Warren County native Andrew Marlin began his musical education at a very early age. “Mom used to tell me that in order to get me to quit kicking when I was in the womb, she would sit down and play the piano; I guess I would just sit back in my little lounge chair in her womb and listen to the music,” he laughs. “I guess that’s when I started.”
Currently a resident of Carrboro, where he leads the popular band Mandolin Orange with his band-mate Emily Frantz, Marlin explains that his mother’s piano playing exerted a strong influence on him throughout his childhood. “My mom played piano her whole life, and her mom—my grandmother—played piano her whole life,” he recalls. “A lot of times when I’d be going to bed, she would be playing, practicing for Sunday. That kind of got me started on old hymns and stuff like that.”
Marlin purchased his first guitar at the age of 14 with the money he earned working at Southern States in Warrenton. “It took me two weeks to pay for a hundred-dollar guitar,” he says. “Once I bought it, I just sat down and started playing with it. My folks kept telling me to take lessons, but I wouldn’t do it. And you know, I haven’t put it down since then.”
Despite Marlin’s affinity for vintage bluegrass, country, and old-time music, he didn’t begin to explore those forms until his late teens. “I was coming back from Henderson with some friends one time,” Marlin remembers, “and we stopped by the Ridgeway Opry House, and that was about the first time I had listened to bluegrass… It was kind of like my Mom playing those old hymns, simple chords, simple melodies, all that good stuff.
Clearly Marlin and Frantz, as Mandolin Orange, have struck upon a musical combination that works. The duo can usually be found packing venues around the Triangle on any given night, singing original songs that are informed by the traditional music Marlin heard growing up in Warren County. Says Marlin, “You can basically do whatever you want. You can create whatever world you want to enter into. It’s a good way to escape.”
Will consider all engagements with Mandolin Orange.