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1040 Abroad
Mandolin Orange Emily Frantz (left) and Andrew Martin (right) are Mandolin Orange. Photo © Kendall Atwater

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Mandolin Orange
We speak to Andrew Marlin of the North Carolina based duo ahead of their tour of Europe and the UK

Published on April 30, 2019
First published in the May-June 2019 edition of The American magazine

Thank you for talking with us Andrew. Our traditional opening question is where in the States are you from?

We live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

You'll be performing in the UK in May as part of a European tour, but can you take us back to where it all began - how did you become interested in music, and what led to you forming Mandolin Orange?

I grew up in a musical household. My mom was a piano player and was always singing old hymns. It was through her that I learned to sing and appreciate the companionship of having an instrument to play. Mandolin Orange was formed when Emily and I met in our early 20s in 2009. We both loved to sing and play traditional bluegrass songs and old-time fiddle tunes but really found our voice through our original compositions.

How did you settle upon the name 'Mandolin Orange'?

I was playing an orange mandolin when we first started and I love wordplay. The name just kind of stuck.

There's a real warmth to your music, and Andrew, you once said ahead of playing your song 'Suspended in Heaven' that you wanted to have a more positive outlook on life - is that a big part of what the band and your songs are about?

My intention is certainly not to achieve the opposite. Music in general is something that keeps me grounded. It has always been there. The band and my songs are my means of sharing what has been so helpful to me through the years.

Obviously the Mandolin is a big part of your work - but does it particularly help to create a sound that echoes a positive sensation?

I believe my love for the mandolin is very real and positive so maybe that is something that is translated through my playing.

You've both mentioned the Stanley Brothers as a big influence of yours, but what you play isn't bluegrass. What did the Stanley Brothers give you artistically?

The Stanley Brothers gave us great songs. Their music wasn’t flashy or too slick, it was heartfelt music played earnestly.

What other musicians and styles inspire you and your work?

Right now I am listening to a lot of Jeremy Udden. He is a saxophonist and composer that is making some fantastic records. It’s exploratory but well grounded in melody.

How are you both feeling ahead of taking to the stage at London's well known Islington Assembly Hall?

London has always been one of our favorite cities to play and we can’t wait to bring these new tunes over.

Do you have any plans to visit or go to specific places during your time in the UK?

If only our schedule permitted.

What can visitors to your upcoming tour expect, and what do you hope they'll take away from the experience?

They can expect to hear us explore these new songs as well as some old ones. Our hope is that intimacy and patience is presented and appreciated.

Finally, what's the best thing about being Andrew Marlin / Emily Frantz?

We have learned how to be just that.

Mandolin Orange are performing across Europe from May 1 featuring songs from their latest album Tides of a Teardrop, which is available now on Yep Roc Records. Stops include performances in Germany, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and a sold out gig at London's Islington Assembly Hall. For further tour dates, check out www.mandolinorange.com


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