Singer-songwriter duo Jack Shoudy (guitar, vocals) and Emily MacDonald (vocals) have been a part of the southeastern Pennsylvania folk scene since 2012. The couple first met while Shoudy attended West Chester University, which ultimately inspired their original moniker, Darlington—a historical name within the area.
“It’s a street there,” Shoudy explains. “It’s a historical family name, and that was the name that really clicked with us when we were first starting out as a duo. So we had been ‘Darlington’ for quite some time when we became aware of another act that was also using the name.”
It was a bit serendipitous as the two faced a name change before the end of 2016. They expanded their duo to a full five-piece band with keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Ethan Stauffer, Aaron “Goldie” Goldner on bass and Sean Carione on percussion.
Enter: Darlingtyn. They’re in preparation to release a self-titled EP in June and full-length album in fall 2017.
“Our name change wasn’t the only reason to self-title,” MacDonald tells. “But it definitely pushed us more in that direction, which we were already considering anyway. This EP is our first official declaration of our music to the world, so self-titling felt like the best way to introduce ourselves as Darlingtyn.”
The EP is set to come out on June 11, and Darlingtyn will have advance copies available when they perform at The Juggling Gypsy on Saturday. Their latest work features whimsical melodies and new folk-style storytelling, such as in “Shoo Fly Pie.” It starts out very much like a lullaby: “You’re gonna heal the world with your heart / what would I do without you.”
It’s named after an Amish dessert. Shoo Fly Pie comes with a thick molasses filling and crumbly crust. “It’s super sweet and rich,” according to Shoudy, “and when you set it on the window sill to cool, the flies would be attracted to it, and you’d have to shoo them away.”
encore spoke with MacDonald and Shoudy about their new band, EP and sweet tunes folks will hear when they land in ILM this weekend.
encore (e): Could you tell our readers a little more about “Shoo Fly Pie”?
Emily MacDonald (EM): When we were writing “Shoo Fly Pie,” it was a day that Jack and I decided we wanted to write a new song but I was struggling to come up with lyrics. Jack was playing a really lovely guitar part, and I was sitting there with him on the couch in our little apartment, watching him do his thing. Music was one of the main things that brought the two of us together when we were falling in love, and I can’t help but often be reminded of that when I listen to Jack play the guitar. I decided in that moment to write Jack a little love song. I love dessert, so it just seemed right to equate Jack to a sweet piece of pie.
e: We have a huge Americana, folk, bluegrass, and blended genre scene here in NC. What kinds of differences do you observe (if any) when you head South?
EM: Well, we like to call ourselves “cosmic folk,” which we describe as a base of Americana and folk, with influences of jam, blues and bluegrass. I am heavily influenced by all of these genres and find all of them coming through pretty naturally in the music we write as Darlingtyn. I grew up listening to the folk music my parent’s loved—Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. As a teenager I started listening to jam and bluegrass music and going to see live shows. The culture of live music—specifically, in the jam scene—was one I felt really at home in. I love the live music scene in the South and feel like there is a place for the music we are making. While the folk and Americana scene does exist up north, it does not seem nearly as popular and thriving as it does in the South.
Jack Shoudy (JS): My influences really come from the jam scene. I love the Grateful Dead, I love Phish, and the idea of improvisation and jamming songs in a live setting is really important to me as a musician. That wasn’t as easy when we were a duo, but with the full band I feel like we’ve really embraced the jam element. Starting out, we were influenced by artists in the folk tradition, like Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Young, Kris Kristofferson. That’s stayed with us in our songwriting. As we head south on this shallow south run every year, I always notice a lot more of a country influence in the local scenes. More folk, more bluegrass, even the jam bands have more of a twang to them. That’s why I love heading down this way, I feel like our music has a home down South. Tipping culture is also way more generous down South. People really tip the musicians down here, much more than in the North.
e: Could each of you tell us a little more about one of your favorite songs on the EP?
JS: My favorite is “Old Crow.” It’s probably the best piece of music I’ve ever written, in my opinion. I wrote it really going for that sad, alcoholic, Kris Kristofferson vibe—even though I wrote it one morning when I was in a particularly good place mentally. “Helen & Robert” holds a really emotional place in my heart, too. I wrote it after my grandparents passed away within a few months of each other. This was a few years ago. I wrote it before I was making music with Emily, and when she came and added the female part, it was really difficult to get through without tearing up. It’s a ballad I wrote as a back and forth between the two, a conversation, as they know they’re reaching the end of their lives.
EM: My favorite song to play live is definitely “She” because it is a sassy song. I wrote it from the perspective of a character I created, rather than my usual lyric writing, which entails spilling out my heart about my own life. This character grew up in a strict religious household, being told what to do and how to act her entire life. She is done listening and is taking control of her life. I really enjoy becoming that character on stage and embodying the persona of a strong independent woman who is coming into her own.
e: Since adding additional band members, what have you both learned about your own creative processes and about being musicians?
JS: I’ve been in plenty of bands before, but Darlingtyn started as just a duo and grew into what you see now. Most of these songs were written just by Emily and I, and we’ve brought other people into the group to help express our vision. I’ve never been in such a bandleader-type position, where I’m really at the forefront of the musical direction. It’s really helped me find my own voice as a songwriter.
EM: Adding additional band members has expanded my songwriting beyond gravitating toward slower folky songs, and has really gotten me to start thinking about building a soundscape with many layers of sounds.
We wanted the EP to have a taste of Darlingtyn when we first started off as a duo but also introduce sounds we have been working on with the full five-piece band. The song “Funerals” really represents that duo sound, while the other songs on the EP start to incorporate the full band sounds.
e: Did you play with any new sounds, instruments or techniques?
JS: Honestly, we’ve been doing more with new sounds since we finished recording these songs than during the recording process. Since we started recording back in August 2016, I’ve added a half dozen effect pedals to my rig, and we’ve really taken to extending and jamming our songs as a band. When we were just starting out as a folk duo, we had the songs and basically played them the same way every time. As we’ve grown as a band, we’ll improvise solos over certain sections that are different each show. It makes each show a unique experience.
e: Aside from the obvious addition of instrumentals, how does this EP encompass Darlingtyn’s current sound/personality/etc.?
EM: We wanted the EP to have a taste of Darlingtyn when we first started off as a duo but also start to introduce the sounds that we have been working on with the full five-piece band. The song “Funerals” really represents that duo sound, while the other songs on the EP start to incorporate the full band sounds.
e: Can you tell us a little bit about how you arrived at the decision to change to “Darlingtyn” rather than change your name entirely?
EM: Jack and I talked for a long time about how we were going deal with this name situation. We realized that the name we were using was the name of many other things. There is a band, a town, a street, an art center, all named Darlington. When you would Google our name, our website was not the first Darlington to pop up. These days with the importance of social media, an easy Google search is necessary for bands.
JS: And the Darlint*n name is part of who we are. People all around Southeast PA knew us by that name, by the sound of that name. It would have been like starting over from scratch to call ourselves something completely different. So we were on our way to a radio session in Reading, PA when our bass player, Goldie, had the sudden epiphany that changing the O to a Y was the answer. We had kicked around the ideas of “Darlingtonne,” “Darlingtin,” nothing felt right. But when we wrote out “Darlingtyn” we knew that we had our new name.
e: Are you working on your full-length follow-up at the moment?
JS: We are! We were actually planning on releasing a full-length debut instead of this EP, but we really want to press the full length on vinyl and we recorded too much to do that. You really can’t put more than 22 minutes per side on vinyl and it would have been too expensive to do a double album. By releasing this EP first, we’re able to put the rest of the tracks on vinyl at a price we can afford. The full-length will be all full band tracks, unlike “Funerals” and “Helen & Robert” on this EP. We wanted to put those two tracks on this EP and put only full band tunes on the full-length. So expect an even livelier album coming out spring 2018.
e: Is there anything you’d like to add about your upcoming show in Wilmington, your new EP or work to come?
EM: This will be our first time in Wilmington, so I’m excited to check out the city. I love visiting new cities and getting a glimpse into their music scenes.
JS: I really want to thank our friends Peter and Anna for letting us crash at their house. We’d love to talk to anyone that found out about us from this interview, come out to the show and say hey!