margaret white: the chickfactor interview
above: margaret while touring with belle and sebastian (nice sideburns!)
margaret white is an all-around great gal who happens to be an extremely talented violinist and singer. we met as bandmates on a sparklehorse tour in 2001. it was a zany year, and bonded us forever. since then she’s moved from chapel hill to brooklyn and has become an in-demand multi-instrumentalist, touring the world and recording with some pretty fabulous bands: the comas, cat power, belle and sebastian, portastatic, calexico and many, many others. recently she’s done a record with a band called ghosts I’ve met, singing beautiful boy-girl country duets that are so pretty that her dog likes to sing along. interview: kendall meade
chickfactor: who are you playing with now? all the a-listers, no doubt…
margaret: oh, but of course! I guess the ones that are kind of the constants right now are portastatic, kevin devine, jennifer o’connor, ghosts I’ve met, and of course mascott. and then there are always the random shows I get called in for – a few weeks ago I played with calexico at lincoln center and had a blast – and I’m hoping that there will be many more of those kind of things. they keep me on my toes! makes my life a bit crazy and scheduling can be a bit tricky at times. especially when you factor in the day job as well…but luckily all the people I play with are extremely understanding so if I have to miss shows I don’t get in too much trouble!
what are your favorite cities to play in/visit?
hmm, that’s a tough one because there are so many that have their individual good memories or friends or places, ones that are walking-friendly are definitely a plus since I usually don’t have any other transportation on tour! the ones that immediately jump to mind are portland and seattle (probably mainly because I was there last week). I have friends in both of those so it always makes it fun, and the cities themselves just feel really comfortable and friendly. chapel hill is a given because I lived there for 11 years so I have tons of friends and I still think of it as home since I can walk anyplace and probably know at least half the people there. and athens feels like home since it’s the nice southern college town and I know where to go for the good veggie food options. oh, and london and dublin are filled with friends and there have been some great shows in both, plus I’ve gotten to actually spend more time in those places! I always smile when I think of edinburgh because of that carousel you and scott and I discovered on the sparklehorse tour, best pound spend on that tour!
please tell the world about your singing dog.
he’s the best! he’s so talented. I think I’m going to have to bring him on tour with me and we can sing duets. maybe when ghosts I’ve met goes on tour. samson loves singing to those songs… I got him last january from one of the shelters in new york and he was somewhere around 2 1/2 or 3 years old. the first time I heard him sing I thought I was imagining it because it was just really briefly when I was getting ready for work one day. I think he was feeling shy since we didn’t know each other well so once I noticed he stopped. it was probably another month or so before it happened again. the first song he really got into singing was sloop john b from the beach boys pet sounds (of course) album. now he’ll sing to tons of stuff. not everything – he’s selective – but a lot. countryish songs, or really anything with harmonies. and the other morning he was singing along to opera on npr. it sometimes makes it difficult when I’m trying to learn songs (like for the calexico show the other week) because, though he doesn’t sing all that loud, he blends in well so it’s harder to pick out the parts I need to learn… he’s just amazing because he actually has really good phrasing and sings pretty much in tune! I took a little video on my phone a couple weeks ago and played it to musician friends, in part so they would believe me, and everyone was duly impressed with his talent!
north carolina vs brooklyn?
right now I’d have to say brooklyn. I really love north carolina and am so happy that I have reason to go back pretty regularly since portastatic is based there and pretty much any tours through the south go to the triangle area (raleigh, durham, chapel hill). it’s great to see everyone and I have so many amazing friends down there, and I do still think it feels like home a little more than brooklyn. but I love it up here and really have no desire to move back south, at least right now. plus so many friends are moving here from north carolina and other places that sometimes it feels like chapel hill here, and of course there are way more of the random recording and show opportunities here for me. with touring it never really mattered where I was living since it’s all traveling anyway, but for one-off gigs and whatnot it definitely helps to be in the big city!
margaret and kendall playing a chickfactor gig (mon gala papillons) in london, 2004.
margaret and interviewer kendall out on the town.
photographs: courtesy of margaret white; alistair fitchett