Meet Joseph Terrell, of Mipso
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Mipso is an indie Americana quartet based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The group blends a traditional Appalachian string-band sound with classic folk-rock and modern alt-country to create a distinctive voice of its own. The group features Jacob Sharp on mandolin, and vocals, Wood Robinson on bass and vocals, Joseph Terrell on guitar and vocals, and Libby Rodenbough on fiddle and vocals.
Mipso takes the stage at Strings Music Festival at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 28. Tickets are available at stringsmusicfestival.com, starting at $25.
Explore Steamboat: Mipso started at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011. How did you find each other and come together?
Joseph Terrell: We were all students at UNC. None of us were music majors at the time, but we met and wanted to play music for fun. We were getting interested in more traditional types of North Carolina music at the same time, and thought it’d be fun to learn to sing harmonies.
ES: You were a religious studies major, and it sounds like studying religion contributed to who you became as a songwriter. Has that changed at all since graduation?
JT: I think I appreciate a religious lens, not so much for a particular religious perspective, but for the religious vocabulary used. I don’t write from a Christian perspective, but I think a moral vocabulary is a great way to express ideas through music, and it can be a natural way of engaging with traditional music. It feels like speaking in a familiar language, rather than a crutch or a cliche. I think (this lens) reflects our relationship with old-time bluegrass, which means playing with the form and twisting it around.
ES: It seems like Mipso is especially good at bringing the whole team into the songwriting process, and collaborating at a high level. What does your collaboration process look like?
JT: We’re going into the studio next week, and we’ve taken a lot of time to play with the process this time. As we’ve gotten to know each other better, we’ve gotten to know how we all work. We all love songwriting; we all love the puzzle of finishing a song on our own.
Sometimes a great song can come from the four of us sinking our teeth into an arrangement that only one of us wrote, or sometimes it’s best to pass an idea off into someone else’s hands. Sometimes writing a song is like making a smoothie, with everyone’s input blended completely; sometimes it’s like making a salad, where you can pick out little pieces of each person’s personality.
When: 8 p.m. Sunday, July 28
Where: Strings Music Festival, 900 Strings Road
Tickets: available at stringsmusicfestival.com, starting at $25
ES: With your fifth and latest album, Edges Run, the band decided to have a completely different experience in recording and producing it, compared to your previous albums. Do you think that led to a permanent change in how you’ll record and produce from here on out?
JT: We’ll try to make a completely different kind of record every time, but Edges Run was the first album we recorded away from home, in Eugene, Oregon; it was a deliberate effort to put us into a new setting to see if we could draw something different out of us, instead of trusting our same old process and instincts at home. We’ll record our next album in Asheville. It’s familiar territory, somewhere away from home, but we’ll drive instead of fly, and I think that makes a big psychological difference.
ES: What’s the feeling going into this album?
JT: I think we’re feeling kind of summery. We recorded our last album in the dead of winter in a dreary place. I’m really excited to be recording in Asheville in August — musically, mentally, spiritually.
ES: When you’re on tour in a new town, what kinds of things do you guys like to do?
JT: We have a great love of tacos and coffee, and for comparing local hot sauces and local potato chip varieties. We also never pass up a good hike.
ES: What’s coming up for Mipso that you guys are excited about?
JT: We have a big show coming up at the end of August at the North Carolina Museum of Art. It’ll feel like a grand homecoming and celebration. And I’m really excited to do our first full European tour; we did Sweden and Norway last November and December, where it was dark 22 hours a day; we were like a musical fireplace, warming them. I’m excited to see the rest of Europe.
ES: Does playing in the mountains feel different than playing other areas?
JT: We’ve been coming to Colorado for a long time. Just like in North Carolina, they love great music (in Colorado). It is funny how mountain towns have a love for acoustic music. There’s something about the mountains goes well with the mandolin and the fiddle, I guess. Also, here’s a fun fact: We were the first North Carolina string band to perform in a grow house in Colorado after legalization.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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