Photo by Bree Marie Fish

The Monster Energy Outbreak Tour presents: Larkin Poe and The Collection at the Newport Music Hall on Friday, October 8. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 day of show. Doors open at 7pm.

The last two years have been surprisingly busy for Rebecca and Megan Lovell, collectively known as Larkin Poe. They were nominated for a 2020 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album (2018’s Venom & Faith), released their fifth studio album, Self Made Man, in June and followed it up in November with an acoustic covers album, Kindred Spirits, featuring the sisters’ take on tracks like “Fly Away” (Lenny Kravitz), “In the Air Tonight” (Phil Collins) and “Take What You Want” (Post Malone).

In late 2020, Larkin Poe hooked up with the Nu Deco Ensemble based in Miami, Florida for a unique collaboration – a live show featuring Larkin Poe backed by an orchestra. The performance was so successful that the Lovell sisters, with help from conductor Jacomo Bairos and composer/arranger/producer Sam Hyken (Nu Deco Ensemble), decided to stream the entire performance for fans in September 2021 and release an accompanying album with music from the show. Paint the Roses: Live in Concert features songs from Self Made Man and is available both in both a digitial and physical format.

After some one-off tour dates this summer, Larkin Poe is set to hit the road as a headlining act as part of the Monster Energy Outbreak tour which will run through the end of November.

I recently had a chance to learn how the collaboration with Nu Deco came together, details on the upcoming tour, and plans for 2022 in a Zoom call with Rebecca, Megan and Jacomo.

How did Larkin Poe and Nu Deco Ensemble hook up? 

REBECCA: It was a mix of many forces, meaning a lot of serendipity. A lot of it was the unexpected confines of 2020 where I think so many creative parties were looking for creative ways to be creative. With the concert series that Nu Deco had for 2020, they were looking to fill artists and we were one of the artists considered. We were one of the first “roots” rock band that they’ve worked with. I think it was the perfect collaboration from where I’m sitting in terms of everyone’s excitement about the project, the need for something positive after having such a traumatic year and really leaning into the opportunity and giving it so much love and attention from our side and also from Nu Deco’s side. It was really such a gift that we were all united – we share similar management from the same company and so we were brought together. Sparks flew and it really turned into something special with Paint the Roses.

JACOMO: To be honest, we had them on our radar a year before. We were hoping to have them a year previous to that which, funny enough, I’m glad we didn’t because we would have been shut down because of the pandemic. It is serendipitous and it’s this cosmic alignment that came together for it. They were nominated for a Grammy and I think before that nomination they were on our radar, we just loved their music, we loved their vocals. The story I’ve been telling all along is that I wasn’t sure how a blues-rock duo would fit within an acoustic orchestral setting. That was always just a little bit of a question mark, but there was no doubt that the artistry and the level of artistry was something we felt we could collaborate with and elevate as well as them elevate us. It was the whole package. Once we were able to secure a date with them and once we figured out that even through the pandemic we were going to do these outdoor performances and record them, we just figured they would be a perfect guest artist to join us and they were willing and able. From the first conversations we had about the repertoire and what we were doing and why we were doing it, it was just a really beautiful experience that has culminated into where we are now which is having an album out that is getting a lot of attention and we’re really grateful that a lot of people are enjoying and listening and interested in it.

Was the intention to do songs from the new record? 

MEGAN: I don’t think it was on purpose, it just kind of happened. Each of us sent a long list of songs that we felt could benefit with an orchestra behind and then we picked the songs that overlapped, that we each chose. A lot of the songs just ended up being off of Self Made Man. I think a song that we all knew was going to be part of the collaboration was “Mad as a Hatter.” That song just seemed like a very obvious choice that was going to be the special song of the evening. It was an added benefit that, Self Made Man, we were going to tour behind it heavily in 2020 and we didn’t get a chance to play those songs on stage so it was really nice to finally be able to get up on stage and play them.

How did you hook up with Monster and can you tell me about the opening bands on this tour?

REBECCA: Monster approached us which I feel is an incredible harbinger of good things to come in the rock movement for women. The fact that they had a female-fronted band as their rock pick was such a compliment to us and we were really excited to kick off that partnership. They’ve been really supportive in facilitating our creative vision for the tour and it’s been fantastic all the way through. It’s our first tour with a proper lighting rig and, today, it’s our most exciting show and exactly what we would have anticipated wanting to do.

A large part of the creative process has been picking the support bands. We’ve had some really great folks agree to come out with us. First off, we had the Cold Stares which are an incredible rock duo, these two guys are just powerhouses. It’s a drummer and a guitar/bassist and they just rock. We’ve so enjoyed having them out. We have a band called The Collection joining us. They are a 7-piece featuring flute and accordion, it’s all over the map and so we’re really excited to have more of a folk aspect to the show when they join us.

MEGAN: We haven’t had them out yet but we’re looking forward to seeing their performance.

REBECCA: And then finally, my husband’s band (Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown) agreed to come out for some shows as well. He’s a Texas guy and we have some shows in Texas so he and one of his bandmates are doing an acoustic performance – they are calling it “bare bones”. I’m a huge fan of my husband’s band.

MEGAN: And this has been highly requested. Our fans and his fans have been asking us to play together for a while so this is going to be really fun.

What do both of you have coming up?

MEGAN: We’ve got a spring European tour which was postponed twice so we’re finally going to be able to go and do that. We’ve done most of our touring overseas, touring in the U.S. is very new to us so we’re excited to finally get back because we’ve played some really great venues over there.

REBECCA: And then working on the next record for hopefully a 2022 release as well.

JACOMO: We’re about to announce our season. We have a very exciting season with some really wonderful guest artists and music and all the good stuff. And we’re doing a blended livestream and in-person concert series this year. Last year was all livestreamed, we didn’t have any in person although we started inviting some of our bigger donors toward the end of the season. Now we’re going to do a blended version of that which is exciting. We have a couple more releases coming out in the fall. We just released another album, a week after Larkin Poe, with Luke James, an R&B album. We’re going to be releasing the music of the Nutcracker which is something that is online, you can see the video now. We’re always swimming in many different things. We have a little tour going up to Akron, Ohio next May. We’re talking about a summer residency at a summer festival as well. Things are growing and moving and shaking and baking. We’re just trying to do the best we can to be our most authentic selves and just keep putting ourselves out there and bring more beauty and music to the world because we all need a little bit more.

Do you have any Ohio stories?

REBECCA: Of course. The Rock Hall. We got to go to the Rock Hall on a day off and that was probably one of my favorite off days we’ve ever had on tour.

MEGAN: We got a VIP tour, we got to go see some really cool stuff behind the scenes.

REBECCA: I got to see Levon Helm‘s mandolin so I will always and forever love that memory.

JACOMO: I went to the Cincinnati College Conservatory for my Master’s at the University of Cincinnati. That was for my tuba. Then I started playing with the Cincinnati Symphony for a few years, which was awesome and unbelievable. I saw LeBron James play his first basketball game in Cleveland and then I saw his breakout game that happened at Thanksgiving time. I’ve also conducted the Cleveland Orchestra and then I came back and conducted the Cincinnati Symphony last year before the pandemic so lots of love for Ohio. I had a great time in Cincinnati, the city has really changed. I do love the Midwest, I have a very fond feeling about the people in the Midwest. Things are a little more connected, people talk to each other, they look you in the eye. I do love that aspect. As much as I love the multi-cultural aspects of Miami, I do love that connection the Midwest brings.