Sierra Ferrell’s Voice from the Mountain

The West Virginia native is Americana’s next big star

A woman, wearing a fuzzy hat and a green feathery robe, holds a guitar on a wood porch


Sierra Ferrell enjoying some porch time. Her new album, Trail of Flowers, is out this spring.

It’s another stormy day in Nashville, a city that’s seen its fair share of turbulent weather over the past few years. Last December, another brigade of tornadoes raked Middle Tennessee, including one Sierra Ferrell says almost hit her house. She has a unique way of coping: “I call it tomato weather.” Come again? “Tomato weather. It just sounds better than tornado weather.” She’s not wrong.

Stay in Touch with G&G
Get our weekly Talk of the South newsletter.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Tornadoes haven’t been the only whirlwind in Ferrell’s life. Since the release of her Rounder Records debut, Long Time Coming, in 2021, the Charleston, West Virginia, native has become one of Music City’s most buzzed-about artists. She was nominated for Artist of the Year at last fall’s Americana Music Awards, has opened for Dave Matthews Band, and recorded a duet, “Holy Roller,” with breakout country superstar Zach Bryan, whom she will join on the road for Bryan’s stadium tour this summer.

Out this spring, Ferrell’s anticipated new album, Trail of Flowers, finds the thirty-five-year-old multi-hyphenate (along with singing and songwriting, she’s fluent in the fiddle and guitar) veering between ragtime, jazz, folk balladry, country rock, and bluegrass, all behind her seasoned, singular voice, which sounds like something that would come out of a 1920s phonograph. “American Dreaming” is a sweeping epic, with Ferrell’s delicate vocals giving way to a mellow groove that builds to a soaring peak. “Dollar Bill Bar” offers an enchanting dabble in Beatles rainbow pop that Ferrell executes flawlessly, and she embraces her love of old-time music with a cover of Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith’s “Chittlin’ Cookin’ Time in Cheatham County,” featuring Chris Scruggs (Earl’s grandson) on guitar and lap steel.

“Sierra’s voice is so beautiful, so technically and soulfully special, that it seems to be a fully formed thing without any tinkering,” says Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers, for whom Ferrell has opened. “There’s such an obvious comparison between her and where she’s from: the grit and blue-collar, but also this heavenly beauty.”

A sense of sadness and nostalgia infusesTrail of Flowers, intertwining on the album’s first single, “Fox Hunt,” a ghostly holler stomper that hearkens back to a simpler way of life. “It’s about doing something as raw as going out in the woods and hunting for yourself, for people you love,” Ferrell says as her teacup Yorkie, Mr. Baker, barks in the background. “It’s got that old-time feel, which I always love because it was people just gathering and playing songs that are hundreds of years old.”

Ferrell surfing the crowd during a show in Fort Lauderdale in 2023.

Ferrell went through a difficult upbringing in Charleston, raised by a single mother struggling with poverty. She frequently found solace in music, whether singing karaoke to Shania Twain, playing clarinet in her high school band, or singing gospel songs as she learned to play guitar. In her early twenties, she split West Virginia, riding trains and busking around the country before landing in New Orleans, where she played on the streets in various combinations, including with an all-female ragtime group called Ladies on the Rag.

Tired of street singing’s volatile nature and worried about paying bills, Ferrell headed to Nashville around 2014. She self-released two albums and played constantly, catching the attention of Rounder Records. Onstage, she’s established herself as one of Americana’s great performers. At her 2022 New Year’s Eve extravaganza in Nashville, she wore a rhinestone-studded Manuel suit and dramatic makeup while dangling over the crowd, joined by a sword swallower, lassoing experts, aerialists, and magicians.

It was a campy thrill, and while Ferrell has indulged her love of theatrics, she’s also spoken openly about her struggles with depression, canceling a string of shows last year to focus on her mental health. “I’ve always been a super dramatic person,” she says. “But I’m finding that playing the characters onstage is a safe space for me to just lean in to and try to forget about the casualties of the world.”

An admitted worrier, Ferrell recognizes that many of her songs have a melancholy streak (“I’m trying to write happy songs”), and though she loves playing, she’s wary about the trappings of fame. “Some people take pictures of me, and I look nice, but they don’t know I’ve cried three times that day.” Once again, music will serve as therapy. She plans on keeping the costumes and makeup for her upcoming headlining shows, and she hopes to play mini sets of old-time and traditional songs with her band gathered around a single microphone. “I know that I have an effect on people, and I’m a healer in a sense,” she says. “By helping [my fans] heal and live, I’m also healing myself.”