In a male dominated industry, Larkin Poe are busting down the walls.
The Grammy-nominated duo, made up of sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, serve as producers on their latest release Self Made Man out now via their own Tricki-Woo Records. At a time when only 2 percent of music producers are women according to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study, Larkin Poe are bucking the trend and showing the music industry’s boys club that it’s time for change.
The women played nearly every instrument on their fifth studio album, the follow up to 2018’s Grammy-nominated Venom & Faith. The instruments they didn’t play themselves on the project, they programmed.
“I think that is oftentimes an overlooked angle in music production, specifically as it relates to females in the field,” Rebecca tells Mundane of the lack of female music producers. “When you look at the statistics — 2 percent of women in the music industry are actually engineers and producers — that to me is a really shocking statistic. When you actually look at it and think about what it means, it has pretty big ramifications for the music industry as a whole.”
Title track “She’s a Self Made Man” exemplifies this gender imbalance with tongue-in-cheek lyrics and some killer guitar shredding. “Like it or not I don’t give a damn/ Lord have mercy I’m a self made man,” Larkin Poe sing on the track.
“We’re women in a predominantly male field. Even deeper, when you zoom into rock and roll and blues rock and roll, we are so outnumbered,” Rebecca notes. “Writing a song that specifically pointed to this twisted concept that success and ability come down to being a man … that felt so ridiculous for ourselves because we absolutely feel like self-made men. We started our own record label in 2017. We started producing our own records.
“With every passing year that we continue to build on this foundation of Larkin Poe, if anything, it’s made us stronger. It’s made us more unique,” she continues. “It’s given us this pure distillation of who we are as people. We felt so good about that feeling and that sense of empowerment that has arisen from taking control of one’s own situation.”
“I was down and out now I’m up again,” Larkin Poe boldly sing on the opening verse of “She’s a Self Made Man.” Rebecca says it’s this line that epitomizes what it means to be alive and one’s ever changing expectations. And, with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the song has transformed in meaning for the women.
“We always have a sense for how things should go. We write our own stories and we have a calendar. We’re looking forward always and I think, especially with Corona, the sense that we’re not entirely in control and that there are days where you’re up and there are days where you’re down,” Rebecca says. “The message of that song is that you can exert control and influence your future to some degree, but by the same token you are also bound by the currents of the world and the universe that we have very little control over. What’s important is your response to the situations and your perseverance through hard times and that makes a self-made man.”
On Self Made Man, Larkin Poe have found their voice as artists. Their fierce independence and entrepreneurial spirit shines on “She’s a Self Made Man” while country blues barn burner “Back Down South” showcases the duo’s roots as musicians and as women. Larkin Poe also pay tribute to musical history with the anthemic “Holy Ghost Fire” that blends blues and rock and roll with hints of soul for an ear-grabbing experience.
“I think it’s our most uplifting album because of all of the amazing touring we did leading up to making Self Made Man,” Megan says of Larkin Poe, who have shared the stage with Keith Urban, Bob Seger and Elvis Costello. “In the last two years we felt such a groundswell around us with the music that we’re making. We feel like we finally found our voice and can be really authentic with people, and people have responded.”
Megan says the charging “Back Down South” best describes Larkin Poe as a band. The song’s vivid imagery coupled with mesmerizing slide guitar and a stomping beat helps pay tribute to music of the South. “We feel so lucky to have grown up in an area where we’re surrounded by great music,” she adds. “We were born in the land of Dolly Parton, grew up in northern Georgia not far from where the Allman Brothers grew up. From the Mississippi Delta to Nashville, Tennessee, [we’re] surrounded by great music.”
All these influences can be heard within Self Made Man’s bold 11 tracks. The Nashville transplants also share their reinterpretation of Blind Willie Johnson’s classic 1920s-era “God Moves On the Water.” Putting their own spin on the traditional folk blues number, the women widened the song’s perspective for today.
Instead of including the original lyrics that detailed the sinking of the Titanic, the sisters focused on the many ways humans have gone through hardship and natural disaster. “The ultimate takeaway message being that when we come together, we are stronger. When we move through tragedy as one, we’re able to come out the other side stronger, which seemed super appropriate considering what has since happened,” Rebecca says, referring to the current pandemic. “At that point in time we had no idea how appropriate that song would be.”
While Larkin Poe initially pushed back their album release by a month because of the coronavirus pandemic, they’re more confident than ever to release new music now.
“Music is meant to entertain and to uplift and to hopefully inject a little dose of positivity into someone’s life,” Rebecca says. “At a certain point, we felt that it would be a disservice to our fans to hold out much longer, just because it wasn’t ideal circumstances for a release. We hope these songs help the time pass a little bit quicker and bring everybody together.”
Being the main producers, musicians and songwriters on Self Made Man, Larkin Poe also hope to inspire more females and young aspiring creatives to consider stepping into the producer chair as well. “Regardless of your chromosomes, if put your mind to it, you can really achieve wonders. Try it. Download garage band and get in there,” Rebecca urges. “We need more women in the ranks in order to balance out the creative perspective.”