Key to the Highway: Sarah Shook & the Disarmers

Interviews Key to the Highway Series

Americana Highways’ Key to the Highway series   Photo by Melissa Payne

Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Sarah Shook & the Disarmers.

How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?

Sarah Shook (SS): Black.

Eric Peterson (EP): Immediately, piping hot, with half & half.

Kevin McClain (KM): Water or Kombucha.

Aaron Oliva (AO): I drink tea, Red Rose brand. Straight up, so brown?

Phil Sullivan (PS): Genetically enhanced coffee beans, crushed by a child’s hands, with a few drops of milk from a cow with clinical depression.

What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road?)

SS: The Raritan in New Jersey hands down. At least half the hotel is closed and “off limits” to guests, there are 24/7 guards in the security room, hordes of feral cats terrorize the grounds, it’s somethin’ else. Portal to another dimension, quantum travel, illegal organ harvesting operation, your guess is as good as mine.

EP: The Raritan in NJ. Fountains, statuary, and feral cats. It’s a gigantic, ornate, mostly vacant complex always in a state of construction or (dis)repair, and they don’t have coffee.

KM: The 5th season in Amarillo, Tx.

AO: Six of us slept in the living/dining room of two young musicians apt in Birmingham once. There were a lot of bodies in that room. Not sure how we even did it now.

PS: Trump Tower. The guests next door were up late drinking vodka and listening to Yakov Smirnoff tapes.

If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?

SS: Best Of The Kinks. Because that’s the one band every one of us loves and can agree on haha.

EP: Sweet sweet silence.

KM: A blank cd

AO: Pink Floyd – Obscured By Clouds. Just cause it always works

PS: Kites Are Fun by The Free Design. Because they are.

What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?

SS: My headphones. The instantly put me in my own little world and I can focus on my own thoughts.

EP: Little folding travel scissors. Super useful.

KM: A bicycle

AO: Toothbrush-for obvious reasons

PS: Cyanide capsule.

What is your relationship with food? How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?

SS: I’ve been vegan for five years. Couple years back Yeti sent us a cooler for the van and that’s helped a ton. Try to keep it pretty well stocked with fresh veggies, Tofurkey, etc., but yeah. Sometimes even that is too much work and ya wind up livin’ on gas station snacks and whatever the venue feeds you. Been a big Chipotle fan ever since they started offering vegan sofritas omg. Best vegan fast food I’ve had.

EP: Food, like sleep, is a nuisance on the road. Unfortunately, I have to have it. If I could find a regular supply of Soylent (a meal replacement drink), I would just drink that and eat hot peppers for fun.

KM: Wawa is Mecca.

AO: I love food!! We have great relationship. Everything except Cantaloupe and Honey Dew. Ew! Favorite place to eat on the road is Gene and Jude’s Hotdogs in the Chicago area. 2 dogs all the way. Mmmmm

PS: I depend on food for sustenance. My favorite restaurant is ExxonMobil. I usually order the chips in a bag with a side of protein bar.

If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?

SS: New Mexico. The desert is always callin’.

EP: Australia because it’s sunny and warm, and it’s close to Antarctica where I would like to go someday.

KM: Parts of Canada. Any province, really.

AO: Spain! Loved it there. People there really have fun and enjoy life it seems

PS: The Netherlands. The people there make me feel short and I could use the ego check.

What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?

SS: Always bring a bathing suit.

EP: Don’t order the seafood in Nebraska.

KM: After 10 years, literally nothing. Someone should be telling people that you need to exercise though

AO: My dad told me once “never take beer and pizza as payment for playing.” Pretty solid advice

PS: Don’t take things too seriously.

Find all things Sarah Shook, here:

See other Key to the Highway interviews here: (click here for: Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hyatt ) Sign up for our weekly newsletter here for your Friday reminder for this series and more: