The airy guitar opening of “Stranger,” the latest from Spokane artist Sedona, is briefly reminiscent of the adroit softness of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” but soon drives into something wired with dynamic energy.
That energy comes as much from Sedona Ensminger’s vocals as it does from her composition. Her voice is volatile and clear, while the drums and guitar push the track’s snappy tempo and tone. Underscoring all this are lyrics about unrequited attraction.
“I couldn’t write a song to save my life at the beginning of the pandemic. I just wasn’t inspired. So, I downloaded Tinder, and I’m like, ‘OK, let’s, let’s get some inspiration going,’ ” Ensminger said, laughing. The curious approach paid off, and “Stranger” was the result, an upbeat take marking the 22-year-old’s eighth single release.
Ensminger, whose stage name is her first name, Sedona, started writing songs in her mid-teens after a sledding accident disrupted her athletic career. “I decided to teach myself how to play guitar and piano, which quickly led into me writing about boys or breakups or whatever.”
She moved from teenager strumming chords on the edge of her bed to recording artist with help from a surprising place: Train frontman Pat Monahan. “I was first a really big Train fan. I would go to a lot of concerts, and I was that fan girl on Twitter and all that.”
“(My parents and I) went backstage, and we met (Monahan), and we hit it off. He had no idea I was singing. But one day, he saw on Instagram one of my original songs, and he messaged me, ‘Like what the hell? You didn’t tell me that you are singing!’ And he said, ‘You need to pursue it, dude. Like, you sound so good for your age.’ ”
She hasn’t looked back since. With Monahan as a mentor, she started to take music more seriously. “I just thought it was kind of fun,” before Monahan’s encouragement. “I was playing for my parents or just writing down my thoughts. But he convinced me to start writing, and that led into recording.”
That relationship has also led to several onstage appearances alongside Monahan and the rest of Train, including at Northern Quest Resort & Casino. As much as Monahan has been central to her career, pushing her songwriting and giving her the opportunities to impress, it’s the music itself that keeps Ensminger passionately involved.
Music is an outlet for her emotionally and otherwise, helping her to grow. “Because of music, I have kind of grown out of my shell. It’s easier to meet people to talk to people, it’s easier to be more personable,” she said.
Her songwriting reflects that development toward personability. What began with slower works, breakups and sad songs has developed into a more diverse and nuanced sound. “I’m a happier person now,” Ensminger said.
“I write more upbeat songs and try to incorporate more instruments and sounds because I think that’s just a reflection of who I want to be. I don’t want to be just that sad person singing sad heartbreak songs. I want to be, you know, more.”
Ensminger’s music draws on elements of folk, rock and pop and ends in something chart-ready and appealing. She has picked up steam on online streaming in the past few years, largely as a result of her hard work pitching her music to tastemakers. She has something of a following now, which brings new meaning to the work.
“Just knowing that people are listening to me, it’s a little daunting. But it’s also really amazing because I write music in hopes that people can relate to it and can relate to how I’m feeling or my experiences.”
Through her accessible songwriting, clear and controlled vocals, and her willingness to put in the hours of work necessary, the future is exciting for Sedona. It’s odd to think about because sharing the stage with a band as big as Train would be a reasonable definition of success for a musical artist, but for Sedona that was only the beginning.
Julien A. Luebbers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.