Rebecca and Megan Lovell, AKA Larkin Poe, caught up with us to talk about what it’s been like writing and recording music during COVID-19.
It is an extremely rare occasion that would see the Larkin Poe ladies at home for any length of time as their usual habitat is out on the road, touring relentlessly. As the touring world has come to a standstill this year, Megan and Rebecca, as with all musicians at the moment, have had to stay at home and work out what to do with their time.
Before all of this happened, the Lovell sisters were no strangers to streaming on social media, but have had to take this to a whole new level. They regularly perform streamed showcases, including a full-band performance from the Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville that was 100% online with no live audience.
While some artists have pushed back their album releases, Larkin Poe went ahead and released Self Made Man, giving their fans something new for their listening pleasure. Rebecca and Megan chatted to us about forging ahead with the release, what they’ve been up to since they’ve been forced to stay home for such an extended period, and some guitar talk for good measure.
LH: For two road warriors who have constantly been on the road touring for the last 15 years, it must be a strange feeling being home for so long. Have you been using all this acquired time to write new music or are you using at least some of it as a well-earned rest after the non-stop touring?
Megan: 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. However, it just isn’t in our nature to sit around… we’ve been keeping ourselves very busy writing, recording, making videos, and putting on shows online. It’s a new set of challenges for a new era.
LH: You’ve produced your last three albums and have put them out on your own label. Do you invite feedback from trusted others during the recording process or do you keep it primarily with the two of you?
Rebecca: Choosing to self-produce and be independent has been one of the best decisions we’ve made in recent years. We’re lucky to have each other – there’s nobody I trust like Megan and vice versa. We keep each other honest. It’s been a work of many years of trial and error in our relationship to get to this point where we’re a well-oiled machine. We try to take our own egos out of the equation as much as possible and let the best idea win. We’re pretty insular during most of the recording process, though we do have a team of trusted folks around us who are super smart and candid with us. Couldn’t do it without them!
LH: You both had such an intensive musical upbringing from a very young age. Did you ever have any doubts that you would pursue it as a career? If you didn’t do this, was there ever another career you considered?
Megan: Honestly, I don’t think we’ve ever considered another career, which is weird because I don’t think either of us would have expected music to be our life path. We kinda fell into it, but have fully fallen at this point. No going back. We’re lifers.
LH: A lot of musicians have postponed their album releases due to the pandemic. Did you ever consider pushing back the release of Self Made Man to later in the year or even next year?
Rebecca: We’re big believers in keeping things fresh. We want to give fans the most honest, up-to-date perspective of where we are. So even though it was disappointing not to be able to take the songs to the stage immediately, it felt right to go ahead and release Self Made Man out into the world so that the songs could become companions to listeners and hopefully put a smile on someone’s face. Everything in its time.
LH: We are loving Self Made Man, it feels like a culmination of everything you’ve been working towards: the blues influence with a rockier, heavier edge, great arrangements and powerful lyrics. When you wrapped on recording and listened to the finished article for the first time did you know you’d come up with something special?
Megan: I felt that the writing for this album was going to be special from the very beginning. I have the luxury of perspective since Rebecca is the main songwriter for the band. She sends me her ideas, the first rough snippets of songs, and we go ahead together from there. The first song ideas she sent me were “Holy Ghost Fire” and “Back Down South” – I was immediately excited, like “yes, yes, yes! This is it!” There’s a gut feeling you get about a song…
LH: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that your shows are selling out and now when you are performing, it’s like singing along with the audience as they all know the words and are singing along with every song. How often do you manage to grab moments up there where you can just soak it up and enjoy that feeling?
Megan: Oh man, nothing can quite compare to a sold-out show, a packed room of people all coming together for the love of music… the energy, the feeling of being connected. It’s exhilarating! There’s a surreal feeling that comes along quite often for me during a show… It’s all about the give and take between the performer and the audience. When both parties are in it completely, that’s when the magic happens.
LH: We saw you when you performed at the Chicago Blues Fest last year and standing in the photo pit with the audience behind I could feel the electric atmosphere, it was palpable. You managed to get everyone on their feet, singing and dancing along, including the Blues purists. First of all, congratulations for being invited to play at the Chicago Blues Fest. How did it feel to be up there at such an iconic event (I’m guessing by the big smiles on your faces – pretty good)? Secondly, when you were up there, were you aware of the effect you were having on the audience?
Rebecca: Chicago Blues Fest was a blast. It’s always a pleasure and an honor to play such a well-run, legendary festival. Again, like Megan said, the audience has such an impact on the performer. At Chicago Blues Fest, everybody was open to connect and have a good time and that makes our job so much easier.
LH: Due to the pandemic, obviously touring as stopped and a lot of musicians have taken to doing live-streams as a way to connect with fans during the downtime. This is something you were already doing on a regular basis before this all started, posting performances of covers, etc. from hotel rooms when you were on tour. Since there isn’t any touring at the moment, are your live streams getting more attention, and do you feel that they offer you the chance to connect directly with your fanbase.
Rebecca: We’re incredibly thankful to have our online support, especially now. We’ve been doing more live streams and online chatting than we ever have before, that’s for sure. If we’re going to survive, these hard times are gonna call for some major creativity within the music industry. We’re up to the challenge!
LH: Megan – You’ve spoken about how much you love the vocal quality of lap steel. Who are the lap steel players you look up to and would you say that there are any in particular that have heavily influenced the way you play?
Megan: I started out on dobro so, of course, I have to give some props to the amazing dobro players that got me going down this path, like Jerry Douglas and Mike Auldridge… I also was heavily influenced by some of the more vocal electric guitar players, like David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, and Derek Trucks. One of the most iconic lap steel players in the world, David Lindley, was also a big inspiration.
LH: Rebecca – You mentioned in an interview back in 2018 that your seafoam green Jazzmaster was your main guitar but recently you seem to be primarily using Strats. What is the current number one these days (i.e. the child you’d save from a house fire first)?
Rebecca: In recent years, I have gravitated towards playing mostly Stratocasters! Strats are a little smaller and lighter than Jazzmasters and so I’m able to run around the stage a bit faster. My current #1 is my vintage blonde 60’s style Stratocaster – I recently upgraded the pickguard to a beautiful faux-tortoiseshell and, I have to say, she is quite a stone-cold stunner.