Mipso band members Jacob Sharp and Joseph Terrell talk about the creative process behind their new album, their tour must-haves and the significance of staying true to their musical heritage
As told to Sydney Ross | Photo by Calli Westra
I know there was a brief period of doubt once you guys really started traveling and gaining national recognition. Tell me a little about that feeling and how you overcame it.
Jacob Sharp That’s a great question. I mean, it’s probably important to set the time: [We] met when we were 18-year-old high school seniors; now we’re 33. All of us are really tight friends and [have been] tight collaborators for 13 years. I think [in] any relationship like that, we’re always changing, and we’re not always changing in the same directions at the same speeds. So the challenge of keeping any group together is if you can really see somebody for who they are now, free from who they were, and make space for those changes, and see how those changes still line up with you.
But I think one of the cool things about our band now is not just the new music we’re making but the history that we have with one another. We’re like this family that knows one another so intimately musically and offstage, too. And I think that the songs that we make together – and the shows that we put on – show that, and ideally, do it with open arms that make you feel like you’re in the family for the night, too.
Joseph Terrell We’ve been doing Mipso full time for 10 years this fall. We’ve seen a lot of changes in the music industry. What it means to be a musician is so different than 10 years ago, and we struggle with that a lot. What we think is the most relevant is finding something in yourself that’s really true emotionally and then sharing it with people. Whether it’s to write a song or just to talk and share food, or to play a concert. I think there have been some moments where we’ve looked at the landscape of what it means to be a professional musician, and I don’t think our love for playing music together has changed, but it’s easy not to love what it is that’s asked of you.
Tell me a little about the album “Book of Fools.”
Joseph There are some moments of real intensity and some real energy. It feels a little bit more rock ‘n’ roll than the stuff we’ve done in the past. But also, the process of making it was pretty easygoing and really filled with trust. It’s the kind of record we only could have made now, having been a band together for a long time. Instead of making a record where we plan it all out beforehand and piece together all the parts perfectly, we were like, “Let’s get into a great room with a couple of great friends and turn the mics on and see what happens.”
Jacob It was [a] much longer process. We recorded last year in two different cities and two different studios. But that was after almost a full year of getting together and having writing retreats where we were just sharing ideas. And it wasn’t always music. Sometimes it was just sharing, on a personal level, about where we’re at. Up until the pandemic, we were on the road together three-quarters of the year for eight years straight. Then COVID-19 happened, and some of us are living farther away than we used to. There is almost a process of getting to know one another again, and I think the songs show that. The musicality [and] the energy is turned up. It’s like when people joke about turning the amp up to 1, I feel like we kind of did that on the record.
If you could describe this album in one word, what would it be?
Joseph If it had to be one word, it definitely would be “music.” Because I would hate for anyone to misunderstand what it is, and that’s music. If I can get a whole phrase, I would say, “really good music.”
Jacob I remember that on the last album that came out in October 2020, we talked a lot about how we felt like it was the record that was the most us, like the most Mipso, [and] we finally found ourselves. I feel like this one, we’re still us, but we’re also stepping out a little bit.
What do you hope all people can take away from your music, either the upcoming album or just your overall music in general?
Joseph I feel like we make sense here. We’re from North Carolina, [and] I’m proud to be from North Carolina. I think the music that we make comes from people who have really lived and breathed this place. I hope when people listen to our music, they feel a connection to this beautiful Piedmont place that we love.
Jacob A lot of these songs, regardless of how they’re musically packaged, talk about some of what we’ve been talking about in this conversation. The M world is changing around us, and we’re more connected than ever. But I think it’s also maybe easier than ever to feel alone. I think some of the songs are like a reminder that people are feeling the same things that you might be feeling, even when you feel it in isolation, and there’s strength in that shared experience.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Joseph I really think of it as a whole batch. It’s like a 10-course meal. They all inform one another, and I’m so proud of all of them and how they make sense when they’re sitting next to one another.
Jacob I really listened to the album recently for the first time in a while, and I’m not sure if I’m saying this is my favorite from a writing perspective, but the journey of the song, the opening track, “Starry Eyes/Book of Fools.” We really took a trip on that one, and I’m really excited for people to hear it.
What’s a must-have in your suitcase when you’re out on tour?
Jacob My AeroPress coffee on the go. It’s the same way I make coffee at home. Part of what’s hard about touring is you lose all routine and all sense of home and stability. And I make the same coffee every morning, no matter where I’m at.
Joseph I’ve had the same bag that carries all my toothpaste and toothbrush and soap and stuff since I was 18. I don’t even like it particularly that much, but just the fact that I’ve had it that long really makes me feel situated to have that same piece of leather.
Any spots you’re particularly excited about visiting while on tour?
Jacob My favorite part about touring is I love to eat, and there’s so many places. I book all of our hotels, so pretty soon, I’ll be looking at maps of where we’re staying [and] where we’re driving by. We haven’t played in Montreal in a couple of years, and it’s a place where we’ve had some great shows. It’s just great memories together, [and] it’s such a unique city. It’s like the New Orleans of Canada. There’s no other place in the world like it. And I’m really pumped that we’re playing The Orange Peel in Asheville, since I grew up near Asheville. That’s where I saw a lot of my heroes play, and every time that’s on the calendar, I feel really humbled and grateful. I know a lot of friends will be there, so I’m excited about that one for sure.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Jacob Joe talked about how we’re all from North Carolina; that’s where we grew up. That’s where the band kind of grew up, too. It still is home, and I think the music speaks to that. We’re kicking off the album release tour with four North Carolina shows. We were looking at lots of different options, like playing in a bigger venue or a festival or whatever. But there’s too many places that we couldn’t miss. A number of these are the cities we’ve been to, [ones] we’ve played the most and the longest, and also the venues we have deep connections with [like] the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro. That’s a true OG hometown show for us. Then the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte and The Orange Peel in Asheville are all special spots where we’ve both had some of our more important shows that marked different eras and also where we played with people through the years who have been mentors and friends. So I’m really pumped that we have such a big North Carolina shout-out to get this whole party rolling. It’ll feel like almost a whole year of playing shows that are centered around this new music, and it feels right that it started with four nights in North Carolina in our favorite cities.
Joseph I guess I just like to remind folks one thing I love about our band is that we are people with different ideas, different ways of singing and writing, and Mipso is when we four get together. A lot of bands have one centerpiece, and that’s a cool way to do it, too. But I love that we are a collaborative process through and through.
Listen to the album, purchase the vinyl or get tickets to their tour.