Artist Interview: Palmyra

Posted: by The Editor

Palmyra is a folk trio from the Shenandoah Valley. Teddy, Manoa, and Sasha have personalities that spill out all over the stage and feel like friendly strangers you strike up a conversation with outside a gas station, waiting for the car to fill. Their lyrics ponder an intimate, contemplative side of things. Sasha sings lead vocals and their voice drips with a beautiful desperation, every single word holding an earnestness you don’t find just anywhere anymore. Teddy and Manoa’s harmonies are screw-tight and the collective sound compliments the guitar, mandolin, and upright bass like whipped cream compliments peach cobbler. I first saw Palmyra in Wilmington, North Carolina, at a house show series called Porchella, where bands play on multiple porches throughout the day. I ended the night a few beers deep during their third set in a backyard swarmed with bamboo and kudzu. Crickets frothed in the distance while the trio played around a campfire with the same stamina they had started with a couple of hours prior, on the first porch during a storm. I caught up with them about their new EP, exploration of sound, and their latest track, “Speak My Mind.”

How long have y’all been playing together? 

We’ve been playing together in Palmyra together for about three years now. And before that, we were playing in each other’s bands, but over the last couple of years, we’ve been full-on Palmyra, on the road spending all our time together.

I love this new song, “Speak My Mind.” It’s a little spooky, almost ballad-like. It feels different than the most recent album, Shenandoah. It still has y’all’s staple sound of the memorable melody and harmonies, but this single feels like an internal reckoning, especially compared to “Happy Pills” and “Microwave Dinner.” Kinda like you left the mountains and went into the city. I’m curious, is that something y’all are moving towards in terms of like, a louder, fuller noise with the percussion and electric guitar present in this song?

Yeah, it is super different from our first record, Shenandoah, which we recorded when we were living in Floyd, Virginia, in a little house in the middle of nowhere. We had some time off and just recorded it in our living room in Floyd and kind of just kept it really bare bones and wanted it to represent our sound at that time, basically stripped down. But then as we played a lot more shows, we really enjoyed playing more high-energy songs for crowds and it was just a lot of fun for us—not to say that the softer stuff isn’t, we love that stuff too. But this record, we kind of wanted to lean more into that edgy, electric guitar sound. So almost all of the tunes that are gonna be released on this six-song EP are kind of leading into that. 

That’s pretty sick. Seeing y’all play a house show in Wilmington as a trio, it was still a bit rowdy so I’m stoked to see more of a high-energy show.

Definitely. I think a big part of that full sound with this record is that we had our buddy Jake Cochran, who is the drummer in Illiterate Light, play drums on this record, and our friend Danny Gibney, who plays in a band called Dogwood Tails, produced it. I think they both really helped us create a fuller sound and go in a direction that I don’t know if we would’ve been able to go on without them. 

“Speak My Mind” kind of feels like a ballad to me. What was the inspiration for this song? 

I never thought of it that way, but yeah, I guess so. There is another song called “Bella Donna” that’s definitely a ballad, but “Speak My Mind” is kind of like a new sound for Palmyra. “Happy Pills,” the first song, has a lot of that early influence to where the band started with that acoustic sound, but it’s going in more of a high-energy direction, and then coming in with “Speak My Mind” secondhand, especially with the drum intro is kinda like—hey, look, we have more range as a band than just this, but at the same time, it’s still upright bass, it’s still mandolin. We still find our identity as an acoustic trio, despite having an electric guitar and drums.

When I listen to music, I’m always drawn to the language first, and you have some compelling lyrics in your song. What’s the writing process for y’all? 

It’s different every time but leans more towards one of us bringing a pretty fleshed-out idea to the group, and then that’s where it kind of really becomes a Palmyra song, when we all touch it and bring our different ideas to it. And that’s not always lyrics, it’s mostly one person writing the lyrics and then the music is kind of all of us bringing our musical experience to this scene.

Right on. It’s clear you’re all pretty tight and it’s palpable on stage. How’s your offstage friendship influenced your playing together live? 

We’re buddies. We all love each other a lot, so I think that’s what’s coming across on stage. We got a lot of jokes in the van and we just have a good time. We’re all pretty committed to Palmyra being this thing that we do and it’s our shared vision and project and everyone has an equal stake in it, which feels pretty rare, and we try to recognize it as much as we can. 

So y’all are in a van right now and you’ve been playing a lot of festivals and gigs and have a lot lined up this summer. How do you find time for yourself? 

Yeah, the road is tough. We really changed our touring strategy this year. Last year, we were trying to do 21 shows a month, so very little time off. And it definitely aided all of us. We’re so thankful for that time. But yeah, like you said, it’s really hard to find time for yourself. Luckily we like each other, but everyone needs space of course. So this year we are trying to do more weekends, and the longest amount of time we’ll be out without sleeping in our beds is like 10 days. Today is day 10 and we’ll be in our beds tonight, so that’s our current strategy of how to be really strategic with what shows make sense compared to, you know, the personal sacrifice that it takes to be out traveling.

Who are you bumpin’ in the van? What’re you listening to lately? 

Jobi Riccio from Nashville just put out a song called “Green Flash” that we’ve been listening to. We just saw an artist called Vandiver from Asheville play at this thing called Open Folk, and “Miracle” is a great song. We were just on the road with a friend Liv Greene from Nashville, and I mean, she’s all of our favorite musicians. We’re loving just listening to our friends and being inspired by all the great stuff they make.  

Pre-save “Speak My Mind” here and see their tour dates here.


Ryleigh Wann / @wannderfulll

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