My Firsts: Tomberlin

Sarah Beth Tomberlin on Her First Job, First Car, Early Celebrity Crushes, First Concert, and the First Time She Got Drunk

Aug 10, 2018 Web Exclusive
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My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to Tomberlin (aka Sarah Beth Tomberlin).

Tomberlin's debut album, At Weddings, came out today via Saddle Creek. She was born in Jacksonville, Florida, but is now based in Louisville, Kentucky. Tomerlin grew up in a very religious household, the daughter of a Baptist pastor, and was homeschooled until the age of 16, after which she went to college at a private Christian school she only half-jokingly describes in a press release as a "cult." At 17 she dropped out of school, returned home, and started to question her faith and her place in the world. It was around this time she began writing the songs that would end up on At Weddings.

"I was working, going to school, and experiencing heavy isolation," Tomberlin says of the period in a press release. "It felt monotonous, like endless nothingness. It was a means to get through to the next step of life."

By the time she was 20 she had written enough songs for an album. The press release says At Weddings "documents the unlearning of her childhood faith" but was still heavily influenced by church music and hymns. 

As Tomberlin explains in the press release: "A lot of hymns talk about really crazy stuff - being saved from the depths and the mire, judgment. When you actually realize what you're singing, it becomes really overwhelming. I grew up singing in church. I was still helping to lead worship when I started coming to terms with the realization that I didn't know if I believed. I felt nauseous and shaky reading these words I was singing and feeling their intensity. If I did believe this, how could I sing these words without being scared out of my mind? That's what's influenced how I write."

Read on as Tomberlin talks about her first job, first car, early celebrity crushes, first concert, and the first time she got drunk (on her 21st birthday).

First job you had?

I was either 12 or 13 when I walked into the local newspaper in town and asked if they had any jobs. You would go in two days a week, help compile the papers, roll and rap them, and then run your route. My mom would pick me up after I finished rolling the papers and she would drop me off at the end of each street and I would run the route so I could get the paper on people's porches. People liked me cause they never had to look for their paper, haha. I kept the route till I went to college when I was 16. The pay was garbage, like $20-$30 a week at the most I think but at Christmas you got tips from your patrons, that is how I bought my first nice camera and my first 120gb classic iPod. 

First actor or actress you had a crush on?

Harrison Ford and Natalie Portman (was very into Star Wars).

First car you owned?

My first car was actually my dream car. A 1997 Volvo 960 Wagon. I'm not kidding, I always loved those cars. A very kind family gave it to me for free. They were moving back to Texas and could have sold it, but they just gifted it to me and told me to remember to pass kindness along. I drove it till the engine died on me. I cried when I had to get rid of it. 

First email address? 

(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (sbt 4 god) lol rip etc.

First instrument?

I took piano lessons as a kid for a bit, but I have always played by ear so lessons were a little challenging for me. I would ignore the sheet music and play things by ear; my teacher Mrs. Irma, could never tell if I was actually reading the sheet music. When we had theory lessons it was very obvious that I wasn't reading the music. Sorry Mrs. Irma, you were great and patient. 

First recording device?

I would steal my dad's voice recorder and record not only my own songs, but certain songs I'd hear on the radio I'd look up on YouTube. I would hold the mic by the computer speakers and record songs to listen over and over again. 

First record your parents played for you?

I think the first record my parents actively were excited to show my sisters and I was, The Carpenters' The Essential Collection 1965-1997. I'd never heard a voice like Karen's and I tried to sing like her, but no one can, let's be real. 

First pet?

A pug named Puggy. He was the best dog. Someone in the church my dad pastored in Kentucky accidentally ran over him. My whole family and I cried about it for weeks. RIP Puggy. 

First TV show you were obsessed with?

I really, really liked Skins. A British teen drama series about these super dysfunctional teens and their lives. It was very raunchy stuff, but also portrayed teenagers in a way that I hadn't seen before. The show dealt with untouched topics for shows geared towards teens. Someone uploaded the first couple seasons on YouTube and that's how I started watching it. 

First concert you went to?

The first concert that I went to (besides the many Christian concerts I went to as a kid) was Arcade Fire and The National. My mom and sister went with me for my 16th b-day. It was in Saint Louis and it was one of the best nights. We thought we had GA tickets, but we had seats on the lower part of this stadium. I saw some seats closer to the floor and climbed down to them. I ended up sitting by Will Butler's father in law's family and they were super sweet. They found out it was for my b-day and I ended up meeting Will Butler and his wife. Will took a piece of paper I had and got some of the band's signatures. It said "happy b-day from the Arcade Fire" and it made my night. I still have it.

First time you got drunk?

The night before my 21st b-day. My sister and her boyfriend had brought me some fancy beer and wine from Chicago. More than anything I just had major hiccups. The next day my fam and I went to STL for my birthday. We all went to IKEA for the first time ever. Being in IKEA for the first time while also being hungover for the first time is a somewhat terrifying experience. Hangover maze. 

First book you read outside of school assignments?

I read a ton growing up so it is hard to accurately answer this but some favorites outside of school reading would be: Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest by Nancy Springer. It is a small series about Robin Hood's daughter. Her mother was a healer and she's never met her dad, but her mother dies and she sets out to find Robin Hood. It's a children's series, but honestly they are really good books and now I want to re-read them. Aside from that: the Harry Potter series and A Series of Unfortunate Events

www.tomberlinmusic.com

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Lisa Brown
August 14th 2018
2:48am

Thank you for giving this information.

Scarlet Klark
August 14th 2018
7:46am

Academic writing is clear, concise, focussed, structured and backed up by evidence. Its purpose is to aid the reader’s understanding.
It has a formal tone and style, but it is not complex and does not require the use of long sentences and complicated vocabulary.
Each subject discipline will have certain writing conventions, vocabulary and types of discourse that you will become familiar with over the course of your degree. However, there are some general characteristics of academic writing that are relevant across all disciplines.
Read more about academic writing at
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Mark
August 14th 2018
10:09am

Interesting musician. Thank you for this interview.