Though only on the cusp of releasing her debut LP, Sasami Ashworth has long-been an established face in Stateside indie-rock. Formerly playing keyboards with explosive rockers Cherry Glazerr, she’s also provided string and horn arrangements for heavyweights like Jenny Lewis, Conor Oberst and First Aid Kit. Now, having first picked up a guitar while on the road with her former outfit, Sasami is putting herself centre stage.
It was the somewhat atypical French horn that kick-started her life in music, though. With few other teens choosing the brass instrument, Sasami welcomed early opportunities to travel the globe as part of youth orchestras. “Being part of this insanely massive sound, I knew that there’s no other thing that had any sort of magnitude,” she reminisces. “At that point I was totally in heaven, I was transcending the crazy awkwardness of being a middle schooler.”
However, despite accepting a place at a classical conservatoire, she couldn’t avoid the pull of the vibrant LA indie-rock scene. After studying with the likes of Haim and Empress Of, it was working alongside Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes that ultimately allowed the musician to bring together her formal training with an ever-growing love of grittier sounds. “I was becoming bilingual in the classical world and the rock-folk world here in LA,” she notes.
“I guess the goal is to write a happy song next…”
A few years later, and her ten-track self-titled debut carries the boundary-pushing experimentation born from these broad experiences. “It was natural that both aspects of my musicality would be part of the record,” she states of a sound formed by a self-confessed stream of consciousness during an emotionally turbulent year. Varied in tone and style, from the distorted shoegaze of ‘Not The Time’ to the eerie ‘At Hollywood’, her compositions are pulled together by honesty, something Sasami places at the heart of her work.
Driven by her place in, and the support of, a close-knit scene, and listing Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner, Vagabon’s Laetitia Tamko and many more as friends, collaborators and mentors, Sasami celebrates empowerment, community and openness through her deeply personal songs. The result effortlessly blends raw emotion with her boundless understanding of the power of sound. And there’s plenty more to come.
“I feel like I’ve always been a composer,” she concludes, “I think I’m going to make a lot more in my life.” She pauses. “I guess the goal is to write a happy song next…”
As featured in the March 2019 issue of DIY, out now.