There’s no “i” in “mic.” Well, there is, but not for bluegrass trio I’m With Her. It’s the group’s signature to huddle around a single mic, delivering tight, layered harmonies. Though its members come from distinguished solo backgrounds, they deliver a balance and blend as a three-piece ensemble that is truly something else.
The Pulse talked with Aoife (pronounced EE-fa) O’Donovan about the band’s dynamic, its tour and what’s next.
I’m With Her came together in 2014 for an impromptu performance in Colorado and has sung as a unit ever since. Guitarist O’Donovan is best known as the lead singer of bluegrass band Crooked Still. Sara Watkins – playing fiddle, ukulele and guitar – was a founding member of Nickel Creek. Sarah Jarosz – on guitar, mandolin and banjo – has released four solo albums as a singer-songwriter and earned two Grammy awards.
After having so much fun performing together, it seemed natural to continue on a collaborative path to release a debut album, See You Around, in 2018 and a new single, “Call My Name,” this year.
“That’s probably the main thing that drew us together was our love of collaboration and our willingness to set aside our own egos as solo performers,” O’Donovan said. “It’s not about any one of us; it’s about all three of us together.”
At the live show, the members are constantly handing off instruments to one another and shuffling positions between songs. And there’s no hogging the mic: the notion of three individuals acting as one is clear.
It’s a total blast, O’Donovan said. It keeps them on their toes, and it’s very inspiring.
There’s a special dynamic within I’m With Her. Writing with friends creates certain moods and shared perspectives. It’s a constant conversation.
It’s also valuable that they come from different places. Though there’s an understanding among them, it’s also their job to speak up if something isn’t connecting, O’Donovan said. All three may offer suggestions to the others so that the message or tone is conveyed in the best way to the audience.
The last year and a half has been insane, O’Donovan said. Touring in support of See You Around has been I’m With Her’s constant agenda, which has involved traveling back and forth to Europe five or six times, along with a trip to Australia and playing just about everywhere in the United States.
This summer the group is making its last big tour behind the album, O’Donovan said, which includes a stop at the Door Community Auditorium and sharing the concert with Yola, an Americana artist from England.
The tour will end with a trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, for All the Best Fest. Songwriting legend John Prine has put together a four-day festival to which he’s invited musicians and groups including Kacey Musgraves, Nathaniel Rateliff and Shovels & Rope, among others. It also happens to be the week of O’Donovan’s birthday, so she’s especially excited.
After the tour, the group’s members plan to regroup and continue writing for solo projects, I’m With Her and the other projects they’re involved in.
The show tonight will showcase a powerhouse of women: Yola, a Rolling Stone “Artist You Need to Know” who paved her way out of a toxic musical environment; and I’m With Her, a group of women joining together to make music in a male-dominated genre.
You can see and hear Yola and I’m With Her at the Door Community Auditorium on July 12, 8 pm. Visit dcauditorium.org to learn more.