Don't let anybody tell you that you can't go home again.
For Seattle singer-songwriter Sera Cahoone, her latest tour — which includes a stop at Lucky You on June 25 — is a venture back to her native Colorado for a show she's been dreaming about since she was a little girl. Her path may have been a long and winding road, but she's finally ready to take the stage at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
"I mean, I grew up 10 minutes from Red Rocks. So my whole life, I've been going to Red Rocks," says Caohoone. "And ever since I was a young kid, I just was like, 'I'm going to play here someday.'"
After moving to Seattle in 1998, Cahoone started her indie music career drumming for beloved local sadcore band Carissa's Wierd, a group which featured Jenn Champion, Grand Archieve's Mat Brooke, and Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell. Following that group's dissolution, she briefly served as the drummer for Band of Horses before starting her own solo musical career.
There's a certain purity to Cahoone's indie folk tunes. Her voice possesses a tenderness that is both welcoming and melancholy, like the warmth in the dying flickers of a campfire. The conviction in her lyricism — whether singing about love or yearning for home — makes a listener believe an insincere syllable has never melodically passed through her lips. After earning raves for her self-released self-titled debut LP in 2005, Cahoone went on to put out two albums on Sub Pop (Only As the Day Is Long and Deer Creek Canyon), and two more on Lady Muleskinner Records (From Where I Started and, most recently, 2018's The Flora String Sessions).
For Cahoone, who grew up queer on the outskirts of Denver in Littleton, the musical realm was often a place where she could feel accepted even when the rest of the world wasn't really seeing her for who she really was. And Red Rocks was one of those safe havens, and also one of the first places she felt comfortable as a lesbian.
"I've seen so many people at Red Rocks. I saw PJ Harvey. I saw the Cranberries. For me, Tracy Chapman was a huge show there," says Cahoone. "I was in high school and gay, but no one knew that. And I had a girl that I was... I don't know... confusing. But I was just really freaked out. And then I went there, and there were just all these gay people that I'd never seen. I'd never really been around it. I was like the one weird kid from my town. I mean, now there's more, I'm sure. But it was very, very much like an eye-opening experience for me — like that I'm going to be OK. There's plenty of people like me. And so having that at Red Rocks as well was this huge."
Not only was the Chapman concert a seminal moment in her life, the "Fast Car" singer also showed Cahoone a template for being gay in her songwriting without ever having to be overly blunt about it.
"If you listen to her music, it's not like she's 'Hey!' in your face about it, but it's obvious in her music. And I'd say the same for me," says Cahoone. "Not every single song is about me, but a lot of them are about relationships, so it is in all my music. I don't go into writing a song like, 'I want to write a gay song.'"
While Cahoone hasn't put out a new record of her own since 2018, she's hardly been musically stagnant. She's occupied her time by playing concerts, producing records for artists like Margo Cilker, drumming for her pals' bands, and just working a normal day job at a Seattle coffee shop. Though she certainly had a few of those what am I doing? moments along the way.
"For a while there I was like, 'I'm done. I don't want to do this anymore. Maybe I'll start a new band. How many Sera Cahoone records are people really gonna want at a certain point?'" Cahoone says with a laugh. "The grind just felt really daunting to me, because I was so proud of my last record. And thought of making another record that good, it just feels like... 'How?' [laughs] But you can't really look at things like that. This industry is hard on your psyche, you know?
"For me, it's like, what else would I be doing? I'm a musician. It's in my blood. Every time I want to be like, 'I'm gonna do something else,' then I'm like, 'Well I love writing songs, and I love playing music more than anything.' It's like all I know," Cahoone adds. "I'm always going to write songs, I just wasn't sure what to do with them. But I think at this point, I do have a lot of songs, and I do want to put another record out. When do I know that's gonna happen? I'm not sure."
While we'll have to wait for another Sera Cahoone record, the singer-songwriter is primarily focused on this tour leading her back home to open for The Head and the Heart at Red Rocks. She's put together a five-piece band for this run of gigs, and performing her tunes in the cavernous world-renowned outdoor splendor of Red Rocks offers a perfect spot to show off so many tunes that were influenced by her time growing up surrounded by the Centennial State's mountainous majesty.
"What I said [when I was a kid] was, 'If I ever play Red Rocks, I'm gonna retire.' Which is ridiculous, because I'm not f—-ing retiring," says Cahoone. "But I've seen so many shows there, it's such a beautiful place. And my whole family's going to come. It's gonna be very surreal, and I'm probably gonna cry a lot. [laughs]"
Sera Cahoone, Karli Fairbanks • Mon, June 25 at 8 pm • $12-$15 • 21+ • Lucky You Lounge • 1801 W Sunset Blvd. • luckyyoulounge.com