Sarah Edmonds, the sole member of Larsen Gardens, told the Daily Cardinal she is on the road looking for magic.
Now, in the opening stretch of her self-booked tour, she lives in her minivan, occasionally staying with friends when possible. The long, uninterrupted stretches of solitude are an experience Edmonds considers sacred saying, “The chance to be alone is a chance to connect to yourself.”
Edmonds’ story begins with piano lessons as a child in Salem, Oregon. She was always fascinated by musical composition. She then moved to Nashville for school and purchased her first guitar — what would become her primary instrument — at 19 or 20 years old.
As a singer for a 16 piece jazz band in the Nashville area, Edmonds grew very familiar with the works of June Christy, Sarah Vaughn and the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald. She said performing the work of these female jazz icons taught her to express the sultry, sensual and intimate side of her voice.
But, these songs, being of their time, center traditional gender norms and the male gaze. She loved the music but felt it could use some updates on its treatment of relationships — something that empowers “the feminine side we push down when we’re scared.”
That’s a large part of what goes into Larsen Gardens.
Seattle is where her solo music was born. After performing other artists’ songs for so long, Edmonds found a name under which they could perform as themself. A combination of her mother’s maiden name and a symbol of birth, growth and natural beauty, she became Larsen Gardens.
Beyond her contemporary musical inspirations such as Fiona Apple and others who are “out there,” Edmonds looks up to her “soul sister,” an artist friend from Bend, Idaho.
Her presence is “magical.” Edmonds said this friend raised two kids as a single mother on an income primarily from selling paintings of natural landscapes and their inhabitants. Now, Edmonds said, she is “basically homesteading” and has turned her property into a shelter for those who need it — with a focus on being a safe, healing space primarily for those who identify as women.
That combination of female power and appreciation of nature are the backbone of Larsen Gardens’ sound which aims to provide that very same safe, healing space. Their music, sung with a voice similar to Joni Mitchell or Carole King, channels the beauty of female security and empowerment.
Her jazz roots come less through the music itself but more in the way jazz asks the artist to sit with their self and channel what flows through. A bossa nova beat is the undercurrent of a soothing guitar and a soft yet powerful singing voice. Like their soul sister’s sanctuary, their album “Moonflower” is music that heals.
To them, this tour is a dream come true. They say being on the road is about being open to the magic of being alive and being receptive to what a place inspires you to feel. Her Instagram is home to her trip’s updates, a series she dubs “100 Days of Magic.”
Larsen Gardens will be performing at the Bur Oak on August 31 with Madison artists Meggie Shays and Sigra.
Jeffrey Brown is an Arts Editor for the Daily Cardinal and also writes for the Beet occasionally. He is a senior majoring in Sociology with a certificate in African-American Studies.