What: Melody Youngblood at Sisters Folk Festival

When: 1:15 p.m. Saturday

Where: Fir Street Park, 150 N. Fir St., Sisters

Cost: Free

Contact: sistersfolkfestival.com or 541-549-4979

Melody Youngblood was 16 when she moved from Oregon City to Sisters to participate in the high school’s Americana Project.

Youngblood, who started playing guitar at 12, heard about the Sisters Folk Festival-sponsored program, which offers classes at Sisters high and middle schools in songwriting, instrument building, recording technology and other music- and arts-related areas, while still in Oregon City.

“I saw it as the perfect opportunity to go and learn more about roots music and making a living out of it,” she said.

But unlike many students in the Americana Project, Youngblood was on her own when she attended. She lived out of her car “for the first seven or eight months,” she said, at first receiving financial support from her parents and then taking jobs at Black Butte Ranch and Angeline’s Bakery. Eventually, she moved in with bakery owner Angeline Rhett, and also lived with Rebecca Sokol, co-creator of house-concert venue The Barn.

“I’m a survivor of sexual abuse, and I had come out about it, and I felt like I needed to transition and go someplace else while my family wrapped their heads around it and went through their process,” Youngblood said from her parents’ home in Oregon City, where she was visiting before returning to the Sisters Folk Festival this weekend. “… I left because I knew that there was this project, and it was just calling me. It was like, this is where you’re supposed to be.”

Youngblood, who is based in Berea, Kentucky, will join current Americana Project students and alumni at Fir Street Park on Saturday. She will perform at 1:15 p.m. following a showcase for the current students; fellow alumni Michalis Patterson and Benji Nagel (with his band Watkins Glen) will play on the stage.

The festival provides this showcase for project alumni every year. Many alumni, including Youngblood, go on to do some sort of work in the music industry, said Sisters Folk Festival’s creative director Brad Tisdel, who founded the Americana Project in 2000.

“We have a bunch of young artists that are living in Nashville and writing; we have other artists that are at music schools,” Tisdel said. “There are other artists that are here locally, like Benji, who has become one of the go-to session players for a lot of people. It’s exciting to see where they’re happening.”

After her experience with the Americana Project, Youngblood said she considers Sisters to be her home.

“It was an adventure,” she said. “I spent a lot of time up the creek on Three Creeks Road, where I was inspired to write a lot of my music. I grew up on the river here in Oregon City, so I’ve always been really connected to the water, and it’s always been a space for me to be creative. So, Three Creeks really felt like home, so I would just pull my car up there and sleep up there a lot when I didn’t have a home. … I wrote a few of the songs that are on my debut album up that road.”

This year will mark Youngblood’s first Sisters Folk Festival performance since she graduated in 2010. She was invited to perform last year, but the festival was canceled for the first time in its history due to smoky conditions.

But Youngblood made good use of her time while in Sisters last year. Her debut album, “Sweet Isolation,” which she self-released in August, was recorded last summer at The Belfry, which Rhett also owns.

The album represents a culmination of her journey from Sisters to Kentucky. Following a six- or seven-month stint traveling and busking up and down the East Coast, Youngblood settled in Berea, home of her musical and romantic partner Mitch Barrett, whom she met at the Sisters Folk Festival’s Americana Song Academy songwriting camp. (The couple has a son, River, who travels with them.)

Youngblood has since immersed herself in the Appalachian music of her new home, studying banjo and traditional songs with scholar and musician Sue Massek through a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council. Inspired by the Americana Project, she has also worked with the council in the last few years to offer music workshops to young women and kids, she said.

“Storytelling is a huge thing there — good stories, bad stories, the ugly, the beautiful,” Youngblood said. “We’ve got some of the poorest counties in America there (Kentucky), and I’m surrounded by three of those counties. … But you see and you hear the stories that people tell and the songs that people — the torches they’re carrying of this old, traditional music is what got these people through, and they can tell the hell out of a story. They have this richness in their culture, and it’s what kept me there.”

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