by Lenise Willis

Sending lyrics via postcards

Usually a well-thought-out sentiment doesn’t arrive in a text, email or even a postcard. It’s the tri-folded letter that holds our loved ones’ handwriting and thoughtful words. But Molly McGinn, musician and song writer, gives more credit to the short notes scribbled aback a photograph.

Afterall, “As Alice in Wonderland said, ‘What good is a book without pictures?'” McGinn explained.

McGinn is fusing the arts of visual, verbal and written storytelling with her Postcards from the Swamp series. The project is a new song and story series about The Great Dismal Swamp, a natural treasure of North Carolina, that’s told through photographs, well-chosen words and a mix of gospel, blues and soul.

“Think of it as a lazy summer reading series””set to music,” McGinn said. Each week leading up to her album’s release, she’s releasing new stories spotlighting the context behind the original songs, culminating at the Eastern Music Festival Fringe series concert August 8 at Triad Stage.

“I’m a visual learner and a fanatic about selfpublishing, so I’m always looking for more creative ways to blend the two as a musician and a writer,” McGinn said.

“When I started this project two years ago, I wasn’t thinking I was ever going to put out another record again,” McGinn said. “I was just so put off by the challenges of it that I started asking myself, ‘What kind of record would I make if nobody ever heard it?’ And I realized that what I really love is chasing stories and writing songs.”

The product wasn’t just a new multi-media album with songs and stories, but rather little thoughts that she says she wanted to scribble down on a postcard and send back to herself””back to where she was two years ago when she started this project.

“At that time I was really struggling,” McGinn said. “A beloved family member was facing a medical crisis. I was grieving some old romantic relationships, creative projects and careers. I didn’t think I’d ever make another record again. And over the past two years, I like to think all the pictures I’ve posted with these songs, are literally postcards that I could’ve received in the mail two years ago, saying, “Hey Molly. I know you’re bummed, but look at what you’re about to do.”

And although the swamp is the last place one would expect to receive a postcard, that’s exactly where these notes come from “¦ well not exactly.

Although McGinn didn’t know it at the time, her Postcards from the Swamp series burgeoned while Googling for lakes and waterfalls in search of a free place to swim.

She landed on a link to Lake Drummond, a lake at the center of the Great Dismal Swamp, a national wildlife refuge in southeastern Virginia, northeastern North Carolina. Today it is a remnant of a habitat that once covered one million acres of land.

The story of the swamp pulled McGinn in. She spent hours in the Greensboro Public Library reading about it, bought Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, Dred, A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp and Bland Simpson’s memoir about growing up in the swamp.

“Mostly, I thought if I could just get there, I could kind of turn my luck around by visiting a place where so many people had made a living and a life under extremely hard circumstances,” McGinn said. “Since I couldn’t drive there, I decided I would create my own story about it, using a combination of the myth and the history about the place.”

McGinn says her stories are a mix of journalism and fantastical realism. They’re also beautifully written””as I can attest””and have a way of making you feel as though the summer sun is beaming on your neck, as well, and you’re right there with McGinn, on her journey of impressive creativity.

So what kept McGinn going, even during those difficult years when she thought she’d never create another record? It was long ago when she read an inscription at the Wright Brothers Memorial: “Achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.”

“I made a commitment to myself to try and live that way,” McGinn said. “This record is just how I’m carrying out that promise to myself. Just to keep trying. Fail miserably. Take notes. Try again.”

To read the first five chapters of Postcards from the Swamp and for more information on McGinn’s album, visit http://mollymcginn. com. !


Molly McGinn will perform her song series Postcards from the Swamp when she opens for Phil Cook and The Guitarheels at Triad Stage August 8 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $22.