If we could communicate with nature, what a world that would be. From Whispering to the trees to singing with the bees, a new experience would be born. And in the center of it all, would be indie-folk singer Margo Ross.
Ross, an Iowa native turned New Yorker sat down with Beyond The Stage (BTS) to discuss everything from the release of her single “God I Wish We Could Still Be Friends”, her forthcoming album Prairie Life, to the inspiration of nature.
Beyond The Stage: How did you get your start in music?
Margo Ross: From the time I was seven or eight, I was writing lyrics and melodies, but I was completely tone-deaf, and could not sing for the life of me until I was eighteen or nineteen! I went to a small school in Iowa, and did a bunch of musicals and took instrument lessons here and there, but nothing stuck. However, when I turned nineteen and was FINALLY able to sing in tune, my sister gifted me a beautiful Goodtime banjo. I was at college on the East Coast, and I hadn’t made any friends yet, so I would eat up my time by watching banjo tutorials. Learning allowed me to find a way to back up the lyrics and melodies that were always in my head. Thus, marking my true musical beginning.
BTS: Growing up in Iowa, how did nature influence your music?
MR: The song and album title ‘Prairie Life’ is based on my relationship with my sister and how she knew so much about Iowa’s land and plant life. I was a very ‘indoors’ child, with my head always in the clouds, and my sister would always try to get me outside to connect with nature. When I looked back on it, this something I was always so grateful for, and helped to inspire the song.
A lot of the songs on the album are also sonically inspired by the Iowan landscape – chirping crickets, sounds that sound like pools or ponds, vocal filters that sound windy and wistful.
BTS: How has it been to move from Iowa to New York?
MR: Before Iowa, my parents were longtime New Yorkers. Whenever we would visit New York City, I would get a feeling that I too would move here. The switch from a small quiet town to a huge crazy city was thrilling! I never expected how much of a healing experience my time in the city has been. But from these past seven years, my New York experience is something that I could write a novel on.
BTS: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard your music?
MR: Moody fem-folk. Every song contains a plethora of pop influence, with a little dash of cathartic release, that’s all swirled together to make you feel happy and hopeful!
BTS: Your lyrics for “God I Wish That We Could Still Be Friends” feel very deliberate, packed with vulnerability and specific imagery. What is your relationship with writing like?
MR: Songwriting has always been a form of therapy for me. I’m always trying to get to the truth. If I can boil a memory down to its essence, and form a better grasp then I can move on from it. I think that’s why most of my lyrics have deliberate or vulnerable energy.
BTS: I understand that you have a forthcoming album, Prairie Life set to release on May 29th. Could you discuss some of the main inspirations behind the album?
MR: This album is a collection of songs I’ve written over a period of ten years. A lot of the inspiration comes from the concept of nostalgia and the notion of home. The songs are about my most important moments, relationships, fears, and realizations throughout time.
BTS: What does home mean to you?
MR: Home is a feeling of absolute connectedness and belonging. It’s a familiarity so deep and vast that every discomfort melts away, allowing every cell of your body to just relax.
BTS: You also have another song “Up all night” that was released this year. What were some of the song’s inspirations?
MR: This song has a major story. It was actually from a completely different project I did in grad school – but it turned out to be something that I cherish deeply. When I was studying Composing for Theatre at NYU in 2016, I had a collaborative class with the choreographers from the Masters in Dance. I became very close with Eiren Shuman, and after the class, he approached me about writing a song for one of his choreographed pieces. He wanted me to listen to an interview he had done with his mother shortly before she died of cancer.
I was honored and incredibly intimidated – I’ve never written a song in that way, and I wanted to do justice to something so personal, and heartfelt. I listened to the interview carefully, noting things that inspired imagery for me, but I still didn’t know what to base the song around. Near the end of the interview, she told a story about the first time she had cancer, and how her two sons would be afraid to go to bed at night because they thought she might die in her sleep. ‘Don’t worry,’ she said ‘If that’s what you’re scared of, then I’ll stay up all night with you.’
When I heard that, I knew what the song would be. Eiren and I ended up making and releasing a music video of the stunning dance he created for the song, and I’m really proud of it.
BTS: What are your plans for your career?
MR: My only plan is to connect with others by playing music as much as possible. That’s what sustains and fulfills me, and I know what will be there when everything else falls away. I’ll be planning a tour, releasing another EP, and playing live a lot in the next few months!
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