What originally began as an album of all-original material from Larkin Poe (which consists of sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell) quickly took a turn when they began recording and posting traditional blues covers on various social media outlets.
The result was millions of views and an overwhelming demand for an album of traditional American roots music. This prompted Larkin Poe to return to the studio for Peach, a compilation of blues covers and original material that shows off their Southern musical heritage.
Tasty covers of songs like “Preachin’ Blues” (Son House) and “Black Betty” demonstrate reverence for the original versions but are fused with the ladies’ unique style. The songs stand up equally against originals such as “Freedom,” “Wanted Woman” and “Pink & Red.”
The Lovell sisters are no strangers to musical attention having performed as part of the house band for the MusiCares 2017 “Person of the Year” event honoring Tom Petty and opening for Elvis Costello and Bob Seger. In short, they’re a force to be reckoned with.
I recently spoke with the duo about Peach, their songwriting process and their current setup.
Where did you draw inspiration for Peach?
Megan Lovell: We wanted to pay homage to music of the South and the Delta and make it into a very American roots rock record. It’s a culmination of all the Southern influences we’ve received over our lifetime.
Was there a certain theme you were going for when choosing covers for this album?
Megan Lovell: We’ve been making videos of covers for social media as a way to keep pushing ourselves, and people have really responded to it. When the time came to make this record, there was a great demand for them, so we decided to choose our favorites from the videos. That’s what you get on the album.
Rebecca Lovell: We cover Son House on the record [“Preachin’ Blues]. If you read the lyrics to the song written almost a century ago, they’re fantastic. It’s music that plays to a timeless human emotion, a raw questioning of soul and spirit.
What was the original songwriting process like?
Rebecca Lovell: For this record, it started predominantly with the music. It was about the two of us sitting down a room with our guitars and amps, just ripping off each other and trying to get to the soul of the issue. Some of the lyrics were a little slow to get aboard the train, but they all showed up eventually.
What can you tell me about the track “Wanted Woman”?
Megan Lovell: “Wanted Woman” was a song I wrote one afternoon. I was amazed by the concept of this naughty little person who was really full of themselves and thought the play on words and double entendre was clever.
“Pink & Red”?
Rebecca Lovell: That’s one of my favorites. The vocals were actually recorded using a USB microphone while I was in my bed under the covers [laughs]. I couldn’t sleep because the song was banging around in my head, so I sat there and held my laptop to my face and sang a rough draft of the lyrics. It was very stream-of-consciousness. I remember waking up the next day and listening to it and then brought it to Megan. Those wound up being the vocals we used on the record.
What’s your current setup like these days?
Rebecca Lovell: My standby guitar is a Fender Jazzmaster. Ever since I saw Elvis Costello pick one up when we were out on tour with him a few years ago it’s stolen my heart. I also have Sixties Princeton Blackface that I love. I don’t take it out on the road much because it’s so fragile, but it’s my ideal combination.
Megan Lovell: My old standby is my 1940s Rickenbacker lap steel. I’m also usually touring with a Fender Twin or a Vibrolux.
You performed as part of the house band for this year’s MusicCares event honoring Tom Petty. How did that come about?
Rebecca Lovell: We got a call from T. Bone Burnett, who told us he loved our music and wanted us to provide instrumentation and vocals for the house band honoring Tom. We both flipped out pretty hard core and then proceeded to learn about 40 Tom Petty tracks in preparation. Spending a week making music with people like Steve Ferroni and Booker T. was a surreal experience. Then being onstage supporting George Strait, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones and Taj Mahal was mind boggling.
Megan Lovell: You get such a connection with a person when you start learning their music. You get inside their head in a way, which makes Tom’s recent passing even more heartbreaking. We didn’t get to meet him that night but he’s so wrapped in mystery and this enigma of being an epic songwriter and an American voice. There’s no one who will ever be like him again.
As a guitarist, is there any advice you can pass along?
Rebecca Lovell: Push yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible. There’s always going to be that possibly of failure and making mistakes, but put yourself in that space and go out on a limb. Make yourself uncomfortable because you’ll learn so much faster. A second point would be to learn how to back people up. Meg and I progressed the most as musicians when we were in support of other artists and learning how to be the setting for the sound. When you have this beautiful diamond, the artist, you have to learn how to be the gold band that surrounds that diamond. That’s the mark of a really fine musician.
Megan Lovell: We feel thankful for Elvis Costello taking us out on the road with him for so many years, because we learned so much. He had the faith in us to go places on stage we had never gone before. I’m so thankful we were able to have that experience.
What excites you the most about this next phase of your career?
Megan Lovell: I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds. We pulled together a list of songs for this record and put it all together ourselves. It feels really fresh and we’re very excited.
Rebecca Lovell: We’ve always been fiercely independent and determined about what we want to achieve and the artistic message we want to put across, but with Peach it’s the first time that we self-produced a project and played every single sound. Everything that you hear was something we created and comes from a very real place. It’s taken us on a more authentic path. We hope people will check out the record and be a part of the journey as we continue to dig deeper into who we are.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.