Raised in a liberal Mennonite community in Indiana, Sadie Gustafson-Zook grew up playing music and attending quilt auctions with her folk musician parents. Life in a small town where her mother was a pastor was comfortable and straightforward, and she always felt supported in her music-making. On her new album “Sin of Certainty,” Gustafson-Zook explores the process of questioning all that she had taken for granted, through finding a new community in the roots scene of Boston, studying jazz, and coming out as gay.
Gustafson-Zook took a winding path of musical influence which is evidenced by the myriad of stylistic references in her work. Growing up, she sang hymns in church, played fiddle for square dances, and simultaneously played in the school orchestras and choirs. At Goshen College, a Mennonite school in her hometown, she studied classical voice, and was thrown headfirst into the world of opera when she was cast in the lead role for The Marriage of Figaro as a freshman. But as much as she loved classical music, Gustafson-Zook dreamed of being part of Boston’s thriving roots scene, where many of her favorite bands were based.
Leaving home and it's’ warm cocoon of support, Gustafson-Zook moved to Boston and found a place studying jazz voice at the Longy School of Music at Bard College. At the famed “Brighton House”, a shared rental known for its rotating cast of wildly talented roots musician tenants, Gustafson-Zook found new community, and penned many of the songs that would end up on her album “Sin of Certainty.” “Back when I was at Goshen, I took a class about conflict and violence, in which we discussed ‘the grace of uncertainty’, to quote from my teacher Carolyn Schrock-Shenk ‘one of the first casualties of escalated conflict is uncertainty—meaning that as the tension rises, people tend to become more certain that their particular view of truth is the right one.’” Gustafson-Zook explains. “Years later, I was thinking about these songs, and how I say the phrase ‘I don’t know’ in so many of them, I realized how much that idea had stuck with me. As I have been stumbling my way through my ‘20s, the idea of the grace of uncertainty has emerged as somewhat of a mantra to me. Not only in an academic discourse sense, but in a personal self-realization sense; holding my own truth lightly enough that I can consider other truths for myself as my life winds in different directions. The flip of the phrase into the ‘Sin of Certainty’ speaks to certainty’s underside, which comes out with a vengeance. So far, my ‘20s have been more ‘Sin of Certainty’ than ‘Grace of Uncertainty’. Hopefully, as I age, I can become more graceful and less certain.”