2/6/14, Marin Independent Journal, Paul Liberatore
FOR SARAH Lee Guthrie, the recent death of Pete Seeger brought to mind the first time she sang onstage in front of an audience. It was a very large audience at a concert by Seeger and her father, Arlo Guthrie.
She was 14 and sang the only song she knew, Seeger’s “Sailing Down My Golden River.”
“There were like 13,000 people out there,” she recalled. “That probably was the first spark that made me realize I could certainly learn to love the spotlight.”
Although she has a royal folk music pedigree as Arlo’s daughter and Woody Guthrie’s granddaughter, it took her a while for that spark to ignite into flame. Growing up in the small town of Washington, Mass., in the musical madhouse that was the Guthrie household, Sarah Guthrie wanted what she considered a more “normal” lifestyle.
“We were certainly out of the ordinary in our small town in Massachusetts,” she said with a giggle.
She didn’t consider a performing career until she was 18 and met her husband, Johnny Irion, then a Los Angeles songwriter and country rock musician.
“It was Johnny who inspired me to really make a go of it in music,” she said. “He taught me my first chords on guitar. It was all very romantic.”
After learning the ropes of touring as road manager for her dad, she formed a duo with her husband. They are now on tour promoting their fourth album, “Wassaic Way,” produced by Wilco’s Pat Sansone and Jeff Tweedy. The tour brings them to Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley on Feb. 13.
“It’s now been a 12-year career of going to every little town in America and playing songs,” Guthrie said. “It ain’t bad.”
She and her husband and their two daughters, Sophia, 6, and Olivia, 11, recently relocated to the West Coast, settling for the rest of the school year in Santa Barbara.
They will go back for the annual Carnegie Hall concert by the Guthrie family, all 14 of them. At the last one, daughter Olivia sang the same song, “Sailing Down My Golden River,” that Guthrie sang onstage when she was a teen.
“I can appreciate the legacy continuing,” she said. “It’s been such a huge part of our lives, and now their lives, that it’s kind of hard to avoid it.”
Contact Paul Liberatore via email at firstname.lastname@example.org