Mandolin Orange

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Their latest album Tides of A Teardrop is a deeply healing record which opened much-needed lines of communication

Strings Music Pavilion | August 6
Rocky Mountain Folks Festival | August 16

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By Timothy Dwenger

Sometimes a photograph is just a snapshot of a moment in time that fades away without anyone noticing, but sometimes a photograph captures something very special about the subject and goes on to carry a unique weight for years to come. Everyone has a few of these. They may be framed on a wall or dresser, stashed away in a shoebox, or stuck to a refrigerator, but no matter where the photo lives physically, it also serves the very special purpose of helping to shape and preserve the memories of those who hold it dear.

Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange is lucky enough to have such a photo, and his fans are lucky that he has chosen to share it with them through a lens that only he could provide. “My mom, dad, sister and I went out to Portsmouth Island in North Carolina for a cousin’s wedding,” Marlin shared during a recent interview with The Marquee from the home he shares with his wife, and bandmate Emily Frantz, and their eight-month-old daughter Ruby. “You have to get there by boat so we were leaving the wedding to get back on the boat and as mom was walking down the dock whoever took the picture asked her to pose so she turned around threw her arm out and threw her leg out and it’s an incredible picture — especially now that she’s gone  — it really just captures her lightness and how beautiful and how ready with a smile she was.”

Words seemed to catch in Marlin’s throat ever so slightly as the reality that 15 years does little to dull the pain of suddenly losing a parent at age 18 became evident. As he pressed on, the story came around to explain the origin of the cover art to the band’s new record Tides of A Teardrop. “Her smile in the actual picture is just beaming and I think that picture alone holds so much weight for me and really just captured everything that was great about her,” he said. “We sent that photo to our buddy Nathan who works at Yep Roc — he’s a great artist — and asked him if he could paint a very non-jovial version of it, a very heavy version. As great as it is to see that picture and remember how light she was, I think that the fact that that’s now gone leaves a darkness and leaves a very heavy feeling and that’s what I wanted to convey.”

The misty blues and eerie silhouette on the cover elicits feelings of melancholy and the unknown as it sets the stage perfectly for the album’s opening track “Golden Embers.” Marlin sings “Loss has no end, it binds to our connection / We don’t speak of it, we don’t even try” and immediately forms a bond with anyone who has experienced the loss of someone close to them and struggled to connect to those left behind.

For Marlin it’s been a struggle that he’s endured all of his adult life and one that he has dealt with by creating music, touring incessantly, and focusing on starting his own family. But a couple of years ago, the sorrow caught up with him. “We got done with some intense touring behind Blindfaller — the record before this last one — and when we finally had some home time, I felt lost. Waking up in the same place every single day; I just felt like all of a sudden I was just floating out in the middle of nowhere, I had no direction and I felt like all of the feelings that I’d been able to suppress because we were so busy for so long just came to the surface and were really getting me down” he admitted. “So, I decided that, since I had time, I would try and do some writing about it — hit it head-on — and hopefully move past it. That’s how this record started and it was a longer process of writing on this one than a lot of the other ones but I think because of that I was able to really draw some stuff out and do some healing in the process.”

The sound that Marlin and Frantz conjured up for Tides of A Teardrop flirts with Americana and Country but frequently drifts into an ethereal space that is highlighted by dreamlike harmonies and subtle mandolin trills that seem to float by just out of reach. “I usually like to do my writing between the hours of 11 at night and 5 in the morning. I get in this dreamy, half-asleep state so it’s almost meditative and because of that I’m able to look a little farther in and not be so affected by the outside world. I was able to really focus on the fact that what was happening internally was destroying me externally,” Marlin explained. “I wrote ‘Late September’ that very first night and at the end of that tune I felt so much lighter that it really inspired me to keep going down that path.”

That song contains the confessional line “Darlin’ I’ve been thinking / Is it selfish pride / Keeps a man from sharing / All the tears he hides?” which again proves Marlin has an uncanny ability to connect to the soul of the listener as he exposes raw emotions that many wrestle for years to uncover. His maturity and clarity of focus as he wrote the album helped him to continue to process not only his own feelings about his mother’s passing but also help facilitate some long-needed communication between his sister, his father and himself.

“Her death definitely drove some wedges between me and my dad and my sister because everybody deals with loss in their own way. Because I was feeling so much pain – I obviously don’t think I love or miss my mother any more than my sister or my dad — I knew they were feeling the same things, they just weren’t talking about it. The point of ‘Golden Embers’ was to reach out to them and say ‘Hey I’m hurting, it would help me a lot if I could hear about your pain as well and maybe the two could start canceling each other out.’ After putting this record out, I do feel like there has been more of a conversation about that and more openness, so I guess the song did what I set out to do.”

As anyone who has ever struggled with interfamily communication knows, clearing those airwaves is no easy task and it’s a major testament to not only Marlin’s skill as a songwriter, but to his dedication as a son and brother that he was even willing to tackle the task. While he’s the first to admit that it was a long road, he is also thrilled to be able to share in the fruits of his labor. “My dad’s more willing to tell stories about when he and my mom used to hang out when they first met, before they had kids and, if something happens, he has become more comfortable saying ‘Oh, your mom would love that,’” he said. “I feel like her memory is being brought more to the conversation than just her loss. I think that was the point of this record — to get the grief and the anger and the loss out of the way so that her memory would be the thing that we all focus on.”

Strings Music Pavilion | August 6

Rocky Mountain Folks Festival August 16

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