Larkin Poe Fly Away With Kindred Spirits [INTERVIEW]

Photo credit: Bree Marie Fish

Dennis: Good day Rebecca and Megan! How are you both doing today?

ML: Doing well! Thank you!

Dennis: How are you both holding up in this quarantine lately? How are your gardens doing? Is Rebecca’s garden still doing better than yours Megan?

ML: We’re staying surprisingly busy through quarantine; making lots of videos, performing livestreams, and staying connected with fans online. My garden is reaching the end of it’s productivity now that fall is here, but I loved being around to harvest a bunch of tomatoes, peppers and herbs. Really fun! And I secretly think my garden surpassed Rebecca’s.

Dennis: That is great to hear Megan that you’re both staying busy and I think we might need a judge to rule on who’s garden was more successfull… ha ha. But seriously, between still riding off the tremendous success from “Self Made Man”, you just released your cover of Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Fly Away’, released DIY videos, have been managing your label AND preparing to release your new covers album entitled, “Kindred Spirits” next month.

Where to begin? How about ‘Fly Away’ which will be on “Kindred Spirits” was there any discussion on whether this song should be included on the album and made into a video or was it an obvious choice?

RL: Oh man, I have to say “Fly Away” was always in the back of my mind as a song I would love to have the opportunity to bring into the studio. I sat down with the song in my bedroom and that bluesy riff just fell out… I felt that it was asking to be swampified.

Dennis: “Swampified”, I love it!

RL: I think we brought out the more dirgeful side of the lyrics. It almost feels like a prayer for those who feel trapped. It’s been well-received so far; Rolling Stone featured it, so that’s a good sign!

Dennis: Yes, I truly love this version of the song and congratulations on the Rolling Stone feature, well deserved! Also on the new album, Neil Young’s ‘Rocking in the Free World’ and Moody Blues’ ‘Nights in White Satin’ which I give you both a ton of credit for taking on a classic song like that. How did you come to choose the songs for the album?

ML: Coming up in a family of music lovers, a lot of the songs have been with us since childhood. In 2015 we started our cover video series, which unexpectedly took off, and we started to see fans request recorded versions of the songs. We began daydreaming about how an interpretive album might take shape and being home so much this year provided the opportunity.

Bringing these old friends into the studio, stripping them to the bones and recording them live and raw, felt really right. Some of the songs are our previous favorites from the cover vid series and some are new interpretations that fell into place.

Dennis: With COVID-19 having thwarted the plans of everyone and virtually everything including the release of “Self Made Man”, do you anticipate any potential delays on the release of “Kindred Spirits”?

ML: We wanted to release Kindred Spirits on Hallow’s eve, but vinyl production plants were backed up so we had to push to November 20th for the release. We don’t anticipate any further delays though.

Dennis: So glad to hear it Megan and while we won’t see it this month, it will give everyone something to be truly ‘thankful’ for, right? Being that the album was recorded in your home studio, how many hours would you say you logged in the recording of it?

RL: ‘Kindred Spirits’ was recorded in 4 days. It was a beautiful experience to be able to wake up, walk downstairs, and get right into the process; sharing co-production with my sister and having my husband, Tyler Bryant, engineer the project. He really knocked it out of the park with some gorgeous tones on this record.

Dennis: What I’ve heard so far are prime Poe recordings and I cannot wait to hear the rest of the album! What is a day in the life of Larkin Poe (home-based edition) like? Are your days structured and designated to certain tasks for certain days, etc?

RL: Lots of music! Every day is a new challenge, but the focus is always on creation of some kind.

Dennis: Nice! What are some lessons you’ve learned with Tricki-Woo Records and how have you perfected your approaches with each new release?

ML: Owning our own record label and holding control of the releases is really freeing. We’re able to put together our own timelines on releases and are able to give fans the music soon after it’s recorded. Fresh off the press! We feel so lucky to be surrounded by a team of people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and work so hard helping us to run the label and move forward on all Larkin Poe business fronts. It’s several full time jobs.

Dennis: I bet and yes, having the right people on the team who all believe in what you’re doing makes it all so much more effortless and pleasant, I expect. Have you ever considered marketing yourselves (only marketing, mind you) to reach fans of other genres?

ML: I don’t think genres are so boxed up like that anymore. We’re seeing the lines between genres (and the people that listen to them) blurring and there are so many different ways that people are discovering music nowadays, from Spotify playlists to placements in TV shows to viral videos. We’ve definitely found more and more young music lovers who are finding and falling in love with roots music using the internet.

Dennis: That’s great! Thank God for the internet, right? Getting back to COVID-19 productivity, you’ve mentioned that releasing regular videos on your YouTube channel and live streams in general have proven to be very successful for you, will you be performing more full band “Poecasts” in a COVID-19 safe environment so you can perform your songs from “Self Made Man”?

ML: I imagine we’ll keep doing full band and duo “Poecast” livestreams pretty regularly like we have been for the past seven months. Gotta keep our performance chops up! Plus they’re just so fun. We’ve got lots of ideas and plans in the works.

Dennis: I can’t wait to see what you’re both going to do! You’ve also made a DIY channel earlier in the year, do you think you’ll continue helping to educate more people in this manner?

RL: We started our DIY channel as a way to share little lesson videos and riff demonstrations. We’ll keep them up! It’s another way to engage with players & guitar lovers and, again, helps us keep our own chops up. We endeavor to keep learning and challenging ourselves as musicians.

Dennis: How about your music videos? You’ve released videos for ‘Self Made Man’, ‘Holy Ghost Fire’, ‘Keep Diggin’ and ‘Back Down South’. You’ve both directed ‘Keep Diggin’ and ‘Holy Ghost Fire’ which is awesome and I know Rebecca you love editing video too. Do you anticipate continuing to direct your own videos from now on?

ML: I have to brag on my sister a little bit because she’s been really killing it with video editing this year. In true Larkin Poe DIY fashion—cause evidently we like to make it hard on ourselves — she taught herself how to work in Final Cut Pro and took on making all our videos; from music videos to multi-camera streams.

She’s been teaching me as well and I think you can feel that there’s a lot of us in every single piece of content we release. I’m really proud of my sister. She works with a lot of passion, inspiration, and attention to detail; she wants everything to be made the best as we can for the amazing community of folks who support us.

Dennis: Most definitely. Since you both have toured so much and for so very long, how do you think you’ll be getting back on the road when it is finally safe to do so?

ML: Yeah — considering we’ve been on the go for the better part of nearly two decades—it’s definitely weird to spend this much time at home. We’re missing getting to travel through so many cool places, though being home certainly isn’t without its perks. It’s wonderful to get to spend time with family and our partners and see the changing seasons in Nashville. I think once we get back on the road it’s gonna take time to get “reconditioned”. You certainly build up a tolerance to the discomfort that constant motion can bring. It’s gonna be so worth it, though.

Dennis: Have either of you found yourselves binge watching any shows or watching more movies? I know you like reading too, so, have you been reading a lot more lately too? If so, what?

RL: Megan and I love to read, so we’ve been catching up on our reading lists. We have also been taking advantage of edX lately—an amazing resource of free online courses from Universities around the world. We never went to college cause we were touring full time from age 16/17, so we joke that we now have a little college class or two.

ML: I just finished David Sedaris’ “Calypso“. Loved it. Everyone should go read some Erik Larson as well. Of course, we’ve been watching a lot of series and movies. I totally binged Star Trek The Next Generation pretty early on in quarantine.

Dennis: Engage! My wife and I love Next Genneration and have been checking out Discovery lately. Being on the road can cause some musicians to eat unhealthy and yet, being home all the time can have the same effect. Do either of you have any trouble eating right in either situation? What are your ‘go-to’ foods that keep you energized?

ML: We lean towards being vegan — well, maybe I should say pescatarian, I could never give up fish — so that has kept us eating pretty healthy on the road. Or at least trying to! We have a list of good snacks for the green room so everybody on our crew has some healthy options. Rebecca and I are huge grazers. We kinda snack instead of eating meals. Nuts, hummus, veggies, guacamole, chips… thats our jam.

Dennis: You’re both so much better than me, I’ve cut down on a lot of things, but still have some work to do on eating the right foods. Do you think starting in a choir was the best place for you to start singing? Do you think there are some things that vocal lessons can teach you or do you think that you’ve both been managing your voices very well without lessons?

RL: Singing in the choir definitely taught us how to sing harmony and how to sing together with others, so I think it was a good place to start. We’ve never had any formal vocal lessons… though we could probably benefit from the training. It can be hard to conserve vocal capital when singing show after show—especially with as much and as hard as I sing. I have to learn by trial and error how to make vocal preservation a priority. It’s easy to lose sight of that with the excitement of a live show; there’s so much desire to give it all and scream it out till your voice is gone.

Dennis: Well, you’ve done phenomenal so far Rebecca in taking care of your voice. You’re definitely doing something right. Megan, do you think you’d ever take on more vocals in the future?

ML: More harmonies? Always! Lead vocals aren’t something I feel called to do, though. I consider my lapsteel to be my voice.

Dennis: It is definitely very expressive and gives so much to the Larkin Poe sound, for sure! How often did you rehearse before COVID-19 and how often are you rehearsing now?

RL: We play together nearly daily. There’s always some sort of practicing or creativity going.

Dennis: Besides your incredible talent, you both have such a big heart of gold and are so completely genuine and connect with everyone you meet. That impresses me to no end. What are some fan letters (or responses) you’ve received that have impacted your lives?

RL: Oh man! We’ve had so many overwhelming moments of connection with people. Music brings hearts together in such a positive way… we’ve encountered many precious souls. We’ve heard stories about our songs carrying people through illnesses, giving strength to face difficult situations, lighting up a dark time… and that’s a damn good reason to push on!

There’s nothing more heartwarming than hearing that our music has been a companion, because we feel that music should be a safe harbour, a connective tissue. Music has power! We’re so wildly thankful of our supporters… they are such good people.

Dennis: Now getting back to “Kindred Spirits”, is there anything else you’d like to share about the album that we did not already discuss?

ML: We’re just excited for “Kindred Spirits” to be out in the world! It was one of those records that was tough to make in the moment — recording live puts a good deal more pressure on the performer in the moment — but we’re so proud of the way it came together and how honest & raw it is. I’m so looking forward to hearing what people think!

Dennis: Well, I would like to sincerely thank you both so much for once again taking the time with me today. Stay safe, healthy and happy! Hopefully we’ll be able to catch up with you again at a venue next time! Until then, take care!

ML: Thank you for taking the time to put together these questions… we really appreciate you! Hopefully we can get back to touring very soon (and Lollapalooza again someday)!

BIOGRAPHY:

After a remarkable two-year run that saw them earn a #1 album and GRAMMY® Award nomination while touring the world from Nashville to New Zealand and back again, Larkin Poe have returned with what is undeniably their most wide-reaching, artistically adventurous, and self-determined work to date.

Once again taking the producer reins and releasing on their own Tricki-Woo Records label, SELF MADE MAN – which follows 2018’s chart-topping, GRAMMY® Award-nominated fourth studio album, VENOM & FAITH – sees the multi-instrumentalist sister duo, comprised of the Atlanta-bred, Nashville-based Rebecca and Megan Lovell, pushing their music and message towards hitherto unexplored terrain, inspired by their epic world travels yet still powerfully rooted in the creative heritage of their beloved American South.

From the thunderous power of the album-opening “She’s A Self Made Man,” through the nostalgic “Tears of Blue to Gold” and fierce Chicago blues of “Scorpion,” to the front porch jubilation of “Easy Street,” the album is ambitious in both its eclectic, energetic sound and its resolutely welcoming mission, its universal lyrical approach fueled by tradition, invention, and Larkin Poe’s remarkable ability to touch the hearts and souls of their fellow humans worldwide.

“Connection is everything,” says Rebecca, “music is the thing that allows us all to express our creativity and our humanity.” “This is, in a lot of ways, is the first lyrically uplifting record we’ve made,” Megan says. “People can go through terrible things. People can weather immeasurable sorrow and hard times, and yet we can still come out on the other side, pull ourselves together, and thrive.

This record reflects some of the joy and positivity that we ourselves feel and appreciate.” The international success of VENOM & FAITH marked a milestone on what had already been a remarkable journey for Larkin Poe up to that point. Self-produced by Rebecca and Megan and released on their own label, the album arrived in 2018 and debuted #1 on Billboard’s “Top Blues Album” chart amidst global acclaim and ultimately, a GRAMMY® Award nomination as “Best Contemporary Blues Album.”

An incredible 18-month live run followed VENOM & FAITH, a nearly non-stop schedule that saw the band perform innumerable headline shows and festival sets around the world – including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Mountain Jam – as well as full scale tours alongside the likes of Keith Urban and legendary Detroit rocker Bob Seger, the latter proving particularly educational and inspiring for the duo.

“Opening up for Bob Seger was truly an eye-opening experience,” Rebecca says. “It was exhilarating to perform in arenas for the first time and to feel the need to be bigger personalities on a bigger stage; the realization that there’s always more artistic space to fill.

Ten years ago, we started cutting our teeth in tiny clubs and to be granted the opportunity to run with abandon on Bob Seger’s stage, in front of his audience, is such a gift.” “We are playing shows in a way that we never have before,” says Megan. “It’s been a first-time experience to have entire tours selling out and people rolling up to our shows singing along and really knowing our music. So going into this record, that newfound sense of community definitely shifted our perspective with storytelling; we were asking ourselves different questions.”

The Lovell sisters returned home from the road in the fall of 2019 and began focusing in on what would come next. Invigorated and inspired by their recent experiences, they adopted a different slant towards their songwriting, thinking about their music from more of a communal perspective than ever before.

“The writing process for this album was liberating,” Rebecca says. “When I first started writing songs as a sixteen-year-old, I was consumed with my singular perspective; I needed to write from an intensely personal place. When we started working on ‘Self Made Man’, I wanted to take a step back and think about storytelling from a broader perspective, and that really opened up a whole new vista.

Listening to this album, now that it’s finished, I can hear the growth and I am very proud of it. There are so many moments in these songs that I can’t wait to sing with our fans.” The Lovells were deep in the middle of their writing process when they received news that VENOM & FAITH had earned a prestigious GRAMMY® Award nod for “Best Contemporary Blues Album,” Larkin Poe’s first nomination thus far.

“It was an interesting energy to have suddenly enter the mix,” Rebecca says. “You know, you’re in the middle of creative self-discovery, sorting through scraps of paper for what’s going to become the next record, and all of a sudden there’s this unexpected shot of adrenaline in the vein.

The Grammy nomination was definitely a boost in unlocking the energy of SELF MADE MAN.” Like its predecessor, SELF MADE MAN is self-produced by Larkin Poe with “our good buddy and engineer” Roger Alan Nichols at his studio, Bell Tone Recording, in Nashville.

Working in an industry with too few female producers, the Lovells chose to implement their independent spirit throughout their whole operation, further showcasing their grit, moxie, and determination. “Taking the creative reins and producing the last three records ourselves has been a formative experience for us, as sisters and as artists; it has been essential in the development of our own artistic voice,” says Rebecca.

“It has brought us even closer together as a team and has done wonders in crystallizing and distilling the vision that my sister and I share.” “Being authentic is very important to us,” Megan says. “Rebecca and I are heavily involved with every decision that is made. We’re independent artists and it filters into everything that we do.”

With its playfully pointed gender twist, “She’s A Self Made Man” both gives the LP its title and serves as the Lovell sisters’ anthem to their hard fought freedom, kicking off the proceedings with a big riffed assertion of their current intent and amplified artistic power. “Life is all about balance,” says Rebecca. “Sometimes it’s sweet, sometimes it’s sour. With ‘She’s A Self Made Man’, I wanted to write a song about the up-and-down ride that Megan and I have been on for the past ten years of building Larkin Poe.

It’s hard to know who you are and it can take time to figure out what your purpose is, but I feel thankful that in recent years, my own feelings have started to click and make sense.

Knowing and accepting yourself: that is empowerment.” Self-proclaimed “rock ‘n’ rollers at heart,” SELF MADE MAN sees Larkin Poe reshaping American music by tying together its many roots and branches into something fresh and altogether their own, an all-consuming approach that perhaps begins with the blues but includes a vast array of similarly inspired styles of Southern music, from folk to gospel to bluegrass to country and, of course, to just plain good old rock ‘n’ roll.

Within that framework, the sisters have created music that can speak to other peoples’ stories as well as their own. SELF MADE MAN manifests a key aspect of the southern tradition with songs that present a sense of celebration and renewal amid the common struggles of existence, songs like the gothic gospel “Holy Ghost Fire,” which offer a way to move through trying circumstances. “When you’re going through a tough time, music has the raw power to galvanize your heart and help you rise above your sorrows,” Rebecca says, “Sometimes, you’ve just got to sing.”

This ethos seamlessly comes together as well in the badass boogie of “Back Down South,” a fiery homage to the myriad music made below the Mason-Dixon line. “As Southerners, we love the incredibly colorful dialect of our region,” Megan says. “I think that ‘Back Down South’ showcases a few pieces of our heritage that we cherish.” “Roots American music is resurging,” says Rebecca. “And we’re excited to be a part of a new generation of bands making music that feeds off the old traditions.

The South is a hotbed and one of the major cradles for American music; I love the fact that just a handful of states have given us so many bands and artists that shaped American music, from Little Richard to the Allman Brothers to James Brown. It’s an important torch to carry because this music, especially the blues, was hard won by some incredible artists for whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude. We wanted to write a song that helped remind people; we’ll take every opportunity to tell that story.”

Larkin Poe wrote most of the songs on SELF MADE MAN, but the album does contain a few co-writes, including “God Moves On The Water.” A traditional folk blues classic famously first recorded by Blind Willie Johnson, Rebecca and Megan take the familiar and add musical, lyrical and arrangement ideas that lift the song to new heights and bring it from 1929 into the turbulent 21st century. “There’s a fun little research project for people,” Megan says. “Listen to that and then go back and listen to Blind Willie’s version.

His story centers around the sinking of the great Titanic, but in our version, we wrote additional verses to try and expand the scope of that feeling, to include other events like that which took place in the course of history.” The empowered evolutionary path that led to SELF MADE MAN see Larkin Poe breaking new ground as creative artists, businesswomen, and human beings.

While they surely value the need to uphold tradition, the Lovell sisters are resolute in their desire to push the music and culture forward, always mindful of why what they do matters so very much. “We are continually humbled by how far-reaching music is,” Megan says. “Music helps us ask the eternal questions: why are we here? Where do we go next?

The music that we love speaks to some of those questions and that’s the kind of music we’re trying to make; music that resonates regardless of what language we speak, the kind of music that touches the soul. “We make music, but music has made us who we are. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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