Lebanon artist Sarah Mahoney leaves timidity behind in multiple genres

Sarah Mahoney’s musical education started with violin lessons early in her elementary school years.

Since then, the 22-year-old has progressed to guitar and ukulele and singing.  Her other interest is hula hooping – with  LED  and fire hoops.

“And I just got a trumpet for Christmas but I haven’t been practicing that,” she said. “But that’s my next one.”

She sang for the first time in a public setting at an open mic night at Barsideous Brewing last month, silencing the typical chit-chat of the crowd with her clear, powerful voice. That encouraged her to perform again.

For someone who didn’t like attention, she’s come a long way.

Her mother Laura Mahoney said “she was always kind of um…”

“Super shy!” Sarah piped in. “Terrified to get up in front of people.”

But she would play anyway, Laura said.

During the early years of music lessons Sarah would practice and play with a group of other students.

“They’d go into a room and play in front of all these people,” Laura said. “It would surprise me but she wouldn’t have a meltdown or walk away or anything. She would just do it.”

Sarah said the fear is still there, but she works past it.

“I get super scared up until it’s in the moment and then I’m OK,” she said. “There is no more anticipation. It’s happening right now.”

She’s set to perform with a friend under the band name The Birds and the Bears on March 3 at Barsideous, at 644 S Main St. in  Lebanon.

Though Sarah was homeschooled from third grade through high school, she participated in sports and choir at Lebanon High School.

She was on the tennis team and a friend encouraged her to join choir.

“Because I was homeschooled, I wanted to get out more, so I finally auditioned and did it,” Sarah said. “It was super awesome. Mr. (Kevin) Wong was awesome. I haven’t talked to him since (her younger sister) Mary was still going to the choir in high school. I would pop in sometimes and say ‘hello.’”

Music is part of the Mahoney family; guitars stand ready in their living room next to the sofa.

Sarah’s parents, Laura and Brian, and her older brother Michael play the guitar. Her sister Mary plays the ukulele.

“They just pick up their guitars and start jamming,” Laura said.

Sarah and Mary play and harmonize, taking advantage of the acoustics in a recently remodeled bathroom.

“It’s our family tradition to go into the bathroom, close the door and make song,” Sarah said. “We just cover songs and harmonize and stuff.”

This year they performed “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.”

“I had my guitar and Mary had her ukulele and I picked along and she strummed and we harmonized,” Sarah said. “It’s a fun one to do on Christmas.”

Days N’ Daze, Sarah Bareilles and the Cranberries are among Sarah’s musical influences and she enjoys folk punk and The Grateful Dead.

“The first song that I wrote, that I would play for people, I was 17 when I wrote it,” Sarah said. “I’ve written every so often since then.”

Her mother said she’s always been a good writer.

“One song is about embracing the beauty of life and getting through hard times,” Sarah said. “Another song is more political, talking about how you shouldn’t just be a zombie for society and waste away your life for something you’re not really passionate about.”

She wrote another about moving forward through hard times and “having good people around to help you.”

Her most recent song is about a break-up.

“(It’s about) loving a drug addict and blaming yourself for their addiction and not being able to fix it and where that takes you,” Sarah said. “This whole past thing with the boyfriend thing has inspired a lot in me. I’ve been wanting to write more songs about just embracing life and being independent and powerful. Rising above.”

When she wasn’t singing during the open mic last month, Sarah danced with her LED hoop while other musicians played.

She’s been hooping since April of 2013, inspired by an artist named Ellie Paisley.

“She posted a video of herself hooping and I was like ‘What is this? This looks like so much fun,’” Sarah said.

Sarah found a whole community on Facebook of people who hoop.

“I got my hoop and started watching videos and learning, teaching myself,” Sarah said. “There are people who just do it for fun. It’s just a healthy way to focus your energy. Or people do it for performing, for shows.”

While she does it for fun, Sarah said she would like to hoop to entertain people at events, possibly even travel with a fire troop.

She said she has met people who travel and perform, but she yet hasn’t made any moves to participate in that herself.

“The open mic was the first time playing for people in a setting like that,” Sarah said. “It was so much fun I want to do it more. Realizing I can get up in front of people and do that makes me feel more confident.”