By Katrina Leibee, Westword | When she was a middle-schooler in Arkansas, Sarah Slaton would stay up all night downloading music, then burn mix CDs to hand out to her friends. “For me, listening to music was so cathartic,” she recalls.
At seventeen, she dug out her sister’s guitar from the back of a closet and taught herself how to play. In the years that followed, she performed a few gigs and dropped a couple of songs on MySpace, but she was just getting her feet wet.
In 2004, Slaton went to Missouri State University, where she learned about the music industry and earned a degree in entertainment studies. She landed a marketing internship with Live Nation in Denver, and so packed up and moved here, hoping the city would offer even more opportunities. Later, she worked as a talent buyer at Casselman’s and the Vinefield Agency, and eventually became a production assistant, doing stints with Live Nation and AEG.
In 2014, she formed the folk trio Edison; by 2016, the band was signed to Rhyme & Reason Records and touring in a rig the members named “Trailer Swift.” Edison became a staple in the Denver music scene, and Slaton and her bandmates played more than 400 shows. They performed at Treefort and South by Southwest, toured with Iron & Wine and Jared & the Mill, and opened for such local stars as Nathaniel Rateliff and Gregory Alan Isakov and touring acts like Andrew McMahon and Shakey Graves, driving more than 200,000 miles along the way.
When both of her bandmates moved out of Colorado, Slaton started writing music independently again, and has since made a name for herself as a singer-songwriter.
The song “Time to Go,” about the band’s end, has been used to promote the Save Our Stages Act, a piece of federal legislation championed by the National Independent Venue Association that would send economic relief to independent venues, movie theaters and other live-entertainment businesses. The accompanying music video, released in October, documents Edison’s time touring at independent venues around the country.
For Slaton, the independent venues that are now at risk of closing played a huge role in starting her music career. One of the last shows she played before COVID-19 closures was at Hodi’s Half Note in Fort Collins, which shut down permanently in July. It’s one of many Front Range music venues that have not survived the pandemic, including 3 Kings Tavern, El Chapultepec, Live @ Jack’s, La Cour and others.
Right now Slaton is doing everything in her power to help save the remaining venues, many of which are on the brink of closure. She’s been filming a documentary with the Armory Denver about how the pandemic has impacted musicians, venues and everybody involved in the music world. The film, whose working title is When the Music Stops, will be released in early 2021.
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