Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell of Larkin Poe were raised the way good southern girls should be, singing the sweet, gospel harmonies of church hymns with a deep-rooted appreciation of bands like the Allman Brothers. Those early experiences served them well and show up in their music as distant strings tied to the past.
Named for the girls’ three times great grandfather, Larkin Poe are, in fact, distant descendants of the renowned author and poet Edgar Allan Poe. They discovered the connection in 2010 doing some digging into their family genealogy. “We didn’t find out that we were related to him until our late teens while we were researching our family tree,” says slide guitarist Megan Lovell. “That was about the time we were looking for a band name, so we named our band after our great great great grandfather who was a cousin of Edgar Allan Poe.”
Larkin Poe will deliver two soulful performances of southern roots and blues at the 28th annual Springing the Blues Festival held at the SeaWalk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach. The band appears from 6–7pm Friday, April 6th on the festival’s main stage, followed by an intimate set from 9–10pm on the blues lounge stage.
Carrying on the American roots tradition with an innovative blend of blues, Americana and classic rock, Larkin Poe released its new record Peach with a mix of original material and a collection of blues covers including a version of the Son House song “Preachin’ Blues” as a nod to the Lovell sisters’ southern gothic heritage. Peach has now garnered a Blues Music Awards nomination in the Best Emerging Artist Album category.
As accomplished multi-instrumentalists, both girls played classical violin which created a solid foundation for later instruments like the pedal steel, mandolin, and electric guitar. “Our mom put us in classical violin and piano lessons. Rebecca was three and I was four when we began playing. We have an older sister Jessica, and she was the first to start. We saw her playing and we immediately wanted to be just like her. Even though I’m sure it was difficult as a parent hearing three kids play the violin, we definitely wanted to play,” Lovell says. “Our mom was also the one who taught us to sing harmony. She sat all three of us down at the piano and we learned to sing. That’s when we kind of realized that we had something kind of special. Singing together as siblings is amazing.”
When they weren’t gathered around the piano with their mom, the Lovell sisters listened to the southern rock, blues and folk artists their dad played in heavy rotation in the family van. “While our mom had us in classical violin lessons, our dad was spinning all these classic rock records like the Allman Brothers,” said Lovell. “We were so lucky to have music lovers as parents. I don’t think I realized how special that was until later on.”
In their early teens, Lovell said she and her sister were first exposed to the world of bluegrass at MerleFest in North Carolina. The experience inspired all three girls to form the bluesgrass/Americana band the Lovell Sisters in 2005. “We were just blown away by the passion in roots music and the improvisation and how much fun people were having at the festival,” says Lovell. “We were definitely bitten by the bug.”
The band’s first full length record is aptly titled KIN. Larkin Poe also independently released five EPS and was recruited by T Bone Burnett to record harmonies and instrumentation on The New Basement Tapes’ album Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes alongside Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons, Elvis Costello, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Rhiannon Giddens.
Both sisters have also toured as backing musicians for such artists as Elvis Costello, Conor Oberst, and Kristian Bush of Sugarland, and appeared on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion and joined the MusiCares tribute to Tom Petty accompanying Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Elle King, Guy Clark Jr., Jakob Dylan, Randy Newman, and Lucinda Williams. “As a slide player, I really look up to artists like Bonnie Raitt and Derek Trucks,” says Lovell. “There are so many classic rock players we definitely listen to for inspiration.”
The process of learning 40 Tom Petty songs inspired the Lovell sisters to continue to develop their musical prowess by covering classic bands like Black Sabbath and ACDC and traditional blues songs on social media. Within five months, their video posts had been shared 200,000 times and accumulated millions of views.
Springing the Blues is one of the stops for the band on the 2018 festival circuit with dates at Bonnaroo, the Dallas International Guitar Festival, Doheny Blues Festival in Dana point, CA, Mountain jam in Hunter, NY, Canada’s Ottawa Bluesfest and Mariposa Folk Festival, Ride Festival in Telluride, CO, Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, OR, and Lollapalooza. Lovell encourages people to visit the band’s social media page before the show where they post photos, tour updates, and, of course, music. She also hopes to make a meaningful connection with fans at the blues fest, and maybe swing by at Poe’s Tavern to pay homage to the band’s namesake.
“We’re super excited to be playing a bunch of festivals. We’re covering some territory,” she says. “We really love the energy of playing live and we’re ready to connect with people. And being able to see the ocean from the [Springing the Blues] stage—it’s is going to be a beautiful view.”
You can also check out a pre-fest performance of Larkin Poe at 7:30pm on Thursday, April 5th at the Beaches Museum Chapel. For all the latest updates, visit larkinpoe.com.