Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin make beautiful music together.
The pair met at a bluegrass jam in 2009, joined forces in their personal lives and onstage as Mandolin Orange and will bring their acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin and fiddle to Roots and Blues.
When they met, the couple were playing mainly traditional bluegrass and old-time tunes, says Frantz, who plays the fiddle.
As they grew together as a musical duo, the couple began to play more of Marlin’s original work weaving a sound that combines bluegrass, rock and country.
“Andrew writes the lyrics and tunes and then we figure out who’s going to sing and who plays what,” Frantz says. “We just sort out the format of the song.”
Marlin, who has been writing songs since he was 14, gets his inspiration from anywhere and everywhere.
The 27-year-old artists from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, recently rocked the prestigious Newport Folk Festival, where a writer from The Bluegrass Situation applauded their “gentle harmonies and remarkable sound and songwriting skills that have matured and prepared them for stages far beyond Carolina.”
High praise indeed for a pair who have had little formal training.
“I did the Suzuki method as a kid and got into bluegrass in the middle of high school,” says Frantz, noting Marlin is entirely self-taught and honed his guitar skills during a hard-core, heavy metal rock phase.
Calling their appearance at Newport a huge honour and a boost to their self-confidence, Frantz says their success has been built on hard work.
“It has been a really gradual building process, playing anywhere we could at local bars and open mics and evolved into ticketed shows,” she says, of the duo’s encouraging, steady growth.
Incredibly self-motivated, Frantz says she and Marlin have been fortunate in gradually adding a supportive and committed team and finding a great record label.
“There was a phase when we felt if big things don’t happen they’re not going to,” she says, pointing out the couple celebrate the “little victories.
“We have more festivals than we’ve ever had and we’re doing a lot more reputable ones this summer. That lights a fire under us in a good way – it makes us motivated to do more.”
Looking forward to an appearance at the Edmonton Folk Festival this weekend and next week’s Roots and Blues, Frantz says the couple has heard Canadian festivals are legendary and that artists are treated well.
Look for Mandolin Orange and their heady mix of bluegrass, gospel, folk, country and pop Saturday, Aug. 16 at 1:45 p.m. on the Focus Stage, Sunday, Aug. 17 at 1:45 p.m. in “Headed For the Hills,” a Shade Stage workshop and Sunday at 4:15 p.m. on the Focus Stage in a workshop called ‘Two Dynamic, Dynamite Duos.’
Mandolin Orange, who will be promoting their new album, This Side of Jordan, will also perform a “Main Stage Tweener” from 10:10 to 10:25 p.m. on Aug. 16.
Roots and Blues 2014 rolls out Friday, Aug. 15, with the official welcome ceremony performed by Neskonlith storyteller Kenthen Thomas at 6 p.m.
Visit www.rootsandblues.ca for more information and to purchase tickets.