There’s a simple honesty to the music of Seattle singer-songwriter Sera Cahoone. Her songs tell intimate stories about love and loss, where acoustic guitar Cahoone’s voice are complemented by the occasional cello, piano or country-tinged slide guitar. The steady percussion is a holdover from her days as the drummer for Seattle group Band of Horses.
It’s hard to imagine that her twist on Americana needs any embellishment. But while she was touring with the multi-instrumentalist Alex Guy, they had an idea: Guy would arrange full strings for a number of Cahoone’s songs for a big upcoming concert. What started as a one-off show has grown into the new album “The Flora String Sessions.”
“We just got obsessed,” says Guy. “We went through all of Sera’s back catalogue and started picking out songs and figuring out what would sound really good with strings.”
It was a whole different creative world for Cahoone, who writes intuitively and doesn’t read music. “I was kind of like let’s all just get together and jam,” says Cahoone. Instead, Guy “came in with sheets of music, and it was just kind of crazy for me to see what she had done.”
“The classical world is different,” Guy interjects. “I play with a lot of bands where we do just do that, where I’ll just jam with them until I find a part. But there’s something about multiple string parts that, if everyone’s jamming, that can go really wrong. But if you can find the right things—if this person hits that note; if that instrument hits that note—you can build these layers that, if you do it thoughtfully, it can be so awesome.”
We caught up with the two and their band for a soundcheck before a recent concert at the Old Church in Portland. They played two songs from “The Flora String Sessions” and two other songs Guy arranged that didn’t make it onto the album.
And if the name “The Flora String Sessions” sounds familiar, it’s because it’s named for Flora Recording and Playback, the Portland music studio run by producer Tucker Martine, where Cahoone and Guy recorded the album.
Audio recording and mixes: Steven Kray
Editor: Jarratt Taylor
Videographers: Nate Sjol, Nick Hennessy, Gerard O’Sullivan
Interview: Aaron Scott
Executive Producer: David Christensen