Interview: Larkin Poe Are True ‘Self-Made Men’ With New Album
Larkin Poe are self-described "extreme do-it-yourself-ers," which should come as no surprise to fans of the bluesy sister duo. Rebecca and Megan Lovell self-produced not only their newest album, Self Made Man, but also 2018's Grammy-nominated Venom & Faith and 2017's Peach, all of which have been released on the pair's own record label, Tricki-Woo Records.
"The music industry is such an interesting world, right, because it's made up of people who are all trying to do the best job that they can to make something new and to make something fresh," Rebecca, the younger Lovell sister by about two years, tells The Boot. "And I think, in the last couple of years, it's become really clear to Megan and myself that a large part of authenticity comes from your unique creative perspective.
"The thing that really sets you apart from everybody else is really digging deep into who you are as a person and feeling vulnerable enough to really put that out in a crystallized way for people," she continues, "because that truly is the one thing that sets you apart."
"The thing that really sets you apart from everybody else is really digging deep into who you are as a person and feeling vulnerable enough to really put that out in a crystallized way for people."
Larkin Poe's commitment to that DIY style, Rebecca says, has been "explosive" for their art. They've learned that their strength as a musical duo is even greater than they'd imagined, but also allowed themselves to truly be vulnerable in their songwriting and in the studio.
"[In] our songwriting, in the production of the records, and even in the way that we're now releasing [Self Made Man], we're trying to level with people and be very real, and allow space for human connection," Rebecca admits, "which sometimes is tricky to pull off when you're trying to put your best foot forward as a performer and as a songwriter, and as an artist."
That's not to say that Larkin Poe are a completely insular pair: The Georgia natives, who are now living in the Nashville area, worked with engineer Roger Alan Nichols on Self Made Man, recording at his Music City studio, Bell Tone Recording. They also continue to draw on the lessons learned and the confidence they gained when backing up artists such as Keith Urban and Elvis Costello on tour.
"Inherently, when you are a side guy in a band with someone else's creative vision at the helm, you learn how to be supportive: You learn how to be a chameleon in the way that you're able to twist and shift yourself creatively to be the right puzzle piece for the puzzle," Rebecca Lovell reflects. "And so, having learned how to be little shape-shifters, I think it really brought home the importance of us stripping it back to being just the two of us in the studio. Because if there is an outside opinion, we're so adept at shifting and changing, but sometimes, who we truly are as artists and people can get obscured by someone else's opinion."
As sisters, the Lovells have a lifelong relationship informing their musical moves, too. Together, they've navigated periods of uncertainty, both personal and professional, that have brought them closer together, and allow them to be completely open with each other.
"It's definitely a safe space for us," says Megan. "I think we can be much more experimental in the studio, you know, we can chase down ideas in a way that we might not have before."
Adds Rebecca, "Sometimes when you're in the studio, it is very easy to want to pick yourself apart and to create this, like, perfected version of yourself ... that has nothing to do with this small, humble version of you that sat down with your guitar to write a song ... [W]e know each other so intimately, and we also know when we're putting on airs ... We're both there to protect against us getting away from ourselves and maintaining that human element."
On Self Made Man, out Friday (June 12), Larkin Poe aimed to "capture some of that live energy" the pair have become known for while touring relentlessly, both throughout North America and around the world. The album's title track, "She's a Self Made Man," is a particularly appropriate mission statement for two late 20s / early 30s women in a male-dominated field (and world).
"We were definitely raised by parents who instilled in us the belief of, you can: You put your mind to something and you can [do it]," Rebecca Lovell shares, "and that made all the difference for us as people moving forward, because we have felt like we can achieve and that we aren't limited by society or culture or stereotypes -- you know, that the world is our oyster, and we go out and we get it."
The pair made a conscious decision to not change the well-known phrase, Rebecca explains, inspired by both the sisters' tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and a conversation she'd had during which she described herself as "a self-made man."
"It puts a gender on it; it stereotypes success with your chromosomes. It says, 'Yeah, well, if you're a self-made man, that requires you to be a dude," she says. "And that felt, at a certain point, so ridiculous ... I was like, 'Well, I feel like a self-made man, so why can't I just say that and and really put it in people's faces?'"
Rebecca continues, "We had a song on a previous record ... called "Wanted Woman." And nothing made me happier than looking out into the crowd and seeing men delivering the punch of the line, which is 'I'm a wanted woman,' and it's like these, like, big dudes: burly, with their rock T-shirts and beards and cups of beer ... Why can't we just open it up for everybody to, you know, embrace that strength is as strength does, and you can be a man, you can be a woman, but it shouldn't [matter]."
"Why can't we just open it up for everybody to, you know, embrace that strength is as strength does, and you can be a man, you can be a woman, but it shouldn't matter."
Larkin Poe's Best Contemporary Blues Album nomination at the 2020 Grammy Awards, for their previous album Venom & Faith, put them among a group of largely male nominees: category winner Gary Clark Jr.; Sugaray Rayford; Robert Randolph & the Family Band, a quartet that includes one woman, Lenesha Randolph; and Southern Avenue, a five-piece band featuring sisters Tierinii and Tikyra Jackson. The Lovells hope their work -- not only as an all-female duo, but as their own producers -- will encourage aspiring creatives to not be deterred by the industry's current gender makeup.
"We're missing out: We're not having the kind of 50 percent [male vs. female] view that would ultimately be a lot more interesting if everyone's creative perspectives were getting shared and not just, you know, men, specifically when it comes to some of these jobs," Rebecca notes. "And I think it's important to just take note and do your part and, hopefully, inspire other people to pick up jobs that may not have occurred to them ...
"You don't need to have somebody else there to tell you how to make a record," she adds. "You can do it yourself."
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