Molly McGinn on Soul Mining and Being in the Moment
Rebecca Harrelson: Where were you born and did you attend school around here?
Molly McGinn: I was born in Dodge City Kansas, but we moved around a lot. The majority of my time has been here in NC. My family is around here, which I do like because I get this great sense of grounding from my family.
I went Elon for college. It was an interesting experience. I kind of wanted college to be like Dead Poets Society, I really did. And it wasn’t. It was highly Greek, it felt cliquey. But I did stumble into the creative writing concentration and I did love that. English major, with a creative writing concentration and an art minor. I was able to study music and get into a band, and that saved me.
RH: So you’ve always had a knack for the arts?
MM: Yeah, oh my gosh yes. I was like an outcast, so that was the only way I could feel a part of something. I was from a really small town in Wisconsin and with moving around a lot I was always the new kid, music was always a refuge, it’s always been a refuge. And the arts.
RH: Where do you pull your inspiration for writing? And tell me about the space that inspired Postcards from the Swamp.
MM: The great dismal swamp, in Eastern North Carolina, at one point covered one million square acers, now it’s about the size of Manhattan. And it’s a national park, it’s said to be one of the last true wild places on the east coast. I love the idea of researching and reading about it. As a writer how could you not fall in love with something called The Great Dismal Swamp? And I just wanted to go swimming. I just needed a baptism, I was going through a really hard time in my life. I believe in the soul of places, you know, I’m Catholic so dip my fingers in holy water and use the rosaries. So I wanted to go to that water.
RH: Did it work?
MM: Actually no it didn’t. I was shocked by the sadness I felt. The night before I read a firsthand narrative about one of the slaves that lived and worked there, Moses Grandy, one of the first recorded word for word accounts of what it was like to be a slave in the American South. He helped dig it. So I was trying to get my head ready for the next day, and I was just devastated by what I read. So when I went in the next morning, I felt more of (sadness), I was expecting to hear all this blues and gospel but it was just very sad. And I was so bummed out, at first I quit. I think what it did was, and I was writing about this this morning, there is a tendency with me to get frustrated, especially with writing, for me to just say fuck it, I’m not this, I’m not that, that’s just a cop out and what it takes is just a lot of work. I just can’t co-sign the bullshit, so when I came back from that, I told myself I’m going to get up two hours earlier every day, and wait for these songs to come out. No matter what it takes, I’m going to sit here and I’m not going anywhere till these songs show up. So that’s what the experience did for me.
RH: So does that kitchen table time work?
MM: Well … Jack White has this really great analogy about how you know an upholsterer doesn’t sit there and wait for the inspiration to upholster a chair, it’s work, you just have to work at it.
(Que us talking about poetry for about 30 minutes …)
RH: Tell me about your music, and those you sing with”¦
MM: It changes a lot with the project. I really like being able to play with a lot of different people. I’ve played with several bands over time. I am always open to finding new people to play with, and I want to reach out to specifically play with more women. Part of it is, I don’t know”¦ I want to see more female musicians, it’s a different kind of collaboration. There are women that I really would like to collaborate with and I think it takes a little more work to find them. Writing is a wonderful thing but it’s also really isolating. I need the solitude and the social exposure.
RH: You have a set gig here in Greensboro right? And what are your thoughts on the music scene here in Greensboro?
MM: Yes at Lucky 32, I play with the guys from Wurlitzer Prize, its Tuesdays. It’s a beautiful space to play, and sometimes other musicians will come in to play on those Tuesdays. It’s a great open door welcoming space. I think the scene here is awesome. This is a great place to develop your art, rent is not expensive here. I know this only from my own path; this is where I have totally grown. I’ve been able to pursue anything I’ve ever wanted to. There are few distractions, affordable cost of living. The soil here is Quaker soil, it is a very politically active place. Just do the work, our history here is great. I don’t think we embrace that history enough. As a single woman living in Greensboro, sometimes I want to shoot myself a little bit, but I think I’ve channeled all that into other things, because there is just more to life, there really is.
And because of the lack of really solid venues, people are forced to get creative. What different restaurants, bars, bottle shops are doing to add that music into the community is great. I think when there are restrictions, people start to get really creative. People need to just get more involved, if there is something you don’t like either leave or just do something about it.
RH: In your writing and work capacity what is it exactly that you do?
MM: I was a journalist, and currently I am a digital editor. So for my day job I work at Pace Communications, they specialize in brand story telling. For example, the Spirit magazines in the back of airplanes, they write those. There has been a shift, media organizations have been struggling to find their place in the online world, trying to figure out how to monetize. More companies and brands picking up the pace, because they have the money and people are interested in stories and so companies are using stories to sell products. So for my day job I write about mobile technology and all the various ways people use mobile technology for Verizon wireless. It’s a really fun job; mobile technology has given people this way to go from idea to public like that *snaps*. And we have all these multimedia tools to tell a story and you can do it yourself, as a self-publisher. People taking videos of social activities, and things happening around Ferguson and Eric Garner and it has just become this huge important tool.
For writing, I journal for myself every morning, it’s soul mining, I just have to figure out what’s going on. For music it’s always changing, always trying to just be open for whatever the next project may be. It’s a really spiritual journey for me, I’ve gone after music in a lot of different ways, banging my fist and demanding that everything work out and then other times working myself to the bone to utter depletion, so I’m trying to not do that and just be really open and make it be a living thing. But at the same time showing up for it, setting the table, and putting yourself there in the moment. !
Molly McGinn performs songs from her 2014 album Postcards from the Swamp at 7pm on Nov. 13 at Doodad Farm, located at 4701 Land Rd., Greensboro, Visit facebook.com/doodadfarm for more info.