Alasdair Fraser

Quick Q and A with Low Lily

The music of Low Lily has most definitely caught the attention of many music fans who enjoy toe-tapping tunes, mountain music, and Celtic-inspired sounds.  Liz Simmons, Flynn Cohen, and Lissa Schneckenburger contribute equal parts talent and equal parts energy to create a marvelous blend of magical music that touches on the old and the new simultaneously.

To learn more about Low Lily, visit their website.

Here’s a glimpse of the trio playing “Hope Lingers On.”

Look for Low Lily at a venue or a festival near you!

Can you tell us a bit about how Low Lily formed and how long you’ve been playing together?

Low Lily formed in 2015, growing out of our former project, Annalivia. When Lissa Schneckenburger (vocals/fiddle) came on board, we started fresh with a new name and new music, and our sound evolved with the addition of Lissa as a third lead vocalist. Lissa is an old friend and collaborator, so things evolved pretty easily and instinctively… Flynn and Lissa used to play in a band called Halali (with Laura Cortese and Hanneke Cassel), so they are used to working with each other. Flynn and I are married and have toured together for years, so we’re also used to working with each other. Lissa and I have similar instincts and work very well together, so it has all felt very natural, and the music itself is so much fun.

Your sound is unique in that it combines a variety of different genres: bluegrass, Celtic, Appalachian, and what you call “New England” sound.  Do you craft your shows to suit different kinds of audiences?  

We have a flow with our set lists that works well in most settings, but we do add in extra fiddle tunes if, say, we’re at a Celtic festival… or we’ll tweak based on the vibe – we use our instincts. Basically, it’s all about energy. When you’re in a sacrosanct house concert, you can trot out your sweet, subtle songs and tell stories, but at a festival you’ve got to keep things rocking.

What do you consider to be “New England” music? 

New England happens to be very conveniently situated, so the roots music that has evolved as “New England style” comes from all directions: Quebec and Cape Breton music flowed down from the north… Appalachian mountain sounds traveled up from the south, Irish and Scottish influences converged in Boston and dispersed… all peppered with homegrown twists that have been evolving since Colonial days. And we’re still creating it. It’s pretty cool!

Do each of you have different musical mentors and heroes?

Absolutely: Alasdair Fraser was a huge mentor and influence for Lissa, as was Maine fiddler Greg Boardman. Flynn has so many but Dan Tyminski and Tony Rice are two of his all-time faves… also he was taught and mentored by John Renbourn of Pentangle in England, and John McGann in Boston. I greatly look up to Joni Mitchell, Sandy Denny, Billie Holliday… it’s hard to narrow it down! I was also super lucky to be mentored by Karan Casey when I first started out… she’s amazing, and really helped shape my career by introducing me to the right people. Having a mentor who believes in you makes a big difference… I don’t think we’d be where we are without them.

I’d love to know about how you went about planning what kinds of songs to put on your latest CD, “10,000 Days Like These.”  What were you after when you entered the studio?

We wanted to craft an album which has breadth and depth… which is a real piece of art… that was the ultimate goal. We wanted to use what we have – three-part harmony, our compositional and arranging skills, Lissa and Flynn’s incredible melody-playing on fiddle, mandolin and guitar – to create a record with changing textures and moods, but one that hangs together well. We also use recording as a chance to challenge ourselves to greater levels of musicianship and performance – there are always great takeaways from the experience that you can then apply to your stage performances.

The title track has an interesting back story, want to share what inspired you to write it and how you incorporated a variety of sounds.

“10,000 Days Like These” was written by myself and my friend Sarah Yanni in the shape note singing style. We were inspired by the timelessness of non-denominational spirituals, and wanted to create our own. We were lucky to have the great Dirk Powell record banjo on this track.

Your harmonies are something very special.  Do your harmonies come naturally or do you work on how to make them just right?

The harmonies themselves tend to come naturally, but we work hard to be well in tune and in sync. We put in the effort, and things evolve and gel over time, and the blend gets better and better.

Of all the songs that you play together, is there one that brings you the most joy?

Lately I think “10,000 Days Like These” is the one I enjoy singing the most. But I also love singing the covers – Gillian Welch’s “Rock of Ages” and Mark Knopfler’s “Brothers in Arms.” I especially love when the audience finds a song really moving… or energizing, or fun… their response always makes it all feel worth it.