'We Grow Songs': Over The Rhine On Making Untamed Music Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist are approaching their 17th wedding anniversary, and they've been making music together even longer. Meet Me at the Edge of the World, their latest album as Over the Rhine, grows from the couple's deep and tangled roots in rural Ohio.
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'We Grow Songs': Over The Rhine On Making Untamed Music

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'We Grow Songs': Over The Rhine On Making Untamed Music

'We Grow Songs': Over The Rhine On Making Untamed Music

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You could say that Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler are homebodies. The long-time folk duo and married couple named their band Over the Rhine, after the historic Cincinnati neighborhood where they used to live. Their new album, "Meet Me at the Edge of the World" is a kind of meditation on the concept of home and homesickness.


OVER THE RHINE: (Singing) Here we stand on cold concrete ground, 'cause someone said they liked the sound. I'm thankful that they're all around, but I'm craving the edge of the world.

GREENE: And Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler join us from Cincinnati. Thank you both for coming on the program.

LINFORD DETWEILER: Thank you, David.

KARIN BERGQUIST: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

DETWEILER: Good to be here.

GREENE: So "Meet me at the Edge of the World." Where exactly are we meeting you?

DETWEILER: That would be our little farm, our little hideaway farm in southern Ohio. And all the songs on this new project kind of loosely revolve around this place that we call home.

BERGQUIST: "Meet Me at the Edge of the World" was a song that I wrote when I was walking the dogs. There's a path around our little property, and there's one tupelo tree on the path and on the property. And up against it stands some beautiful ironweed, a deep plum color.


OVER THE RHINE: (Singing) One lone tupelo stood against the ironweed, the goldenrod that tamed our need for something other than fear and greed. Meet me at the Edge of the World.

BERGQUIST: Whenever I get to this spot, though, where this tupelo tree stands, I get some kind of signal. I can't explain it, but I pay attention because I know something's going to happen. I'm going to get some words or a song or something. And one day, the song just poured out.

GREENE: Uh-huh. Well, I know you both are from Appalachia and that region of the world. Does living on this farm kind of take you both back there?

DETWEILER: Yeah, it feels like we have roots here in Ohio. And I guess we maybe thought that as young aspiring songwriters, we would eventually relocate to Nashville or New York. But we always kind of haunted by the idea of staying here, staying put where we had some roots.

GREENE: And Linford, I love this line that I've read from you: You said you grew up in a place where Elvis was king and Jesus was Lord.


DETWEILER: Yeah, well, both Karin and I grew up around a lot of gospel music, and we're grateful for that.

BERGQUIST: My first two musical influences were "Hee Haw" and gospel music. So that might explain it.

GREENE: There's a combination.


GREENE: You know, it's interesting, because you talk about gospel and "Hee Haw," and your sound really is this crossover, to me, between indie music and Christian music. And I wonder: How do you two find that balance?

DETWEILER: Well, I think it's fair to say that our records have been Christ-haunted. My father was a minister for part of his life, and certainly the big questions show up in our music. Somebody said that there are only three subjects available to the writer: God, love and death. And we try to write about all three.

GREENE: Linford, your parents were Amish. Is that right?

DETWEILER: That's right. How's that for an only-in-America tale? My dad grew up on an Amish farm. He was a bit of a misfit child. I think he had artistic inclinations. And musical instruments were forbidden in the home, but my dad and his brother had a secret guitar that they had buried in the hay mound in the barn.

And one day, one of the other brothers, not knowing it was there, accidentally ran a pitchfork through it, and that was the end of the secret guitar. And same with my mother. She grew up on an Amish farm, and she always wanted a piano, and that was not allowed. One of her schoolteachers helped her cut out a cardboard keyboard and paint the keys.

And she brought that cardboard keyboard home into her bedroom, and would play the music that was only inside of her. And so this idea of music can be dangerous was sort of in the water in my family history. I feel like I stepped into a story - you know, as a songwriter - that was already in progress.

GREENE: Were you born on one of these Amish farms? Or...

DETWEILER: No. When my father turned 21, my grandfather offered him the farm. It would have made him a wealthy man.

BERGQUIST: Two hundred pristine rolling acres.


BERGQUIST: Which I wrote about in the song "Against the Grain."


BERGQUIST: He turned it down.


OVER THE RHINE: (Singing) Blue and black skies made the impression of you. Two hundred rolling acres (unintelligible).

GREENE: Well, I want to talk about the journey that the two of you have been on that brought you to this farm in Ohio that you love so much. And you went through a difficult time in your marriage, which you write about in many of your songs. Karin, I was struck by something you said once. It was: We are fortunate we work together, but that is part of the problem. What does that mean? Because musically, you two work together so well.


BERGQUIST: We do. We do work together well. I think what we had to learn was that our career path and our relationship were like two separate gardens. And we were very good at watering and tending to the career garden, and not so good about taking care of the relationship garden. And we had to learn how to do both.

DETWEILER: Yeah. It's not for the faint of heart, this working together and living and being together.

GREENE: It feels like there's less pain in this album than in your previous albums. Is that fair?

BERGQUIST: That is fair.

DETWEILER: Yeah. I think this is a record about finding a place, finding a home. And I think we're still aware that, you know, loved ones are moving on. There's joy and sorrow on the record, but there is a sense of we're going to be OK.


OVER THE RHINE: (Singing) Help me trace the scars on mountains, the sun that sets in a bloody fountain. Take me home and lay me down.

GREENE: Well, Karin, Linford, this has been such a pleasure. Thanks to you both for joining us.

DETWEILER: Thank you, David.

BERGQUIST: Likewise.

DETWEILER: It's an honor to be here. Thank you.


OVER THE RHINE: (Singing) ...on the sacred ground.

GREENE: Karin Bergquist, Linford Detweiler. Their album "Meet Me at the Edge of the World" is out next week, and you can hear more at nprmusic.org. This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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