If You Go
Mandolin Orange plays at Pickathon from 10:15-11:10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, Starlight Stage; and 8:50-9:50 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, Mount Hood Stage.
Pickathon takes place Thursday, Aug. 1, to Sunday, Aug. 4, at Pendarvis Farm, 16581 S.E. Hagen Road in Happy Valley. Tickets: $325, weekend adult; $165 teen; free for children 12 and younger; day tickets $130 Friday and Sunday, and $160, Saturday. Info: www.pickathon.com.
In these days of myriad and mixed genres, independent record labels and the mass popularity of digital streaming, "making it big" is a rather nebulous concept.
Mandolin Orange, a Chapel Hill, North Carolina, based duo comprising singers and multi-instrumentalists Andrew Marlin and Emily Franz, have built a loyal and growing following doing it their way: touring as a mainstay on the festival circuit and releasing six acclaimed albums of original music beginning with "Quiet Little Room" in 2010. Their latest, "Tides of a Teardrop," was released earlier this year on Yep Roc Records.
Primary songwriter Marlin talked with the Tribune ahead of their Pickathon appearances, Aug. 3-4:
Tribune: How did the two of you come together in Chapel Hill? What are your shared musical influences?
Marlin: We met on inauguration day 2009. It was a snowy day which in North Carolina, (which) means everything shuts down so everyone that would normally have work or class went to the weekly bluegrass jam at a local Tex-Mex place. Emily and I knew a bunch of the same traditional tunes and that was what initially led us to keep playing together.
Tribune: Have you been on tour most of the summer? How are things going?
Marlin: Summer has been busy but paced perfectly. We had a great set at Redwing Roots fest in Virginia (performing) right after Peter Rowan. There is something cosmic and healing to Peter's voice. The whole festival was so at peace that we just floated through our set.
Tribune: Are you looking forward to playing Pickathon? What do you like about it?
Marlin: It will be our fourth time there. I love how unique the grounds are and how close the camping is. Every night I have spent up in those woods has led to some of my favorite jams. Of course the lineups are always so unique and intriguing. We always watch way more music at Pickathon than any other festival.
Tribune: Do you notice differences in festivals and audiences between the region you're from and the West Coast?
Marlin: The biggest difference is that weed is not yet legal where we live. Other than that it's hard to compare.
Tribune: How would you describe the Americana music scene in North Carolina? Do you have many kindred musical spirits in the Chapel Hill area?
Marlin: The Americana scene in Chapel Hill is not scene-y. People here are so removed from the internal workings of the industry that it doesn't seem to affect how people write or who they play with. I think that is one of the greatest strengths of our area. I guess the term Americana was coined to describe just such a scene, but the word is growing weary, I think!
Tribune: How are the songs from "Tides of a Teardrop" coming across? Do you enjoy playing as many new songs as you can when you have a recent record?
Marlin: This record is heavy. It's not an easy place to go to every night, but the songs have definitely found their place on the stage and people seem to be really connecting with them.
Tribune: How did the songs come into being? You mentioned being influenced by grappling with your mother's death when you were 18. Are these songs a tribute to her?
Marlin: I never fully embraced music until she died. After that it was a constant companion and a place of refuge. I sometimes feel like my music in general is just a reflection of the void she left. It's all a tribute to her.
Tribune: I've heard Paul Simon, Daryl Hall and others talk about the nuances and difficulties of being in a duo. Do you think that kind of forced intimacy can create different problems than being in a larger group, or performing solo?
Marlin: It probably is when it's forced. Emily and I are fortunate to have totally different musical needs. In that, I think we have found a balance that elevates each of us and the songs we sing together. If we are ever as famous as any of those folks you just mentioned, things might be different.
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