Some parents push their children into acting, modeling or even beauty pageants. Growing up in Littleton, Colo., Sera Cahoone’s mother took her to a Denver blues bar instead so she could back local R&B guitarists on her favorite instrument, drums.
“It was crazy, because it was all these super-scruffy, tough-looking dudes, and then this little 12-year-old girl, playing the blues behind them,” she says. “But I learned a lot, and it was so eye-opening — I was like ‘Oh, my God! This is what I want to do!’ So I thank my mom for doing that. Even though it sounds like a really weird thing.”
The training paid off. Cahoone — who moved to Seattle and worked as a percussionist for artists like Patrick Park, Carissa’s Weird and Betsy Olson — plays San Francisco this week, backing her new Karla-Bonoff-twangy album “Deer Creek Canyon”— her third solo release.
“Sera played drums on our whole first album — she’s a true talent, and one of the nicest people in the business,” says Band of Horses leader Ben Bridwell, who’s known her for over a decade. “I just love, love, love playing the drums,” she says. “Playing guitar and singing still feels a little strange to me sometimes.”
“Deer Creek Canyon” is a real location in Colorado where Cahoone’s mother still resides. The record is a warm, rustic reflection on a Rocky Mountain childhood, in chugging alt-country ditties like “Nervous Wreck,” “Every Little Word” and the title track.
But Cahoone had to leave home in order to appreciate it. Initially, the avid snowboarder, 37, relocated to Washington state to open a skate-snowboard shop. But after sustaining repeated injuries on the slopes, she switched to music instead.
Leaving the drum-kit shadows wasn’t easy. In Littleton, Cahoone was scared to play open-mike nights because everyone in town knew her. But Seattle offered anonymity.
“So I’d go play these places by myself and get up there and sing a song, and it really helped me build my confidence,” she says. “That’s been a long process for me — to be OK with people hearing what I’m saying, and to be able to open my eyes, singing in a full bar.”
Cahoone self-issued her eponymous debut in 2005, then upgraded to Sub Pop for 2008’s “Only as the Day is Long” and “Canyon.” She is still amazed at how far she has come, a point hammered home on her last trip to Denver.
“I went out to that blues bar with my brother and sister,” she says. “And I was like, ‘Oh, my God! I can’t believe I used to come here! When I was only 12!’”