Bluegrass Act Mipso Plays Modern Folk Music At The Saturn

In a clash of space-time, the halls of The Saturn will reverberate with the rustic sounds of Mipso’s bluegrass string music on Thursday night.

Hailing from North Carolina, the progressive folk troupe cites a number of influences, from Doc Watson to Neil Young. 

“We pull heavily from bluegrass old-time and classic Americana…as far as song structure, we’re pulling from the folk part of it,” Jacob Sharp, who plays mandolin for Mipso, said. 

In the midst of a revival of folk and traditional music, it can be hard for folk bands to sound unique. Mipso believes a few things set them apart:

“We bring a pretty good diversity of sound. We’re definitely a string band rooted in old-time country music and bluegrass,” Sharp said, “but all four of us write from pretty different perspectives. We’re mixing similar ingredients to a lot of other bands but in a newer, fresher way.”

The band is also not afraid of spreading out to new genres and styles of music. Brian Teasley of The Saturn said that their music appeals not only to bluegrass fans, but also those who enjoy good contemporary music. 

“I don’t think we see ourselves limited to the traditional aspect. We’re pretty song-driven rather than genre-driven. On this last recording it’s further from bluegrass than our first one was, and I think our next one will continue the trend of broadening our sound palette,” Sharp added. 

Mipso’s newest album, Old Time Reverie, debuted at No. 1 on the bluegrass charts and is emblematic of the band’s growth. 

“We had a lot more confidence as a unit playing together, recording together and writing together,” Sharp said, “it’s definitely not a bluegrass album in our eyes, but it has elements of that. There’s a lot of material covered—classic love songs, strong notions of connecting with home and longing for home, mid-20s songs…questioning and doubt.”

Despite the departure from their roots, they don’t feel pressure to go along with the general trend of the music industry towards more electronics and production. 

"We feel pressure to adapt...with how you distribute and how people find out about your music—there are a lot of people we know who are scared of streaming," Sharp said. "We embrace those things. On the production level, we’re really confident using older technology. On Old Time Reverie we were using vintage microphones and an analog board and I think that added a warmth to the sound that we’re really happy with.” 

Mipso will be on tour for most of the year, which is both a joy and a burden to the band. 

“At times it feels like a necessary evil with the music industry where it is right now. Most of money you make as a musician is made playing shows,” Sharp said, “It’s generally really rewarding but at times it feels creatively stifling.”

Brian Teasley certainly has no issue with their shows, though. 

“Their performance is very organic and high energy, but I love that it’s not so loud and bombastic that it will melt your ears off,” Teasley said.

In their extensive touring, they have also come across some interesting people, one of the reasons Mipso enjoys touring.

“We played a couple shows in China," Sharp said. "This group of really drunk Chinese businessmen rushed the stage and demanded that we turn ourselves into their karaoke backing band…we had to play [John Denver’s "Country Road"] three times in a row.”

For $10 and an hour drive to Birmingham, there might be a cover of Country Road in your future. 

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