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The Many Lives of Mary Lattimore, The Solo Harpist.

October 28, 2013

MaryLattimoreSmall01Mary Lattimore, whose debut solo album, The Withdrawing Room, released on Desire Path Recordings this past summer, started playing the harp when she was 11-years-old. Now, 21 years later, she corresponds with our Urszula Pruchniewska about her influences, dreams and day jobs, and sheds some light on the actual weight of the large instrument.

The Withdrawing Room is your solo debut. What’s to like and what’s not to like about creating your first solo record?

I love having a solo record out and feel really proud of it. I had a lot of help, though. Jeff Zeigler (of Arc in Round and Uniform Recording) played synth on it, recorded it and mixed it. I liked making it because we just sat down and improvised and it was really from the heart and the soul, not the self-conscious brain. I guess what I disliked the most about making the record was having to find someone to put it out, sending it to people with hope that they’d want to press it and work on it. It’s no fun to put that kind of pressure on people, but I had to kind of try to sell it because it was the first thing. Thankfully James Plotkin (the record’s mastering engineer) linked me up with the Desire Path Recordings and so it worked out great.

You’ve worked with some notable musicians – Jarvis Cocker, Thurston Moore and Kurt Vile, to name a few. Who are you hoping to work with in the future?

In the future I’d love to work with my friend Sarah Neufeld, whose first solo violin record came out this past August. Brian Eno would be my dream. I’d also like to do something with Grouper, but I don’t know her. Another dream is to improvise with Adam Granduciel (War on Drugs’ frontman). I have lots of dreams. Michael Rother (krautrock composer) is another.

Who are some of your greatest influences?

My mom’s a harpist and a big influence on me. I was lucky enough to get to play and record with Fursaxa (Tara Burke) and Helena Espvall, who plays cello, and they taught me a lot, especially about the Line 6 pedal I have been using.  I lived with Daniel Bachman (solo artist/guitarist) for a bit and he really inspired me because he practiced all the time and I could see the results of his total dedication. Playing with Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and his band helped with my confidence, improvisational-wise.

MaryLattimoreSmall02Do you work primarily as a musician or are you also a teacher?

I have a bunch of jobs. I am a babysitter, real estate assistant and I work at a record store called a.k.a. music. I also sell pretzels at Union Transfer and put things into spreadsheets for people. I do get to play a lot though, and have several piano and harp students. I’d love to just be a harpist for a living. Maybe in the future!

Tell me a funny story about ‘Mary Lattimore – the Harpist.’

I once played my pieces in an Arby’s parking lot because the family car got a flat tire. I was going to miss the recital I’d worked so hard to play in. It was my mom’s idea, as we had to take the harp out of the car to change the tire anyway. She told me to just play the songs, so I did and everybody came out of Arby’s to listen, including the people working there. The guy who changed the tire’s name was Angel. I guess I was in eighth grade.

List three words to describe yourself.

Weird, weird and busy.

Can you lift a harp by yourself?

It’s not that heavy because it’s hollow. I can lift it. It’s about 85 pounds. I have a dolly to cart it around on and I have a whole system of getting it into the car. The only thing I need help with is navigating a flight of stairs, but other than that, I’m pretty independent.

The harp seems to be played primarily by females. Is this true or not true in your experience?

Yeah, I don’t think it’s true. In other countries, there are lots of guys playing harps of all sizes in a bunch of different musical styles. Men founded the two schools of harp technique that are taught in conservatories past and present. There’s a great harpist named Jesse Sparhawk who’s making gorgeous sounds with his harp here in Philly.

If you weren’t a harpist, what would you be?

Maybe an art teacher somewhere, if I didn’t have to wake up too early.

One Comment
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