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How Sarah Jane Scouten’s studies in herbalism helped her create a new album

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Singer-songwriter Sarah Jane Scouten feels it’s important to stay healthy while on tour. To that end, she travels with teas, tinctures and salves for herself and her band members. A few years ago, she took the extra step to become a certified herbalist.

“I’ve been interested in herbal medicine for a really long time,” she said. “But I never had time to study it formally.”

In May of 2020, Sarah looked on the website of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and found there was a training program. Being somewhat impulsive, she applied and was accepted for the four-year program, which she completed this past June. And she did all this while living in Moniaive, Scotland.

“I’m married to a fellow who’s half Belgian and half British, so we had to find somewhere to live while we waited for his permanent Canadian residency to come through. We decided on this cute little village I had played in a few times. We packed up everything, drove to Moniaive, and showed up one day.”

As Sarah lived her life in southwest Scotland and continued her studies, music took a backseat and became her creative outlet like it used to be.

“Over the years, music wasn’t something I did for fun anymore,” she said. “Even though I would have fun on stage and in recording, I wouldn’t turn to it in order to relax. It always felt like work.”

Once music became her respite from studies Sarah re-discovered her connection to music, the results of which can be found on her new album, Turned To Gold.

“Around Christmas of 2021, we came out to British Columbia to see my family for the first time in two and a half years. As soon as we landed, we heard the first whispers of Omicron, so we didn’t get the family Christmas we were hoping for.”

Sarah and her husband found an Airbnb to stay in, and she promptly wrote about half the album in four days. Turned To Gold was recorded in Vancouver and produced by Johnny Payne, a founding member of The Shilohs. Once the album was done, it was back to Moniaive, a village that doesn’t care how famous some residents may be. What’s important is how can you contribute to life there.

“Last year, we had one of the worst floods in 90 years,” she said. “Several feet of water was running down the high street, and it all ran into the pub. Once the water subsided, we had 30 people sweeping water out the door, two of whom happened to be very well-known rock stars. But they’re just our neighbours. They pull together just like every other community member.”

With a new album in her hands and an herbalist “shingle” on her door, Sarah is ready for the touring cycle and the herbalist practice to kick in.

“I got out of herb school like a bat out of hell to go on tour. I’ll be doing that until Christmas,” she said. “I’m what’s called a medical herbalist. It isn’t waving daisies around. It’s a holistic healthcare practice. You have to take on a lot of responsibility because people trust you with their health.”

At this year’s Folk Music Ontario conference Sarah showcased the documentary Wanderlust, which illuminates her life in Moniaive.

For more on Sarah Jane Scouten and Turned To Gold, go to sarahjanescouten.com.

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