Mandolin Orange’s music radiates a mysterious warmth —their songs feel like whispered secrets, one hand cupped to your ear. The North Carolina duo have built a steady and growing fanbase with this kind of intimacy, and on Tides of A Teardrop, due out February 1, it is more potent than ever. By all accounts, it is the duo’s fullest, richest, and most personal effort. You can hear the air between them—the taut space of shared understanding, as palpable as a magnetic field, that makes their music sound like two halves of an endlessly completing thought. Singer-songwriter Andrew Marlin and multi- instrumentalist Emily Frantz have honed this lamp glow intimacy for years.
On Tides of A Teardrop, Marlin wrote the songs, as he usually does, in a sort of stream of consciousness, allowing words and phrases to pour out of him as he hunted for the chords and melodies. Then, as he went back to sharpen what he found, he found something troubling and profound. Intimations of loss have always haunted the edges of their music, their lyrics hinting at impermanence and passing of time. But Tides of A Teardrop confronts a defining loss head-on: Marlin's mother, who died of complications from surgery when he was 18.
These songs, as well as their sentiments, remain simple and quiet, like all of their music. But beneath the hushed surface, they are staggeringly straightforward. “I’ve been holding on to the grief for a long time. In some ways I associated the grief and the loss with remembering my mom. I feel like I’ve mourned long enough. I’m ready to bring forth some happier memories now, to just remember her as a living being."
For this album, Marlin and Frantz enlisted their touring band, who they also worked with on their last album Blindfaller. Having recorded all previous albums live in the studio, they approached the recording process in a different way this time. “We went and did what most people do, which we’ve never done before—we just holed up somewhere and worked the tunes out together,” Frantz says. There is a telepathy and warmth in the interplay on Tides of A Teardrop that brings a new dynamic to the foreground—that holy silence between notes, the air that charges the album with such profound intimacy. “This record is a little more cosmic, almost in a spiritual way—the space between the notes was there to suggest all those empty spaces the record touches on,” acknowledges Marlin. There are many powerful ways of acknowledging loss; sometimes the most powerful one is saying nothing at all.
The band is in the midst of their extensive full-band fall tour having sold out dates in San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Madison and Spokane with future stops ahead in Nashville, Chicago, New York and more. See below for tour itinerary with support on select dates from Leif Vollebekk, Anna Tivel, Dead Horses and My Bubba.
While staying true to their Americana sound, the new album tackles modern day themes seen in our daily headlines. The North Carolina duo—comprised of Emily Frantz (fiddle/vocals) and Andrew Marlin (mandolin/vocals)— recorded the album in a one week break from touring at Rubber Room Studio in Chapel Hill, NC. “We wanted different vibes and different intuitions on these tracks,” Marlin says, “and I feel like we really captured that.” To bolster their message and sound on Blindfaller the duo added a full band, which features Clint Mullican on bass, Kyle Keegan on drums, Allyn Love on pedal steel, and previous collaborator, Josh Oliver, on guitar, keys, and vocals. Speaking to their recording process Frantz notes, “We talked about the feel of each song and pointed out loosely who was going to be taking solos, but it was mostly a lot of fresh takes, a lot of eye contact and a lot of nods and weird winks.”
Founded in 2009, Mandolin Orange has built a noteworthy catalog of recordings. The band’s 2013 release This Side of Jordan garnered critical acclaim such as NPR, who called the album “effortless and beautiful,” and American Songwriter, who said it was “honest music, shot through with coed harmonies, sweeping fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar and the sort of unfakeable intimacy that bonds simpatico musicians like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.” Their 2015 follow-up, Such Jubilee, furthered their standing with inclusion in Rolling Stone’s “30 Great Country Albums of 2015 You Probably Didn’t Hear,” NPR’s Folk Alley’s “Best of 2015 Listener’s Poll,” and Amazon’s “Best of the Next 2015.” The record was #1 on Magnet’s “Top 10 Indie Roots Albums of 2015” and Paste called it “an album full of blissful moments.”
On the road, the band has built a dedicated following with extensive touring including appearances at Austin City Limits Festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Newport Folk Festival, and Pickathon. In describing the duo Paste noted, “…the incredible musical bond between Marlin and Frantz…[is] an innate chemistry that’s been honed in the studio, strengthened by the road, and refined by time.”