The 50thirdand3rd Interview With – Sarah Bethe Nelson

(Photo by Colette Levesque)

Today we have our Interview with Sarah Bethe Nelson. Her debut album “Fast Moving Clouds” is a fantastic collection of well written songs, no doubt in my mind that you will be impressed with the voice just as much as the lyrics. Give a listen after you have read the Interview, start your work week off with something a little special…..

Can you give us a little background info on the roads that led to your 1st Album

I think it was 2002 and I had written a handful of songs. I recorded them in my friend’s basement. That record was called Tangled and there are only 50 copies in the whole world, each one kissed by me… ha! Thankfully there aren’t many out there. Later my band Prairiedog made a record called To Set Your Calendars On Fire (2005) then another called The Golden Hour (2012). The Golden Hour was also recorded with Kelley Stoltz. In 2013 I felt like the songs I was writing were for a new project. I put together a new band and recorded Fast-Moving Clouds in the winter of 2013-14.

How has working as a bartender in San Francisco impacted your music…

Any job gets in the way of time you could spend writing and playing, I suppose. Then again, it’s nice to be able to pay rent.

What has it been like to be surrounded in San Fran with all the great bands , is it a supportive group…

Great! There are so many wonderful musicians and artists and creative people in San Francisco and it is an extremely supportive environment. I have been very lucky and have nothing but gratitude and love for the people I’ve known here and all the amazing work they do. It’s really inspiring.

Working with Kelley Stoltz on your album, what was that like.

He is a genius. I have recorded two albums with him and I admire him so much. His own music and the work he does with other musicians is all incredible. He is a one of the hardest-working, most talented, true artists I have ever known. He is a pleasure to work with.

Who are the members of your band , and can you give us a little of their background….

My guitar player/best friend/right-hand man is Rusty Miller. He taught me my first chords on the guitar and has been part of every project and recording I’ve ever done. He had a band called Jackpot for a long time and now has a band called Nightgown. He plays drums for Kelley Stoltz and is in a lot of projects and on records with tons of people… he’s another musical wizard!

Mike Shoun has been playing drums with us the past few months and he rules. He was in Thee Oh Sees most recently. He’s a great guy and a fantastic drummer.

Ela Jaszczak is playing bass now. She’s our resident mystic and I’m so happy to have her with us. She plays bass in Rusty’s band Nightgown and does her own solo music as well as playing in several other projects. It’s a small community in San Francisco so most people end up playing in a variety of bands. It’s nice because everyone knows each other and it creates a lot of support and camaraderie which is really cool.

A few albums from your youth that will never leave your turntable…

Van Morrison- Astral Weeks

Townes Van Zandt- Flyin Shoes

Patti Smith- Horses

Leonard Cohen- (All of them)

Bob Dylan- Planet Waves

When did you realize that you were going to make a record….

When I had ten songs I wanted to keep.

How did you land up with Burger Records…..

My friend Garett Goddard came over to Kelley’s studio and played drums on most of the record. He plays in King Tuff and fills in with a couple bands that are on Burger Records. He was the one who played it for Lee and Sean in the first place and they liked it. Lee called me up and that was that! Those guys are so great and work so hard. I couldn’t be happier with the label or find two people more dedicated to the music they love.

You have had a busy few months, what have been some of the highlights of your year.

The tour we just did was great. I didn’t want to come home. The shows went really well and all the bands we were out with were amazing. There was this overall feeling of being buddies and having fun and the wild joy of rock n roll that permeated the whole tour. Everyone just seemed happy to be alive and playing music. It was a special tour for everyone, I think.

Do you see yourself as a singer-songwriter , and do the lyrics comes first and then the music or is it the other way around…

Yeah. My mom says I’ve been a writer since I could hold a pencil and I guess that’s true. I have a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. I have a small book of poetry out called Thanks For Nothing and Other Poems and another in the works. I’ve never envisioned myself doing anything but creative work. I didn’t want to be a fireman or an astronaut when I was little. I don’t want to be a bartender now. I work and write and play everyday not because I feel like I should but because that’s all I want to do.

When I write songs I write the lyrics with the music, the melody and the words happen at the same time. Poetry and prose I write very differently than lyrics and I never use poems for songs. I don’t know why that is, it just never happens. I tend to be a very aggressive editor so I usually write a lot and then get rid of most of it.

Exile in Guyville or Pet Sounds….


Any plans for the rest of 2015…..

Hopefully a lot more touring and playing and I’d love to do some recording in the fall and winter. Happiness, health, success… my wishes are usual ones.

Sarah Bethe Nelson, Facebook
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Sarah Bethe Nelson, Burger Records


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Co-founder of 50thirdand3rd, stepped away to spend time with family and write. From Pittsburgh, now in Florida, Cool Canadian artist wife, 4 great kids, and two granddaughters!! I'm a lucky guy!

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