Photo by Robbie Klein
The Lovell sisters – Rebecca (vocals, lead guitar) and Megan (vocals, lap steel) – just wrapped up a run of dates opening Bob Seger’s farewell tour including a stop at Nationwide Arena on Saturday, January 19th. Kicking off at 8pm, with nearly a full house already in their seats, the Lovell sisters – who play under the name Larkin Poe – held the attention of the appreciative and receptive crowd, playing 7 songs including the single “Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues” and a familiar Lead Belly cover, “Black Betty”.
Larkin Poe had a busy week leading up to their show in Columbus so didn’t get the chance to answer the questions I sent via e-mail until they had returned home to Nashville. As this is a true partnership, both Rebecca and Megan took turns answering the questions I sent. The sisters have a couple shows in February on this side of the pond before heading overseas in March and April where they’ll play in the UK, France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and more. Hopefully, Larkin Poe will do a headlining tour once back in the states and hit Columbus!
The two of you started early and I have to imagine, early on, your parents were the driving force behind what you were doing. Was there ever a point where you felt like you just wanted to drop music and be “normal” teenagers doing “normal” things?
Rebecca: When we were very small children, our mother and father enrolled Megan, myself, and our eldest sister Jessica, in violin lessons; from that point on, our parents have remained incredibly supportive of our musical habits: driving us to weekly lessons, orchestra rehearsals, recitals, and eventually, some of the first gigs we ever performed. That said, they were never necessarily a “driving force” – they allowed us to follow our own passion, so in that way, “burning out” never felt like a possibility. Making music was, and is, what defines “normal” for us!
I’ve heard and read you talk about the classic rock and blues that you grew up listening to. As a parent, I often have tried to play things around the house and none of my kids have gravitated to things that I would hope they would. I’m actually okay with that, I’m happy they’ve determined their own music tastes and are discovering artists on their own. In addition to what your parents were playing for you and the music available around the house, did you ever go through a “pop” radio phase or venture far away from what your parents liked?
Megan: We’ve always listened to and been inspired by all kinds of music! When we were in our early teens we attended Merelefest– a roots music festival in North Carolina– and were smitten with the improvisation and passion of the music. That was when we decided to quit our classical violin and piano lessons in favor of banjos, guitars, and dobros. Our love of roots music was definitely something we gravitated to on our own, not through our parents.
I wouldn’t swear on this, but I can’t remember any of my high school friends listening to older blues music and I’m fairly certain that my kids don’t have any friends who know anything about the blues. What is it about that type of music that appealed to the teenage you?
Rebecca: Our dad spun a wide range of classic rock, folk, and Americana records for us as children – we’d listen to anything from Simon & Garfunkel to the Allman Brothers, from Allison Krauss to Ozzy Osbourne. From there, getting heavily involved in bluegrass music really sent us over the edge towards establishing an unshakable obsession with roots American music: bluegrass, mountain music, the blues – you name it, we love it.
I’m 100% guilty in thinking that one of your names was Larkin Poe and, in fact, was sort of dumbfounded when I learned that neither of you were Larkin Poe. I have to imagine you deal with that quite a bit – have you ever been in a situation where you just roll with it rather than trying to correct somebody?
Megan: “So, who’s Larkin and who’s Poe?” is a question we get a lot, but we enjoy the story behind the name, so we don’t mind correcting people. Larkin Poe is our great, great, great, great grandfather and it seemed right to take on a family name since we’re sisters. He was also a cousin of Edgar Allen Poe, so maybe that’s where we get our southern gothic flair and curiosity about the morbid.
You spend a lot of time on the road. Can you tell me a little bit about what home life is like? Do you have your own places or do you have some place (parents house, place with roommates, etc) where you can throw your stuff until the next tour starts?
Rebecca: We do spend a lot of time out on the road – typically, we stay gone more than not. That said, we do each have our own spaces in Nashville. For both Megan and myself, having a strong home base to return to after tour is essential.
If I were to happen to bump into you somewhere, when you were off the tour cycle and in wherever you call home, where would that likely be (like, in a bar? At a coffee shop? Shopping for lumber at Home Depot?)? And, if I wanted to be more than just a fan asking for a photo, what kind of things could I start a conversation with that would keep you talking with me for an hour?
Megan: You’d probably bump into us at Mckay’s in Nashville. It’s a massive used book warehouse (also cds, vinyl, movies etc.). We’re voracious readers and constantly in need of restocking… Mckay’s is the best! If you wanted to keep me talking, it would probably be about a book I’m reading. Right now I’m reading Oliver Sacks’– who is one of my all-time favorite writers– “Uncle Tungsten” and rereading Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything”
If I’m going to be honest (and I am), I’m closer to 50 than 40 and my days of traveling out of town to see rock shows are well behind. That being said, the chance to see Sting and Robert Plant on the same night at the Bourbon and Beyond Fest in Kentucky (about 3 hours from where I live in Columbus, Ohio) was just too tempting to pass up. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you’re intimately aware, that night of the festival was canceled after the rain destroyed the grounds the previous day. I was closely monitoring Twitter the day before and while there was a lot of talk about the weather, I feel like I saw as many tweets about how Larkin Poe blew people away as I did tweets about rain. What do you remember about that weekend/experience? Did you plan on sticking around for the next day or were you on tour and on your way to the next gig by the time the second day was canceled?
Rebecca: We remember the weekend vividly! I actually saw Robert Plant eating lunch in the catering on the day that we performed, which was definitely a highlight – but of course, the bad weather threw a wrench in everyone’s plans.
You probably get asked this type of question a lot so I’m going to put a small twist on it – I don’t want to know the most memorable gig you’ve ever played but I would like to know, what makes a memorable gig? Is it the size of the crowd? The way the crowd gets into the music? The pre-show catering? The dressing room amenities?
Megan: Other than the truly unforgettable shows when we’ve gotten to play with our musical heroes, a memorable show depends the magical connection between us and the audience. I don’t know if audiences fully realize the power they have over the show and over the artist… The enthusiasm, openness, vulnerability, of the audience really has an impact. And when everything comes together and we’re all really in sync–really all singing together– the feeling can’t be beat and certainly isn’t easily forgotten
As a follow up, what is your favorite venue to play based on how well you’re taken care of my the promoter/venue/staff and why is it your favorite?
Rebecca: One of our favorite venues is Terminal West in Atlanta. We grew up in Georgia, so we’ve been playing Terminal West for years now and have become friends with Terminal West’s incredible staff and crew – there’s nothing like playing a hometown show.
I LOVE the Tip o’ the Hat series you post on YouTube. Seeing as how David Bowie’s birthday was this week, I’m wondering if you’ve ever given any thought into covering one of his songs (or maybe you have and I missed it)? And, selfishly, if you take requests, would love to hear you do a Blind Melon song, maybe “Change”?
Megan: Great ideas. We’ll have to try to do those sometime.
I think it’s totally amazing and awesome that the week that you’re playing in Columbus has you in Indianapolis on the 15, MEXICO on the 17th, and Columbus on the 19th. And, come on (!!!), what a blessed life you lead – “Oh, you know, just playing shows with Bob Seger and Dead & Company this week”! Have you done things like that in the past – doing fly-in dates while in the middle of a tour? Does that mess with you at all physically or mentally going from sort of the daily grind of everyday to an “event” that people are traveling to witness and a completely different crew?
Rebecca: We do lead a blessed life! We feel grateful for every show and for every fan. That said, the travel that goes with the touring lifestyle is a lot less glamorous than people might think. Being booked to perform shows in Fort Wayne, IN, Cancun, Mexico, and Columbus, OH in the span of 5 days means we’re catching three consecutive 4am commercial flights and lugging 800 pounds of gear with us onto the plane! Thankfully, adrenaline isn’t in short supply when getting to play such exciting shows – so, again, we do feel extremely grateful.
Playing Bob Seger’s farewell tour must be a huge honor. Ticket prices might be prohibitive to your audiences so I’m guessing you’re playing in front of people who might not be that familiar with you. At this point, you’ve had so many amazing opportunities that it probably doesn’t play into the equation, but have Seger’s audiences treated you with respect? It must be a little strange for you to go from “intimate” headlining gigs where your fans are in your face in front of the stage to the enormity of an arena where you’re sequestered (or maybe not) in a dressing room in the bowels of the venue.
Megan: We feel so honored to be on the Bob Seger farewell tour, not only is Seger himself really kind and welcoming, but he has the best crew. His audiences are true music lovers, so they’ve been super supportive towards us and we have fun getting them warmed up for the powerhouse that is Seger and his band. It’s definitely a different vibe to play to such a huge audience vs a large club, but luckily we spent 5 months out on the road with Keith Urban last year, so we were pretty desensitized to the nerves of playing arenas and very ready to rock the stage. It helps to learn from the best… nobody knows how to connect from the first row all the way to the back row like Keith Urban and being his featured guest was a masterclass in arena touring! We only have two shows left with Bob Seger and we’re so sad to be nearing the end, but at the same time can’t wait to get back in front of our crowds and our people. We miss ya’ll!