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Molly McGinn in Wonderland with Wurlitzer Prize

Mar 30th, 2012 | By | Category: Feature, Sounds
Molly McGinn

Molly McGinn tells us about her new project Wurlitzer Prize (Photo by Keith Warther)

Keith and I met this week’s interviewee in a different location – Ed McKay’s. Molly McGinn is a woman of many talents, dabbling with bands such as Amelia’s Mechanics and Thacker Dairy Road. She’s recently started a new project, Wurlitzer Prize, and you can read a review of their show Saturday here. We talked with Molly about Wurlitzer Prize, music, and her influences – check it out.

What makes Wurlitzer Prize different from  and similar to your previous projects?
Drums and bass. And men. I think that’s about it. What’s similar is great musicians and people to play with. There’s a North Carolina focus on North Carolina music traditions but at the same time we’re trying to create something original that’s honest and where everybody is, and it’s collaborative too. There’s a collaborative writing process, so that’s why it’s similar. It’s also still very new and we came together out of a love for vintage country songs by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Singing with Dave and hearing the mix there we thought we should do more of this.

How would you describe Wurlitzer Prize’s sound?
I’ve said a lot of different things. It’s a little bit vintage country, it’s a little bit Taj Mahal, a little bit Tom Waits, and a little bit Black Keys.

What bands or artists influenced you?
It’s going to sound really corny but first was my brother Danny. He was trying to learn how to play lead guitar and he asked me to play rhythm for Grateful Dead songs. That’s where the jam band stuff comes from, and eventually Phish. Joni Mitchell taught me how to make up my own chords. Laurelynn Dossett for showing me how you can make music in a way that it doesn’t have to live in bars. A BMI jukebox my dad has, too. Right now, it’s Wilco and it’s Matty Sheets because he just never stops.

Why did you decide to start playing music?
I grew up in a really small town in Wisconsin and I wasn’t cordinated enough to play sports. I’ve been singing since forever. My dad would sing to me when I was little. The first time I picked up a guitar was because I found out it made my friends laugh. I wrote this stupid song and it made them laugh and I thought that was great. It made sense, nothing else made sense when you’re fourteen living in Beaverdam, Wisconsin, and you can’t play basketball. Sitting up in my room with my guitar just made a lot of sense.

You write very journalistically – What goes through your mind when you write songs?

I was a journalist for the News and Observer and the News and Record. I was influenced by writers like Hemingway and Twain, I liked the way they wrote. Coming out of journalism I had a great sense of appreciation for the public service they do. I thought it was all about writing but it’s really about being a community watchdog and telling stories that wouldn’t otherwise be told. I just love storytellers, like Logie Meachum, if you’re ever in the room with him you understand that a great storyteller can shut everyone up in the room and listen to him. I love telling stories and you get so much out of them. I never really liked the idea of just writing lyrics for the sake of it but there’s guys like Bon Iver who write songs for the music quality, and that’s great but I want to say something. They’re like tattoos because they mean something special. These songs are like tattoos because they’re things I want to remember. I like it when you can hear a song and it’s 20 years from the time a person wrote it and you get the sense that there’s this fine arts documentary approach to it. I like that idea.

You used to be a music teacher – has that influenced what you do now?
Yeah. When I started teaching Kinder Music I was brokenhearted and I didn’t want to play music at all. I was burnt out on journalism. When I started learning about all of the educational properties of music and what goes on in people’s heads and the language it communicates between a parent and a child, it brought me back to loving music again. I understood the necessity of it again. It’s something bigger than sitting down with a bottle of wine and trying to write a song and being all broody. It’s really a lot bigger than that.

Molly McGinn

Molly McGinn talks in the children's section of Ed McKay's Greensboro location

What was it like working with Jim Avett?
[Molly laughed for about 2 minutes before actually answering this question.] 

It was fast. Really fast and it was sort of a whirlwind and it was a total thrill. It was just like here’s this person with this great musical history in his family and he believed in what we were doing. It was a tremendous affirmation. A lot of people paid attention because of him. It was pretty crazy. It was like driving an old truck with a wide open engine.

What brought you to Greensboro?
The News and Record. I got a job as a general assignment in the High Point bureau in 2000.

What’s your least favorite and favorite thing about playing in Greensboro?
I’m really frustrated with the lack of venues and I’m frustrated with some of the clubs. I’m frustrated about PA quality and sound inside places. I feel like bars and venues owe it to the musicians who are working their asses off to practice and put together shows. I’m grateful for the venues that there are here but it feels like they take it for granted that we’ll keep showing up. What I love though is that no one does underground better than Greensboro. That’s because of the house shows and punk shows. Everything that happens in Mike O’Malley’s basement and CFBGs and these little illegal places that no one would ever know about unless you’re someone who goes there. There’s something that’s secret and amazing about that because most bands can’t afford to play shows. They can’t afford to rent the place or pay for PA. When you do, somebody’s got to provide a better sound and venue for them. I like that people are like ‘we’re just going to do it anyway.’ Case in point is the Flatiron and what Matty Sheets has done with open mic night. That wasn’t a music venue but we made it one. He made it one, this town made it one.

What’s your favorite gig you’ve ever played? Why?
It is so cornball but my favorite one was with my dad. He used to sing for me when I was little and now I play guitar and he’ll sing. Any time I got to play with my brother. Any time I get to play for my little brother and his baby. We used to sing ‘Buckets of Rain.’ But the show shows are really nerve wracking. They’re fun but they’re nerve wracking.

Molly’s band Wurtlitzer Prize will be playing at The Garage in Winston Salem Saturday (March 31)! Check it out!

Molly McGinn performs “Ed McKay’s” live at Ed McKay’s Greensboro

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2 Comments to “Molly McGinn in Wonderland with Wurlitzer Prize”

  1. matty sheets says:

    "These songs are like tattoos because they’re things I want to remember." One of the best things I've ever heard a song writer say. I feel the same way, but never quite knew how to phrase it. Thanks Molly. Great interview Avalon and Keith.

  2. Rose Schaalma says:

    I knew your mom through Sherrill Cupery and NAncy Hampton. I accidentally came across your name in google and was so excited to hear your story. I lived in Beaver Dam; please have your mom email me to get caught up. You were frie des with Becky, Stephanie and Rachel Cupery. I recently retired from Wayland Academy and knew that you were an alum as well as my youngest son. I’m so excited to hear you sing.
    Sincerely,
    Rose Schaalma

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