The Musician: Emily Frantz

The Musician: Emily Frantz

The 27-year-old is one-half of the folk-bluegrass duo, Mandolin Orange.

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Photo by Briana Brough

Emily was born and raised in Chapel Hill and began playing violin in elementary school. By the time she was a student at Chapel Hill High, she’d shifted her methodology to fiddling and played in a bluegrass band called Bluemont Road. A few years later, she met singer/songwriter Andrew Marlin through the local music scene, and they began playing together. They created Mandolin Orange in 2009 and released their first album, Quiet Little Room, one year later. Their first two albums were both recorded in Chapel Hill studios and their latest, This Side of Jordan, was recorded a couple hours down the road in Kernersville. Although Mandolin Orange has spent much of the past year touring, Emily still lives in Chapel Hill and considers this her home.

The song that makes me think back to my violin-playing days …
“Humoresque.” It’s in one of the Suzuki books, and everyone seems to really be drawn to it when learning. The melody has never left my head, and I even included a melody line from the song in a recording of one of our songs – “The Runaround.”

The song that makes me think back to Chapel Hill High …
I got into fiddling more during high school, and I taught myself the fiddle lead from “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas” by Alabama. I’ve always loved teaching myself songs by ear from other folks’ recordings. I guess it was a bit of a guilty pleasure – guiltier now than then!

The first song I played on the fiddle …
“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” was the first song I learned on the instrument in my Suzuki days. When I switched over to bluegrass fiddling in middle school, I learned [old-time tune] “Bile Them Cabbages Down” first.

The most recent song I played on the fiddle was …
I recently learned an old traditional called “Forked Deer,” pronounced fork-ed, and that’s been frequently played in my house lately.

The first song I played on the guitar was …
Probably something by the Dixie Chicks, though I couldn’t say which song – that was also during the Alabama phase [in high school].

My favorite guilty pleasure album …
I really love The Cranberries’ record No Need To Argue!

If I had to save one album in the world and throw away the rest …
Yikes! Probably something Neil Young. I say Harvest a lot, so maybe Live at Massey Hall or After the Goldrush.

The song/album I listen to that reminds me of home when I’m on the road …
Andrew [Marlin] produced a record of all- original bluegrass tunes by our friends
Big Fat Gap a year or two ago. It hasn’t been released yet, but it’s a super awesome record, and we listen to it all the time.

A local artist we should be listening to …
One of our all-time Triangle favorites is Chatham County Line. Their songs are super catchy. We’re also getting excited to do a Europe tour with them this month, so they’ve been on my mind lately!

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Jessie is a former Chapel Hill Magazine editor-turned freelance culture writer based in Chapel Hill. She tends to structure her days around a morning cup of coffee and evening glass of wine.