Born in small town Charleston, West Virginia, singer-songwriter Sierra Ferrell learned early on she had a knack for putting into words and music the emotions people around her were feeling. This is how she began connecting with her friends and family from a young age. Now, she uses that same empathy and creativity to connect with fans and listeners around the world.
She has a love of the vagabond lifestyle, though now she resides in Nashville due to record label commitments. But before she settled down in Tennessee, she left her Appalachian home to travel across America and ended up on the west coast. Her travels by train and dilapidated van colored her work. Her songs embody the mountain range in the east near her childhood haunts and the ocean she fell in love with on the other side of the country.
Like any true troubadour, Sierra doesn’t allow herself to be tied down to one genre. From country and folk to the hard to master gypsy-jazz genre, she brings a unique Americana twist to any style she’s writing in. The multi-instrumentalist paired up with Grammy-winning producers and plenty of fellow alternative country rising stars for her major label album, Long Time Coming. Though the artist already boasts an impressive, imaginative body of work, her wild and free spirit and love of music mean she’s just getting started. Check out the songs that represent the magic and mystery that is country songbird, Sierra Ferrell, below.
14. The Sea
Singer-songwriter Sierra Ferrell is a rare bird. While many artists hop on tour buses and sleep in hotel rooms while on tour, the Appalachian songstress opted for a more authentic way of traveling in line with her downhome, folksy roots. She traveled by train, busked for pocket change, and ended up across the country in Washington, living out her days in a van while taking walks on the ocean nearby. That’s when she came up with the inspiration for the magical, enchanting track, ‘The Sea.’ Torn between two lovers at the time as well, the call of the ocean and the call of romance ebb and flow in her voice and rhythm. The song is folk-heavy, but a poignant gypsy-jazz influence in the way the instrumentation moves is also apparent. The king of gypsy-jazz himself, Django Reinhardt, can be heard in the depths of this dynamic tune.
13. West Virginia Waltz
Featured on her Long Time Coming album, ‘West Virginia Waltz’ is a polished old-timey country tune released after signing a three-album deal with Nashville-based Rounder Records. Raised in West Virginia, this nostalgic ballad takes place in “coal mining country,” a setting the troubadour is plenty familiar with. Her vocals take listeners back to the glory days of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, resurrecting a brand of country music listeners yearn for still today. The tune also features two Grammy award winning musicians with familial connections to the Mountain State. Both Tim O’Brien and Jerry Douglas play on this tribute to Ferrell’s beloved native home.
12. Hey Me, Hey Mama
While early country artists are often the influences associated with Sierra Ferrell, she took to Youtube to give thanks to one surprising influence when she released a stripped down, homespun cover of ‘Hey me, Hey mama.’ The work of singer-songwriter Ray Lamontagne played a big role in shaping the artist that Sienna is today. She not only loves his music, but loves his “soul.” ‘Hey me, Hey mama’ is an emotional, moving ballad about a man looking back on his childhood relationship with his mother. Autobiographical for Lamontagne, the conversational piece helped him heal some of his wounds from his difficult upbringing. Ferrell’s rendition is particularly haunting, especially due to her vibrato that hangs in the air throughout the track.
Recommended: Our pick of the finest Ray LaMontagne songs.
11. Bells of Every Chapel (Feat. Billy Strings)
Inspired by a line Queen Elizabeth II’s character said while watching the popular series, ‘The Crown,’ Ferrell immediately began writing ‘Bells in Every Chapel,’ and finished it up within a week. The bluegrass vibe made her call up her friend Billy Strings to come play on the track. The award-winning bluegrass guitarist provides plenty of mind-bending acoustic picking for this rollicking ditty.
10. Give It Time
Plenty of violin double-stops and sawing color this traditional country track. Ferrell’s vocals are on par with country’s greatest queens and her guitar skills mean she can hang with the likes of Billy Strings. She’s also a master at the fiddle. And ‘Give it Time’ is the perfect track for any fiddlin’ fan. A classic heartbreak song that finds the female protagonist missing her long lost beau, the tune soon turns into a song about resilience and perseverance as she learns that, in the words of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
9. Holy Roller (feat. Sierra Ferrell)
Sensual and romantic, this Sierra collaboration with alternative country singer-songwriter Zach Bryan adds another layer of depth to her artistic scope. ‘Holy Roller’ is a goosebump-giving song about finding redemption in the eyes of your soul mate. Written by Bryan for his self-titled major label album release with Warner Records, Ferrell’s angelic harmonies lift the song to an atmospheric realm, igniting hope within every listener who stumbles upon the track.
8. Whispering Waltz
Waltzes can feel particularly Appalachian, especially when the swaying rhythm is accompanied by minor chords. For Ferrell’s ‘Whispering Waltz,’ a critically acclaimed “standout” on her Long Time Coming album, minor chords give the track a haunting feel that sounds like it could emanate from the Appalachian hills or the deep hollers of Kentucky. Either way, there’s no mistake this devastatingly beautiful ballad is entrenched in southern roots. The tale told stems from a night when the protagonist is awoken by her lover talking in his sleep. His words whispered confirm her fears, he is seeing someone else. Of all her work thus far, this is the tune leaving critics saying she should be crowned the new queen of independent country.
7. Rain on My Mind (with Paul Cauthen and Diplo)
One of the more eclectic tracks Sierra appears on, ‘Rain on My Mind’ is a Diplo-produced tune featuring fellow singer Paul Cauthen. Both Cauthen and Ferrell provide vocals and harmonies while Diplo, an EDM and pop producer, takes the helm at production. It’s a boot-stomping anthem that invites you to join them deep “in the pines” in the heart of southern swampland.
6. Seven Spanish Angels
A country classic first made famous when Ray Charles and Willie Nelson sang it as a duet, Sierra adds a new rendition to the tune’s legacy with her soulful take on ‘Seven Spanish Angels.’ Written about an outlaw couple who meet their tragic fate at the hands of lawmen in Texas, Ferrell performed the ballad live at “Willie Nelson’s Luck Family Reunion” show and video of her cover went viral.
5. Ready or Not (feat. Sierra Ferrell)
A weekend, a wedding, and a funeral are all rolled into one big philosophical musing with bluesy artist Shakey Graves’ ‘Ready or Not’ featuring Sierra Ferrell. Learning how to embrace life’s unpredictable, surprising nature is at the heart of the groovy track. It’s another unique collaboration between Sierra and a fellow musician associated with genres other than her own. Her ability to fit right into the track shows how masterful she is across many stylings. Ferrell’s harmonies soar, and her acting skills in the official music video are spot on as well.
When John Anderson released his 2020 album Years produced by Black Keys band member Dan Auerbach, the title track was especially meaningful for the legendary country singer. A tune about appreciating what time you have left because of how quick it goes by, the subject matter came from one of Anderson’s most terrifying experiences yet after he was left with no voice and no hearing following a medical procedure. Doctors weren’t sure he’d ever get his abilities back. Anderson prayed for a miracle, and he got one. Days later, his hearing and voice began to return. Sierra adds a folksy, downhome take on the moving track. It appears on a tribute album to Anderson, Something Borrowed, Something New.
3. Silver Dollar
Rounded out by soaring fiddle and a banjo solo, the bluegrass-inspired ‘Silver Dollar’ gets back to Sierra’s roots. Drawing inspiration from her days of traveling across the country as a self-proclaimed “vagabond” before settling down in Nashville, the fun, thumping tune features a wild and free cowgirl roaming the honkytonk scene wanting to give her love away while not getting tied down to any one wrangler.
Released as her first single after signing with Nashville’s Rounder label, ‘Jeremiah’ is one of many tracks on her album Long Time Coming boasting star studded power. The song is another tried-and-true bluegrass number about heartbreak. This time, a woman is pining over the man she lost due to his roving eye. Appearing on the track is the talented, Grammy winning singer-songwriter Sarah Jaraosz, who provides backup vocals.
1. In Dreams
A yearning country tune with a traditional feel, ‘In Dreams’ is one of Ferrell’s standout tracks on her Long Time Coming album, and one of her fans’ favorite releases. Inspired by real life romances that left her both deeply in love and intensely heartbroken, the songstress weaves plenty of philosophical undertones throughout the theme focused on love and relationships. The question of the purpose of life and what we’re supposed to do with it while we have it was on Sierra’s mind throughout the entire production of the record. With an old western vibe and plenty of falsetto to leave you feeling pleasantly haunted, the Appalachian singer-songwriter continues her quest for an answer with this country ditty.