25 Questions About Sierra Hull’s ‘25 Trips’
Photo by Gina Binkley.
Sierra Hull has covered a lot of ground in her 28 years: a Grand Ole Opry appearance when she was 10, Carnegie Hall at 12, countless bluegrass festival jam circles and stages, college, world tours, IBMA awards and a Grammy nomination, marriage, and more. Her latest album, 25 Trips, out Friday on Rounder Records, commemorates the journey so far, reflecting on lessons learned and all she struggles to still understand.
Inspired by a questionnaire/parlor game made famous by French author Marcel Proust over a century ago, we asked Hull 25 questions designed to reveal her true nature and shed light on some of the waypoints on her 25 Trips.
- What’s your favorite time of day?
I love both early morning and late evening. Any time the sun is just coming up or starting to go down it’s always a peaceful feeling.
- What’s your ideal trip (that doesn’t involve touring)?
Honestly, these days when I am not touring, an ideal trip is going somewhere (usually warm) and just being extra lazy for a few days. Then I get restless and ready to go back to work! Ha ha.
- What’s your favorite way to travel?
When touring I prefer bus because it’s easier to have all of my instruments, gear, healthier food available, etc. But … we do a lot of flying. For fun, I love a good train, especially when it’s in a beautiful part of the world like Europe.
- What items do you always make sure you pack for trips?
Aeropress with a good bag of coffee and a hand grinder, reusable utensils (a recent addition that has been awesome), coffee/water thermoses, a raincoat, dry shampoo (amen), mandolin strings … SO many things. Thank God for packing cubes!
- What’s a time when you’ve felt, to steal from the title of the first song on 25 Trips, “beautifully out of place”?
Occasionally I’ll play an eclectic festival where I’m the only artist with a mandolin, which is a surprisingly uncommon instrument for many mainstream music listeners to see live. It’s always fun explaining what a mandolin even is to a Lyft driver, or someone in the airport or hotel.
- When/where do you feel most at home, or “beautifully in place”?
Probably when I’m with my husband. He’s an amazing partner in life and I never feel like I have to worry about being anything less or more than what I am with him. I’m grateful for that.
- There are several references to fears on this album. What is your biggest fear?
Well, I do sing the lyric on the album “I’m a little scared of heights” — that remains true.
On an emotional level I sometimes fear I won’t be able to accomplish all of the things I hope to in my life and career. I constantly push myself to be “more.” It’s a silly fear to have, really — fear of not being one’s best self or something. It drives me to work hard sometimes, which I think can be good. But I truly know all of the best things in life come when you release those fears.
- In “Middle of the Woods,” you sing about “all these voices in my head.” What kind of things do your voices tell you?
Most any artist I know struggles with being in their own head at times. Living a creative life really requires you to dig deep into who you are as a person, create something from nothing, and then make sure that whatever you are putting forth artistically is as genuine as possible. I try to keep my ego at bay as much as possible and hear the advice of those around me, but ultimately rely on the still voice within my own heart to truly guide me.
- In the song “25 Trips,” among all the references to time is the line: “This is the best day of my life right now.” What has been the best day of your life so far?
I wrote this particular lyric in thinking about my wedding day, though the song in general references my 25th year — which felt like a year full of moments like that. I was feeling particularly busy around this time in my life and kept thinking, “I’ll never get this back! I need time to slow down just a little so I can be present and not miss the beauty of it all.”
- That song also talks about slowing down, or at least trying to. What do you do when you need to slow yourself down?
I usually like to find some quiet time to think, pray, journal, and write. Quiet time is hard to find in our busy world, but it’s really important to most of us, I think.
- “Poison” talks about a toxic person. I’m guessing you’re not going to tell us who it’s about. So in a more general sense, what traits do you find to be most poisonous, most harmful in people?
I think anytime we let pride, greediness, narcissism, or other things involving our own egos become the center of the many situations in life it’s poisonous. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
- “Waiting” is about something much deeper than just killing time, but when you do have time to kill, as so often happens on tour, what do you like to do while you wait?
When I don’t have any instrument in my hand on the road it’s usually because I’m traveling, flying, etc. I admittedly waste a lot of time being on my phone. I’ve been trying to spend more time reading. I love listening to podcasts and though I’m not much of TV person, a good Netflix show like The Great British Baking Show or Grace and Frankie can really be relaxing and a great way to take my mind off the work itself.
- “Envy” made me want to ask what makes you envious of others? What traits or things do you find yourself envying?
Envy isn’t something I struggle with all too often, but at times the feeling comes around and I always hate that. The lyric in the song says “don’t need compared today” — I think it’s easy sometimes for me to compare myself to those around me and feel like maybe I’m not measuring up at times. It’s a silly thought because we all have our own path and it’s important to remember that.
- In “Less,” you sing “Another day, another yes, another night without rest.” How do you balance your yeses and nos?
Whew! This is something I am always working on becoming better at. I’ve always been someone that wants to make everyone around me happy, and as a result it’s painful to say no sometimes. I’ve gotten much better at navigating those feelings the older I get and at understanding that saying no can be very important so that I can actually say yes to the people and things that I truly care most about.
- What’s the last book you read?
Educated by Tara Westover — great book!
- What TV shows are you into lately?
The Crown, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Grace and Frankie
- Would you describe yourself as an introvert or an extrovert?
I’m an extrovert who also really needs alone time after a while.
- What’s your favorite chord on the mandolin?
Impossible to really answer, but if I have to choose I’ll say G — the first chord I ever learned.
- If you could play any instrument (that you don’t already play) what would it be?
Piano. It’s a limitless instrument in so many ways.
- What’s the best thing a fan has ever said to you?
I’ve had fans who have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts tell me that my music has gotten them through some really tough times. It’s amazing to think that my songs and lyrics could have that kind of impact on someone’s life.
- What’s the worst thing a fan has ever said to you?
People say some crazy things. I must not log that negative stuff too deeply in my mind because I’m not sure what would take the cake here. Ha ha 🙂
- Who’s a musician you get starstruck around?
- Would you rather have perfect rhythm or perfect pitch?
It’d be sweet to have either, ha ha! But maybe a bit boring if you had perfect rhythm because I love when time can fluctuate within a piece of music and a band can rise and fall together. So I’ll say perfect pitch.
- What’s your guilty pleasure band/artist/album?
I LOVE Beyonce’s Lemonade album.
- What are you plans/hopes/goals for your next 25 trips around the sun?
Continue touring, making albums, collaborating with other artists, and personally I hope to have kids at some point in the future and explore what things will be like in that phase of life. I really look forward to what the next 25 years might bring. It’s a wild thought!