On her debut disc “Sidelong,” North Carolinian Sarah Shook had no trouble writing and crooning old-school country originals like “The Nail,” “Solitary Confinement” and “Dwight Yoakam,” an ode to one of the genre’s trailblazers.
The forlorn, smoky singer, who brings her band The Disarmers to The City this week, has been living a lonesome existence her entire life.
Raised in a fundamentalist Christian household, she sneaked in secular CDs her friends burned for her, and by 20 she left home via an escape marriage with a man she met on the Internet, whom she quickly divorced after having their son, Jonah, now 11.
Phoning on her 32nd birthday last week from Chapel Hill — where she tends bar a few nights a week at The Cave, the city’s oldest tavern — the single mom (and atheist) was reeling from an eviction notice (right before her national tour) demanding she and her son vacate their single-wide, forest-sequestered trailer.
“It’s a heartbreaking story,” she says. “My landlady went crazy, and told me, after four years, that I had seven days to be completely moved out, so last week was me just moving and packing and cleaning.”
There was an upside. That night, she played a local party sponsored by her twang-hipster label Bloodshot Records (which reissued the initially-self-released “Sidelong”), with free beer.
She says, “Every damned birthday that comes around, you think, ‘Oh, I’m going to get a gym membership and work out!’ So there was a phase where I quit smoking and I was drinking very little and working out a lot. But then this whole eviction thing happened, and everything went to s—.”
Admittedly, the singer was drunk for most of her “Sidelong” sessions: “Like, passing-out-in-a-corner wasted,” she says.
For her upcoming sophomore disc, “Years,” which won’t be released until April, she recorded sober.
Recently listening to its masters in the moving van, on her way to temporary new digs, she was stunned. “I was really anxious about making an album that could stand up to ‘Sidelong,’ I even lost weight over it. But it is so f—– good,” she says.
Shook doesn’t fit every Nashville pattern, though. At 9, she understood that she was bisexual, and — after coming out as an adult to her parents, who were surprisingly accepting — began backing LGBTQ causes like Chapel Hill’s Safe Space initiative.
“I absolutely love country music,” she says. “But I think it’s really important to represent, and say, ‘Look, this music isn’t just for straight white people. It’s for everybody.’”
IF YOU GO
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
Where: Elbo Room, 647 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 24
Tickets: $12 to $15
Contact: (415) 552-7788, www.eventbrite.com