When I was in Nashville earlier this year I stayed at the Music City Hostel which, aside from being a pretty cool place to stay, was also host to many different musicians arriving in Nashville to become a part of the city’s infamous live gig scene. I was fortunate to meet and be inspired by a number of different artists and bands during my stay there.
I made friends with a couple of great people; Mirthe Bolhuis and Garry Wood who have formed the band The Bird and The Bear and just released an EP they put together while in Nashville. Breathe is a collection of beautiful harmonies which I cannot recommend enough. Mirthe and Garry’s voices are full of raw emotion and they blend seamlessly accompanied by an acoustic guitar. My personal favourite of the four tracks is Forever Again. While its lyrics examine a love affair gone wrong, its melody reminds me of long lazy summer afternoons, I can’t help but sway along when I listen to it. In my opinion Breathe is an intense and triumphant debut, and I can’t wait to hear more from this duo – I know they love playing together and I think that shows through their music and the lyrics they lend to it.
Mirthe and Garry very kindly agreed to answer some questions about what it is like to be starting out and making an EP, check out my interview with them below and listen to Breathe at any of the links at the end of this post…
Can you tell me a bit about your back story? What got you both into music and how did you start the band?
Mirthe: I got into music through my dad, who is a music collector. During my study (Academy for Popculture) I went to Nashville to do an internship and I kept coming back. On one of my trips I met Garry and we started making music together.
Garry: My parents had a pretty interesting collection. I remember always listening to Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson cassette tapes as well as the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. But I was obsessed with the Michael Jackson tapes my mom had, Off The Wall was the first album I ever bought. That’s what really got me into music.
How did you get the name ‘The Bird and the Bear’?
Garry: We came up with the name in a hotel room in Cary, North Carolina after seeing an Alison Krauss show. I’ve been called “Gar Bear” my entire life and I call Mirthe “Hummingbird.” So the name just kind of naturally came about.
When I met you, you were playing gigs in Nashville, how has playing across ‘Music City’ affected the music you write?
In a city chock-full of music, especially country music, we’ve worked to develop a sound that’s all our own while still staying true to our roots. Although we’re by no means country, we are still constantly inspired by the history and the atmosphere in Nashville.
Who would you say your influences are and if you had to, is there any music artist or band you would compare yourselves to?
The first influence that comes to mind is The Civil Wars. Although they’re relatively new they definitely showed us what was possible within a duo. We’re constantly looking for new music and sharing our discoveries with each other. Ray LaMontagne and Alison Krauss are among our all time favorites. Currently, we’re really into Sarah Jarosz and Gillian Welch.
Can you tell me a little bit about the process of making the EP? What were your favourite parts, how long did it take…?
We knew we didn’t have the repertoire to do a full length album, so originally we planned on recording two songs: “Breathe” and “Crooked.” When Mirthe got back to the states I had finished writing “Forever Again” and later on we decided to shoot for four songs. We recorded the entire EP live in the studio, standing across from each other. The whole session took about 3 hours with about 3 or 4 full takes on each song.
When you started putting the EP together, were there any themes you wanted to stick to? Were there any particular influences for these four songs?
We went into the whole process still discovering our sound because we had only been performing together around two months at that point. We both felt we had something special and we knew we wanted to get it down in a tangible format before Mirthe left for Holland again. As far as themes, we both wanted something authentic and organic. We wanted to make a record that reflected our passion for acoustic music.
Which song is your favourite on the EP?
Mirthe: My favorite song is Breathe. I really love the lyrics, and although Garry wrote them, I can sing them like they are mine too. It’s just real.
Garry: “Forever Again” It was the first song written specifically for this project.
Do you have plans for an album to follow this?
Being on opposite sides of the world, it’s a challenge to work together on songs, even more so to create new material. So right now we’re e-mailing song ideas back and forth and planning to record a full-length album in Asheville, North Carolina by next year.
What’s next for The Bird and The Bear?
Garry: I’m currently working two jobs. I’m saving up to travel to Holland for a few months over the summer to take some time to write and perform and spend time with Mirthe.
Finally, how can people get the EP and find out more about you?