober, being LGBTQ in country music and their new album, 'Nightroamer'

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
Chad Cochran
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers

This is Songwriters & Tour Riders, a music podcast from KOSU hosted by Matthew Viriyapah.

North Carolina country artist Sarah Shook and their band The Disarmers released their latest album, Nightroamer, in February. True to its name, Sarah said that they wrote the title track at a graveyard after wandering around in the middle of the night. That image is perfect for this entire album, which seethes gritty outlaw country and emotional alt-rock.

Besides working on this album, Sarah had been dealing with a lot when the pandemic changed the pace of their life. Nightroamer was a description of their life was as a constantly touring musician. In the last couple of years, they came out as non-binary and had been trying to quit drinking.

In this episode, hear Sarah talk about being LGTBQ in country music, getting sober, and the first time they met a non-binary person.

On getting sober during the pandemic

I was somewhat freshly sober. I got sober in July of 2019 so less than half a year later the world starts shutting. So, being in my recovery infancy, I knew I wasn't going to allow myself to slip back down into addiction.

And it was such a boring thing at that point and time, 'cause I had spent years on the road getting black out drunk every night.

It's just going to be drinking without even being in new places with new people. It's just going to be sitting at home drinking. I cannot do that. So once I realized we were going to be off the road kind of indefinitely, I started therapy and I started working on a solo album.

Anytime I talk about sobriety, I make a point to say that I don't think that everybody needs to get sober. It's such an individual thing, and I feel like if you're questioning if you should get sober, just try drying out for a little while.

On being LGTBQ in country music

As a non-binary person in the sort of world I operate in, it's important to remember, most people — especially rural people — have never met a non-binary person, and they've never met a trans person. And so their only impression of that is what they're hearing on the media and what they're seeing on the news.

And I think it's important to just be a person doing a job.

I feel like early on, I made a point to sing about women. If I was going to ever have success in the country music realm — there's a lot of homophobia, but I wanted to be right out the gate, 'I'm bi' and I've been out since 2005.

And I had a pretty not fun coming out and because of the nature of that situation I was just like, 'man, I am never going through this again. I'm out.'

I've only been out as non-binary for a couple years. The first time I met someone who used they/them pronouns was like five years ago. So it hasn't even been that long.

And I remember that night! It was my friend Honey. I was bartending, and they came down, and introduced themselves. And they said 'I use they/them pronouns.' Another customer came in, and I went over to help them, and my brain was just like 'what?!?' I didn't even know anything about it.

Of course, I'm really grateful I ended up being really good friends with them and I learned a lot from them.

Music featured in this episode:

  1. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers - Somebody Else
  2. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers - Nightroamer
  3. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers - I Got This
  4. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers - Stranger
  5. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers - Been Lovin' You Too Long
  6. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers - No Mistakes
  7. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers - Believer
  8. Sarah Shook & the Devil - Damn You
  9. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers - Talkin To Myself

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Matthew Viriyapah is KOSU's production assistant and host of the music podcast Songwriters & Tour Riders.
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