Born in Little Rock, Arkansas and raised in Monroe, Louisiana, Sarah Jane Nelson grew up immersed in great bluegrass, blues, country, folk, and rock music. At 17 she headed to NYC and began a career as an actor and singer that led her to Broadway and on tours all over the U.S. and worldwide. She played Sally Simpson in “The Who’s Tommy,” Sheila in “Hair,” and starred in SWING on Broadway and on the 1st National Tour. In 2013, married with two children, she made the move to put down roots in Nashville, Tennessee. Just after arriving in town, Nelson suddenly found herself a divorced single mother.
“I had no clue what was coming. I felt like I had worked my whole life to create the most beautiful existence and then it all went away. After the divorce, the kids would go visit their dad and I suddenly had this time on my hands. I didn’t know who I was without my kids by my side at the end of every single day.” Nelson picked up her guitar and started writing. “I explored my break-up but as I did co-writes and started dating, I realized that everyone has these deep, rich, triumphant, gut-wrenching stories of love and loss, pain and renewal.”
Now, after 20 years making a living touring the world singing other people’s songs, Nelson’s first original, full length record will strike a particular chord with those who have experienced the challenges of single parent life. “It’s not something you hear much about, but so many people can relate to the tremendous challenges of being a divorced parent. You feel like you failed because you couldn’t keep the marriage intact, but then I have these beautiful little human beings who are the product of that failed relationship. Single parenthood is so tough because it was really hard to make ends meet. I went bankrupt, had to let go of the house I loved in the perfect neighborhood… I could have crawled in bed and hid under my covers but instead, I chose to make something good out of something terrible.”
These days, Nelson has finally found her happy ending as she was recently married to Nashville artist and producer, Brian Irwin. “I have a family again, and when we all sit around the dinner table laughing and talking, I get this euphoric feeling. It was a long and painful journey to get here but I made a new life that I love. Creating the record with Brian was a wonderful time to look back at how far I’ve come, and I hope that these songs will help others who are finding their way to a new life.”
“I’m Not Broken” will be relased in early 2019. Join the e-mail list to stay up to date and get all the sneak peeks!
Below, you’ll find the bios and samples from Sarah Jane’s first three CDs. To listen to more clips and buy music, visit this page: https://sarahjanenelson.com/music/buy-music
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Listen to a clip from the title track, Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues (that’s right)
Listen to a clip from Summertime (slow and sticky)
Listen to Long as I Got You (an original tune – yep, I wrote it!)
(SJ Nelson vocals, Hawkeye Herman Guitar, Big Irv’ Lubliner Harmonica)
BLUES BIOGRAPHY – Sarah Jane Nelson’s relationship with the blues is rooted in her upbringing in Monroe, Louisiana. “In junior high school I came across a boxed set of Robert Johnson music at the local record store. Eric Clapton, one of my favorites, endorsed the set saying Johnson was ‘the most important blues musician who has ever lived.’ Those recordings were like nothing I had ever heard, and I was drawn to the simple production that let the remarkably honest storytelling shine through. Suddenly I realized where all the popular rock and country music I loved had originated.” Years later, working in New York City as a professional actress, Nelson was cast in “It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues,” at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia. With a sold out extended run, that show, which chronicled the history of blues music, was Nelson’s first taste of singing the blues professionally. A year later, Nelson performed in an Off-Broadway production of “El Paso Blue,” a play with a blues score written by Michael “Hawkeye” Herman. When Sarah Jane and Hawkeye came together to rehearse the music, it was “love at first jam,” and they have been playing together ever since. “I adore Hawkeye as a person, an artist, and a collaborator. He sees something special in me, and that has been a great source of inspiration on my journey into blues. This music is where I’m from and where I live. I love the sound, the songs, the storytelling, and the unwavering strength that is at the core of all blues music.”
“Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues” was inspired by Sunday afternoon blues jams at the home of Hawkeye Herman (www.hawkeyeherman.com). All tracks were recorded LIVE at Freeman Sound in Ashland, Oregon with no-frills production to capture the ambiance of a backporch jam and let the storytelling shine through. It also features harmonica with Big Irv Lubliner and Tom Freeman on percussion.
Listen to a clip from Angel from Montgomery (Ed Dunsavage guitar, Crystal Reeves fiddle)
Listen to a clip from the title track Saving Grace (an original song I wrote with Frank Vinci)
Listen to a clip from Louisiana (Dave Scoggin on piano)
COUNTRY MUSIC BIOGRAPHY – When it comes to COUNTRY music, Nelson was inspired on road trips in her Mammy and Pappy’s motor home visiting Bluegrass Festivals across the south. Since she’s a genuine southern girl, she was also raised on old records of country greats like Kitty Wells, Earnest Tubb, Loretta Lynn, Buck Owens, and Roy Acuff. Nelson writes country music on a regular basis and has worked with publishers and writers in Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles. She was the opening act for country superstar Josh Turner at the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, Oregon. From that gig, it was clear that she needed a country CD and that’s how “Saving Grace” was born.
Listen to a clip from Taylor the Latte Boy (Darcy Danielson piano)
Listen to a clip from Nelson’s performance in the critically acclaimed Broadway and National Tour of SWING! Cry Me a River (Darcy Danielson piano, David MacKenszie trombone)
Listen to a clip from a duet from Andrew Lippa’s “The Wild Party” Maybe I Like it This Way (Darcy Danielson piano)
MUSICAL THEATER / CABARET BIOGRAPHY – Nelson’s career as a professional singer began in musical theater. After moving from Louisiana to New York City at the age of 17, Nelson climbed the ladder up through regional and off-Broadway theater to finally perform on Broadway and then star on Broadway. (See her “Actor Biography” page for more info) Throughout her years in New York City, she performed Cabaret Shows at the famous theater district clubs including Danny’s Skylight Room, Don’t Tell Mama, and uptown at The Triad. Her passion for storytelling and interaction with the audience drew her to the art form of cabaret and finally she recorded a CD that shows the variety of styles she covers in her live cabaret shows. “A Little Bit of Everything” is Nelson’s first CD and it was recorded in Ashland, Oregon while she was working as an actor at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It covers wide range of styles including musical theater, jazz, country, and blues with storytelling being the common denominator of all the music compiled.