Cult American singer-songwriter Sarabeth Tucek returns as SBT as she tours UK with her first album in 11 years, Joan of All

Sarabeth Tucek, aka SBT. Picture by Paula BullwinkelSarabeth Tucek, aka SBT. Picture by Paula Bullwinkel
Sarabeth Tucek, aka SBT. Picture by Paula Bullwinkel

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​Back in 2011 singer-songwriter Sarabeth Tucek released her second album – Get Well Soon – an acclaimed voyage through grief that featured in numerous end of year lists.

​It turned out to be her last musical output – until the welcome appearance of Joan of All in May this year. She now performs as SBT and released the album through her own label Ocean Omen.

Based in Los Angeles, she is currently on her second UK tour this year.

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The Guide caught up with her at home via Zoom ahead of the tour. It turns out the extended break was a result of several factors – reflecting the life of an independent artist in the US.

The cover of Joan of All, by SBT, aka Sarabeth TucekThe cover of Joan of All, by SBT, aka Sarabeth Tucek
The cover of Joan of All, by SBT, aka Sarabeth Tucek

“I started playing music later in life,” explains Sarabeth “and so by the time I finished with Get Well Soon I was at a point in life where I was starting to worry about certain adult issues – like healthcare and things like that.

“I tried to come up with a career path I could have alongside music, so I had to cultivate that for a while.” She is now also a costume designer for TV and film. “And I was at an age where I was thinking about whether I was going to have a child, so I went through that whole thing.”

She also admits that she is “not the most prolific writer.”

"I only write when I absolutely have to. I wish I was more disciplined in that area! But I'm kind of glad, because if I hadn't waited I wouldn't have come out with this record, and this record is my favourite by far.”

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Sarabeth elaborates, saying she is “always writing”, just not songwriting.

“I have many, many notebooks, and I use notes on my phone, but taking the writing and then going into a room with my guitar is a whole other thing. Some people have that discipline where they can go and sit every day and do it.

"Making it into a song, it's something else, and I don't know why I don't do it more because it's actually something that I love to do. But sometimes people have a hard time doing things that they know make them happy,” she laughs. “That's a psychological quirk, I guess… But sometimes when you don't think that you're working, you actually are. When you write your subconscious is always turning and churning and processing information and doing something with it that you don't even realise. Then when you finally get into the room, there was work being done, possibly without you knowing.”

Get Well Soon was written in the wake of her father’s death. Had performing such intensely personal material regularly while on tour factored into her decision to step away from music for a while, at least at first?

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“By the time I had finished recording Get Well Soon and touring it, I had pretty much come to a peaceful place – as much as one does with grief.

"I really wonder if other women who are struggling artists – that whole thing of whether to have a child when you're still struggling. Women only have a finite amount of time, so it gets to a point where you really have to hunker down and think about, and that's primarily what I was trying to figure out.

“It’s this artistic vs domestic life – how the two things square with each other. It was like a really big moment in time where I had a lot to figure out how I was going to go forward.”

And then in a cruel twist, she had a miscarriage.

“Many, many women have miscarriages, but because of where I was I knew I only had so much time, and that set me on this fertility path after the miscarriage. It's all consuming – I don't know what it's like there (in the UK), but it's incredibly costly here – it’s a full time job trying to go down that route. I did that for a few years and I ended up...” she falters. “It just didn't work out. So then I had to make peace with that, and now I spend a lot of time with my friends' children. I'm the auntie now!”

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When asked if she’s okay talking publicly about such an intensely personal experience, Sarabeth says: “I wanted to talk about it, and this record does contain some of that story in it. I think it's good to talk about it – it's a very lonely place for a woman, and it's nice if you can connect to other people and talk about it.

“Talking about anything painful is good, because there'll always be someone else that had that too.”

Since Get Well Soon’s release, the music business has changed enormously. Rather than try to land a deal with a label, Sarabeth decided to go it alone.

"I didn't want to go through all that again with the business side of it. I found it all disappointing and little bit heartbreaking – establishing relationships with people and then seeing those relationships deteriorate either over money or because you're not making enough money or whatever. It's ultimately distasteful to me.

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"I didn't want anything bad associated with this record – I just wanted to be fully in control and protect it and shield it as much as I could.”

She is, of course, aware that without a label behind her it could be harder for her music to reach an audience.

“Even if that meant not getting as much exposure because I don't have the machine behind me, I thought, well, that's okay. At this point I'm not making music to be famous, or to be wealthy or any of those things. That is not my trajectory.

"I just do it because it brings me some peace and hopefully there are some people I have connections with, and the music connects with them. I just thought I'd try to get it out there as best I can and manage it all myself. That is a big task, I have to say, and it is different not having those people helping you, but it's okay. I think ultimately your record, your work, it finds the people it's meant to find, regardless of who's behind it, pushing it forward.”

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With its cover portraying Sarabeth partially clad in armour, Joan of All is an obvious play on Joan of Arc, but also a subject much closer to home.

“Joan is my mother's name. She was a single mum and she raised us. We're very close to her, and she is an endlessly fascinating person to me. But I also almost called the record The Middle Ages, and then I was thinking of Joan of Arc, and you're in this country with so much weird stuff going on in our political life – with women particularly and reversing Roe v Wade,” last year the American Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 ruling enshrining women’s right to abortion, “and all those things happening right when I was coming up with the title. So I was trying to get a bit of a ‘lady thing’ in there to represent. And then I'm always thinking about my mother and then middle ages made me think of medieval times, which is why there's that motif of armour on there.”

At 15 tracks and 72 minutes, Joan of All is considerably longer than Sarabeth’s previous albums. Was this a conscious decision?

“Once I went into the room with my guitar a lot of things came very easily. It just got longer and longer, and then the songs got longer – usually my songs are pretty short! It all just happened quite naturally, then I looked at it and tried to figure it out, what it was about and what it was telling me.”

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With the album finished, Sarabeth wasn’t sure if she would return to live performance – but her distributor put her in touch with a booking agent, Reuben at Outsider Artists.

”He wanted to take me on and booked me almost a month-long tour, which I did in May-June. It all came together very quickly and he just sort of presented it to me: ‘Here's 18 shows’. I thought it would be much more difficult for me to get any shows because it's been so long, but people were receptive.’

However, Sarabeth got “one of the worst sicknesses I've had”, as did the drummer and bassist, forcing them to cancel several dates.

“Even though that happened, it was great. I enjoyed playing live more this time than I ever had before, which must have something to do with age and being more confident – I really liked it!”

SBT play Komedia, Brighton on September 5 and The Railway Inn, Winchester the following night. Go to or

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