The renegade traditionalists of Mipso — Jacob Sharp on mandolin, Joseph Terrell on guitar, and Wood Robinson on double bass — are doing their part to take three-part harmony and Appalachian influences into new territory. Formed in Chapel Hill in 2010, the three North Carolina songwriters of Mipso have wandered off the path blazed by Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson to find a new clearing for their southern string band sound.
From Morganton, NC, Jacob got his first mandolin after winning a fishing bet with his dad. Jacob graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013 with a degree in Geography and International Studies.
Wood is from Greensboro, North Carolina. A student of jazz, his favorite album is Bill Evans’ “Sunday At the Village Vanguard”. Wood graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013 with a degree in Geology and Environmental Science.
Joseph is from High Point, North Carolina, where his grandmother taught him his first song on guitar, Doc Watson’s “Tom Dooley”. Joseph graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013 with a degree in Religious Studies and Cultural Studies.
West Coast, meet Mipso. We’re coming to California!!
We’re pumped about the destinations—San Francisco and LA—and about the prospect of escaping the slushy North Carolina winter weather. We’re especially excited to be sharing the bill with our great friends and hometown heroes, Mandolin Orange, in San Francisco. We’re also playing a house show hosted by the great folks at The Bluegrass Situation in L.A. Can’t wait to get over there.
Check out the dates below, tell your friends, and come out and see us!
Dec 5 – San Francisco, CA at Amnesia w/ Mandolin Orange
Dec 8 – Kentfield, CA at Farese house
Dec 9 – Mountain View, CA at Google Campus
Dec 11 – Los Angeles, CA at house show hosted by Bluegrass Situation (email for details)
Dec 12 – Los Angeles, CA at private partyx
We couldn’t me more excited to announce that our new album, “Dark Holler Pop,” is finally out. We just heard that it has officially made the top ten of Billboard’s national bluegrass charts!! (Yep, we couldn’t quite believe it either.)
It’s been nineteen months since we released our last CD. 586 days. Since then we’ve pushed our little Subaru all across the Old North State, from Asheville to Wilmington—and dozens of towns in between. We’ve played over 140 concerts in five states. We’ve toured Japan and China (without the Subaru), losing count of the hours and miles on bullet trains between bluegrass festivals and humid sake bars. We’ve bought a gas station discount card, replaced a trailer hitch, and even lost one guitar somewhere in transit between Tokyo and Vancouver. (We found it—eventually.)
When it came time to record our newest songs, we poured our hearts and souls into the recording process. We hope you’ll agree that all the months on the road helped to polish us into a leaner, meaner young band than we’ve ever been before. We’re really proud of the new album.
Working with some of our heroes added a little extra-special spice to the process in the Rubber Room studio in Chapel Hill. Andrew Marlin, of Mandolin Orange, produced and engineered the album. His partner in crime, Emily Frantz, lent us her talents, as well as John Teer and Chandler Holt of Chatham County Line, Bobby Britt (a Chapel Hill native!) of bluegrass hotshots Town Mountain, Chris Roszell of Big Fat Gap, and the always kind and tasteful Phil Cook, of Megafaun. Lessons learned: 1) it’s great making music in the Triangle and 2) we feel like very lucky guys.
Well, don’t you want a copy now? Order one onRobust Records’ websiteand you can also check it out iTunes and Spotify all the usual robotic locations.
Thanks for all of your support over these past three years. We hope to see you very soon.
Joseph, Jacob, and Woodx
If you haven’t heard the word on the street, IBMA was a flawlessly-executed, beautifully celebratory, majorly fun week of awesome, awesome music. Raleigh hosted the world of bluegrass like an old pro, and it seemed like everyone who knew the conference in its Nashville days was blown away. Way to go, Raleigh. Way to go, bluegrass. It’s kind of like Christmas came early and Santa brought us the Grand Ole Opry and a big ass party. Did I mention we were excited?
We had a great time performing on the Hargett Street stage downtown. Thanks to all the folks who came out on a beautiful fall night to see us play. (Photos courtesy Hiroshi Suda, who makes some of the best new dreadnaught guitars out there — .)
Also we got to catch up with our Japanese friends, jam with some of our heroes (thanks Grey Fox!) and see some amazing shows. We can’t wait til next year.x
Let us introduce our time in China with the show poster for our Beijing premier:
“The Mipso Band from Carolina, US. Their first live show in China is surely taking you to the ocean of pop music and leave you an unforgettable night with young Russian sexy ladies hotly rock you up with their professional DJ!”
China. I’ll avoid attempting a thorough description of our time here and just say that in the past five days we’ve been on rooftop wine bars and tiny noodle shops. We’ve ridden bullet trains (900 miles in 5 hours!) and taken pictures with tibetan strangers in Tiananmen square (they’d never seen a man quite like Wood Robinson). Yesterday we hiked the Great Wall. Today we were fitted for custom suits. We’ve seen a whole lot of pictures of Mao, as well as more cranes stacking up new buildings in one week than we’ve witnessed in our lives. America may be the land of freedom, but China is the land of progress. Fast and dirty progress. The Wild West of progress. The Wild East. You get the point. I’ll quit before I sound too much like a Lonely Planet. But anyway, what can be said about our time in China that hasn’t already been said in the poster above? China took us to the ocean of pop music. China hotly rocked us up. It’s been a blast. Here are some pictures to prove we really were there.
Live in Shanghai
Shanghainese like belly shirts. Jacob like Shanghainese.
The Beijing Crew in the Forbidden City
Forbidden fruit taste so good!
It really is a great wall.
Special thanks to our China host, Philip Nifong. He’s made all of this possible and been incredibly generous along the way. We should also thank our new friend Hoby for his fun Shanghainese hospitality as well as Stanley for taking us under his Beijing wing.x
My massage therapist burped and I woke up face-up on a cushy table at 1 am in the French neighborhood of Shanghai. Fists were pounding. We were about halfway done with our 90 minutes. Yes, if you’re wondering, I remembered how I got there.
Jacob was face-up, totally knocked out, mouth agape, getting his scalp rubbed vigorously about two feet to my right. I heard Wood moan “gooood” about two feet to my left. I’m not sure if you call them “massage therapists” here, especially at 1 am in the historic French Concession of Shanghai, but, again, people, this was a legitimate establishment. And they had very strong hands. We were wiped out, floor to ceiling, after two weeks of bullet trains and tatami mats. What we needed was a serious, relaxing pounding.
We left japan after three days with our new good friends (and the best young bluegrass band in Japan), Bluegrass Police. We can definitively say we’ve experienced Japanese night life, which is focused around places called “Izakayas,” which hang a red lantern outside the door and serve all varieties of fatty, fried, and raw Japanese food in the wee hours of the morning. We’ve had more raw baby squids than we can count. And they were delicious.
My shoulders ache as I write this, which is to say we’re finally reflecting on our whirlwind tour of Japan (from the 36th floor apartment balcony of our collective awesome Shanghai guide, and my personal wonderful godfather, Philip). Welcome to Shanghai. Here are some brief Japanese reflections.
Jacob’s Japan Snapshot:
In 2012 I spent two months zipping all over Japan on shinkansen by my lonely little self while conducting some research on the Japanese bluegrass community that (when finished) meant I could finally graduate from UNC – so for me, this summer was a homecoming tour. I love Japan for so many reasons, and my experience in the country has oddly enough been grounded by bluegrass music and predictably been driven by friends who have become quite dear. Japan is diverse and it’s caught between the modern and the traditional and it’s lots of other things that National Geographic will be happy to tell you all about so I don’t feel any need to. What I can tell you is that to define our two weeks in Japan by recounting one hysterical interaction with a stranger, the perfect bite of food, or an unforgettable night with friends would be impossible for me. But sharing my other world with Joseph and Wood created a platform for our friendship and music that we’ll all be able to share with you in one way or another over the next few years – and for that I’m a thankful little baby.
Fans from the Nagoya University Bluegrass Club. They’re our biggest fans…
Wood’s Japan Snapshot:
__Often, bluegrass music is put in a box as being only a high, lonesome tenor singing of lost loves and lost locations. While this is true to a historical perspective, it is not a completely truthful interpretation of where the music has gone since the 1950s.
When we were at Takarazuka Bluegrass festival, I made two very good friends: Adachi, a fiddle player who channeled John Hartford like it was his job, and Hara, one of the best three-finger banjo players in Japan. On our first night of the performance they offered me the opportunity to play a couple tunes with them on stage and I jumped at the opportunity.
For rehearsal, I borrowed our friend Toshio’s bass and walked down the road about a quarter mile to a small thatched roof building. There we changed our shoes for slippers and ducked upstairs into a tatame room furnished only with a kneeling table in the center and an oil lamp. Hara pulled out of his bag a folder overflowing with lyrics and chord sheets – all in Kanji.__
Hanging out with our Bluegrass Police friends in Sendai.
Joseph’s Japan Snapshot:
Our second-to-last show in Japan was in the storied Tokyo live house, Rocky Top, the center of live Japanese bluegrass and music since 1980. As our cameraman, Jon, said when he walked in, “Woah, this looks like West Virginia… in the 1950s.” Rawhide benches, confederate flags, pictures of bluegrass legends playing at Rocky Top decorated the walls with a haphazard log cabin feel. Signatures of Jon Hartford, Del McCoury, David Grisman, and other legends hung on the walls. “Thanks, Rocky Top! It felt like home,” wrote Bill Keith. A layer of dust, thirty years in the making, hung on top it all. It felt like home for us, too.