Catch up with Americana/folk duo Mouths of Babes and listen to their single "The Red Carpet" off their new album, Brighter In The Dark, out now.
What got you interested in starting Mouths of Babes after leaving your last two bands?
Ingrid: Yeah, well, as you said, we met because our two bands were touring together and kind of serendipitously both bands went off the road for different reasons around the same time. It gave us an opportunity to take a little time off the road and, during that time, we both got asked to participate in a songwriting project called 'Real Women Real Songs' and during that we each wrote one song a week for the entire year, back in 2014. It was a really great artistic/creative challenge for both of us, but it also gave us both all these new songs. Totally new material, not related to our old bands at all, and we were living together so we started playing those songs just around the house with each other and thought, "huh, well, that's pretty cool, this sounds kinda good, maybe we'll form a duo". We never really had planned on ever being a duo, but we had all this music and it sounded good so we thought, why not?
Which musicians were you influenced by?
Ty: We have really different influences. My influences come from the folk, singer-songwriter background and Ingrid's are really from more of a Motown, soul, R&B background. I'll just speak for myself [laughs]. My dad actually has been in a lot of bands but, most recently, he's been playing with a group called The Chad Mitchell Trio and they are one of the original folk harmony groups - like the Peter, Paul & Mary era - so that's the kind of music I grew up listening to, a lot of very early folk stuff. When I got a little older, I learned about The Beatles and more classic rock. And then, as an adult, my influences have largely been other singer-songwriters, mostly female singer-songwriters, and a lot of them not very well known, just my peers that have been touring the same circuits that I have for years. Just great songwriters. It's the lyrical content that really grabs me before anything else, so people like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, Lennon, McCartney, Paul Simon, those were my heroes growing up.
Ingrid: For me, like Ty said, I was very influenced by Motown and R&B and soul music and my family history is very instrumental in that. My uncle was the person who wrote the Broadway play Dreamgirls, which is all about Motown in the '60s and it came out the same year I was born, so my whole life has been influenced from day one by that musical and all the songs from it and especially the women, but also the men, who sang in the play. My whole family knows all of that music and so it was just always playing around the house and my parents really love Motown and, same thing with The Beatles, I grew up with a lot of The Beatles playing around the house too. Also, country music was pretty big for me too; I grew up in the Midwest in Ohio, so it's very prevalent in the culture there. Just a funky mix of Broadway and Motown and country and somehow that all finds its way into my songwriting. I'd say, when we came together to do this project, we really wanted to do something that was different than our last bands and really true to this new batch of songs and where that inspiration was coming from and what we found, especially in recording this new album, is a lot of those influences coming through; especially our shared influences, there's a lot of Beatles hat tips here and there and also classic rock/Southern rock like The Allman Brothers. Trying to think of some other ones, but those are the ones that come to my head, 'cause being in the studio we would be like, "oh, that sounds a lot like-
Ty: Simon & Garfunkel.
Ingrid: Yeah, Simon & Garfunkel!
Do you remember the first song you two wrote together?
Ingrid: Funny enough, we actually have never wrote a song together. We've written all of our songs individually, but we do a lot of arranging together. So, Ty will write a song or I'll write a song and then we'll bring it to the table and then anything can happen to the song. Sometimes lyrics will change, but they often stay the same. A lot of musical arrangements are very collaborative. I'd say that's the most collaborating that we do in the creative process, is arranging the songs.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music?
Ingrid: We definitely tend to use the word soulful in whatever we say [laughs]. That can sometimes make a direct reference to soul music, but really it's just very passionate music, it's very much - I hesitate to use the word spiritual because I think it scares people off - deeply meaningful; but also, we hope that the groove is just as deep as the lyrics.
Ty: In terms of genre, I would say lyric-driven, soulful, Americana is something that starts to approach what we're doing. It's not exactly pure singer-songwriter genre and it's not exactly Americana either, but it's something in there.
Ingrid: I think that the reason it's so hard to give a very simple answer to that is because our songwriting styles are very different, so part of the challenge that we faced was marrying those two styles.
Ty: It seems like the umbrella that really can cover it all ends up being Americana, musically speaking, and then, content-wise, singer-songwriter.
What were your inspirations behind your single "The Red Carpet"?
Ty: I wrote that one around a year after my last band split up and so I was at an impasse about whether I was going to continue doing music full time and touring and all of that and that song is really about that. There's kind of like a dual pull, I think, once you hit a certain age [laughs], where you can either settle down or you can just keep going; at least as the kind of independent musicians that we have been. I was feeling those dual pulls and I think that song is really about just going, just continuing to travel, continuing to do what we've done. It ended up being the last song on the album which felt really appropriate, because that album, the making of it and all the touring that's gone with it, has really drawn us more deeply into that decision and wherever it takes us.
Could you tell us more about Brighter In The Dark and what listeners can expect to hear?
Ingrid: Yeah, sure, Ty and I have both, with various projects, released many albums over the last 15+ years and I think, thus far, we can both safely say it's the best thing we've ever done. We're really proud of this album and I think part of that is because it's so eclectic. We really got a chance to stretch our creative muscles in so many new and fun directions and different ways. Part of that is because we self-produced the album; we really got to have full creative control over it and we made the brave decision that is creatively gratifying but not very easy to just slap a label on, as far as what type of music it is - it's a little bit of everything - but that's really what we wanted to do. There's really beautiful slow ballads that have meandering electric guitar and string sections; there's rock and blues tunes; there's acoustic back porch break downs; there's just a little bit of everything on it and that's what we love and that is what our fans tend to love as well, so we're really excited to have it all on one action packed album where, hopefully, no two songs sound the same, at all; that's definitely a plus.
Do you have a song off the album you'd call your favorite?
Ingrid: That's such a hard question. They're all so great, but they're all very different.
Ty: In the process of making the album, I think we fell in love with every song at different times for different reasons. "Brighter In The Dark", for me, is the really central song of the album and I'm really proud of how that came out. The string section on that, every time I hear it I'm still moved by it. I'm glad that that's what we called the album too, because I feel like we're heading into sort of dark times and it's important to be able to find the brightness in the dark.
Ingrid: I think, for me, like Ty said, every song has been really exciting and feeling like it's reaching its full potential is really captivating, probably my current favorite right now is "Spring". That's one that I wrote quite a while ago and I always had this vision for it, but I never really thought that an album that I would make would do it justice. Any artist probably feels that way, like, "oh, this story in my head is not going to come out" or "the movie that I see" or "the painting that I see in my brain and I don't think I can actually do it justice, but I'm going to try," that's how I felt about this song. I didn't really know that it could actually sound exactly like it did in my best mind's eye, but it really came to fruition in exactly that way and I'm so grateful and so proud of it. So, yeah, that one's probably my pick of the day.
How would you sum up Brighter In The Dark in one sentence?
Ty: I think I should take that, because I don't know that you're capable of one sentence.
Ingrid: She is correct about that.
Ty: We're both pretty verbose, but I think Ingrid might take the cake in that department.
Ingrid: True story. One sentence. Go for it.
Ty: Now that I've said that I'm like, I can't do that... I don't know if I can do that...
Ingrid: Alright, I'm going to steal the mic from Ty and just-
Ty: Prove me wrong, as she usually does.
Ingrid: Our band motto is, all the feelings all the time, and that is what I would say for this; musically and lyrically, all the feelings, all the time.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
Ty: It's harder and harder to access really genuinely good music, it's sort of this cycle of 'what's the next single?' and then the single is out and then, two days later, it's 'what's the next thing?' or making a video that's going to go viral and there's just a lot of trying to compete for space within the onslaught of the top ten that's out there. And this album was a long process, it took us about a year to make it, the songs were written with a lot of care and reach because we recorded this over a long time, the instruments are layered, and we just put a lot into it in a way that I don't know that it's done that much anymore. My hope is that, when people hear it, all of that work pays off and all of the care that we put into it allows people to have an experience that's nuanced and gratifying on a deeper level. That's how we insist on making music, even though it's probably not very cool to do it that way [laughs]. We're probably not reaching as many people because we don't have the latest, cool content, social media delivery system [laughs], but that's definitely my hope, is that there will be some type of deeper benefit that people get from hearing the music that's really been poured over.
Ingrid: I would also add to that, it's quality over quantity in where we're putting our energy into this album. Just to piggyback on what Ty was saying, I really hope that everyone who buys this album will invest in some really good headphones or stereo system [laughs] because, in this day and age of the standard issue earbuds that come with your smartphone, those only give you a sliver of what is actually in the sound - for anyone's music - but definitely ours, as well. I hope everybody out there maybe will consider investing in some really good earbuds or headphones, for this album and for all their music, to make their lives a better place.
Ty: And one last thing I'll say about that is that, music is really good medicine and I just hope that people find it healing to listen to this album during this time. I just think it's really important.
Is there anything you want to add?
Ingrid: We are doing quite a few CD release shows this year and we're going to be playing all over the country and we're always adding new dates to our website, so if people want to come see us live and in concert, we're going to be touring around and we're going to have a lot of musical special guests on these shows. So, hopefully we'll get to meet people in person and give hugs and high fives and chat with people, we really love that.