Four Minutes, Four Questions

Mandolin Orange

Four Minutes, Four Questions</p><p>Mandolin Orange

North Carolina Americana/folk duo Mandolin Orange returns to Northwest Arkansas Dec. 4 and 5 for two energetic, vulnerable, warm, intimate and magnetic performances, as is their way. Singer/songwriter Andrew Marlin and multi-instrumentalist Emily Frantz are gearing up for the release of their sixth album, the self-produced “Tides Of A Teardrop,” coming in February. But with a few more months until the release, Marlin chatted with The Free Weekly about the freedom the band is enjoying in their performances not being tied to a specific album at the moment.

Q. Are you already performing songs from “Tides of a Teardrop” yet? Or is it mostly old stuff? What are we going to get to hear at both of these Arkansas performances?

A. We’re kind of a fun place right now performing just because the new record’s not out, so we don’t feel a lot of pressure to play only new songs. But also the last record, “Blindfaller,” has been out long enough now to where we don’t feel like we need to keep pushing those songs. So we kind of can dig back into older catalog stuff and really mix it up. It’s always nice to be able to kind of revamp old things.

Q. So when you’re digging into some of those older songs, are you performing them as a duo again or have you added the touring band into songs? And how has that kind of changed some of your old tunes when you dig back into them?

A. We usually incorporate the band. We kind of just throw them at the guys and see what their go-tos are, just because we trust them so much. It’s nice to get their interpretation of it, and sometimes that means Emily and I have to change up what we’re doing a little bit, but we like doing that. It’s a fun process. I think it brings a whole new feeling to the songs and a whole different groove that was never there before. Some of the things that we were implying as a duo musically are now just right there and easier to grab, and I think it really benefits some of the older songs to have these guys play on them.

With just two people, there’s just so much empty space there that you’re playing around and I feel like these guys, they’re really good about leaving those spaces there. I don’t know how they do that. It’s like it’s a full band sound, but there’s still a space there. And it’s not for lack of having an idea to fill those spaces, it’s actually being very choosy about where they throw in those ideas and how busily they play depending on the section. And I think leaving that space there, it doesn’t change it from what it was as a duo, it adds to it. It almost gives the empty space a little more context.

Q. Coming back to “Tides Of A Teardrop,” is there anything that you’re especially looking forward to seeing how the audience reacts to, or sharing with the audience from the new album?

A. Yeah, the new album’s super heavy. They’ve all been heavy, but this one especially. Starting the writing process for this record, I was diving into some really old but very real feelings that I’ve been dealing with since my mom’s passing when I was 18, and trying to figure out how to let that go and maybe start a new chapter in my life. I think this whole writing process was very healing for me; still is. Singing these songs, depending on the night, it’s harder than singing some songs on past records. So I wonder how people are going to take to it because I felt like some of the other records are a little more broad, and this one is definitely very specific to my feelings and what I’m trying to get over. I still write very metaphorically so hopefully people can apply it to their own life, but it is a very personal record. So I’ll be curious to see how people dive into that and see how far they’re willing to go with us.

Q. How do you feel your music has developed over your time together as a duo?

A. A lot of patience. I think actually more and more patience as we keep going. With the writing, I used to try and write two or three songs a week then filter them out, and now I’m writing like a song every month or two. I’m kind of letting the process come a little more naturally and a little more patiently. But also on stage, Emily and I used to really want to make sure we were making as big a sound as possible with just the two of us. We were playing a lot of the songs a little faster live and try to give them a little more energy when we would get on stage, just so people weren’t missing that full sound. And I think now we’re approaching it from the complete opposite place where we’re really enjoying that space that we have on stage and just letting the songs breathe a little more. I don’t know if that’s because we’re more comfortable in our playing or singing, or just more comfortable with the songs or being on stage. Whatever it is, I think there’s a lot more patience in our playing, in our stage presence these days.

And it’s a nice place to get to, especially when the crowd goes there with you.

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FAQ

Mandolin Orange

with guest Eli West

WHEN & WHERE — Dec. 4 at Bike Rack Brewing in Bentonville; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 at Faulkner Performing Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — Dec. 4 show is sold out; $20-$25

INFO — mandolinorange.com, faulkner.uark.edu

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