Vincent Bouleau

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Q&A with Nora Kirkpatrick

The accordionist talks about the band's performance this weekend and what fans can expect to see in the upcoming year.


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Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have covered a lot of ground in the last three years.

After two albums, international touring and, of recent note, a documentary following the band on a train tour, the huge ensemble appears to be on fire, seeing a meteoric rise to fame and transforming from zeros to heroes.

And this weekend, the members of Edward Sharpe will have Columbia to call “home” as they headline Friday night of the Roots ‘N’ Blues ‘N’ BBQ Festival at 10 p.m. on the Mpix stage.

MOVE caught up with accordionist Nora Kirkpatrick over the phone to talk about the band’s new album (Here), her favorite tunes and highlights of the band’s 2011 Railroad Revival Tour with Mumford & Sons.

[MOVE]: How did you first join Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros?

[Nora Kirkpatrick]: It was kind of a friend-of-a-friend thing. I met Jade (Castrinos) and Alex (Ebert) actually at Burning Man. Prior to the festival, I was good friends with Jade’s cousin. The band was forming and they asked me to join, and then we’ve kind of been touring for about five years now.

[M]: You’ve had a strong presence in television and film in recent years, as well. What’s it been like balancing acting and touring?

[K]: It’s frantic at times, but I have a strong love for both, so I make time for both in my life. I’ll just go back and forth. When I’m not on tour, I’m acting, and when I’m not acting, I’m on tour. I just try to make them both work as seamlessly as possible.

[M]: Earlier this year, your documentary “Big Easy Express,” came out about your tour with Old Crow Medicine Show and Mumford & Sons. What was that like?

[K]: It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It was just great to be with so many musicians all in one train, and there were so many different types of music going on. In each car there would be a different genre being played, and it was just kind of music 24/7.

[M]: Any crazy stories?

[K]:  We did have some people jump on the train at one point, and then we got pulled over by the state police of Texas outside of Marfa. … So we had to stop and wait for the cops to say it was OK because I guess people were trying to jump on the train.

[M]: What’d you take away from that experience?

[K]: We were exposed to different types of music. Like Old Crow is definitely more folk-oriented, and their knowledge of folk songs is so extensive. And then Mumford & Sons are British, and although they have a folk root to them as well, they have different influences, so I think we were all just teaching each other so many songs.

[M]: Your new album, Here, came out earlier this year. How is it different than Up From Below?

[K]: It’s a bit mellower. This is half of 40 songs that we’ve recorded, and so the other half will be coming out early 2013. The other half of the album is a bit more rambunctious and perhaps closer to what Up From Below was. We split them up this way so they’d feel kind of like a family of songs when they came out.

[M]: Had you heard of Roots 'N' Blues before now?

[K]: I’ve heard of it for sure. … I think some of my friend’s bands have played it. It’s always cool to play a new festival in a new place for people that you’ve never met before.

[M]: What can fans expect at the festival?

[K]: There’s a lot of us. So, there’s a lot going on onstage. Seeing the songs played live and the whole experience, more and more people say, is even better than listening to the album. I would say it’s a pretty fun night.

[M]: What are some of your favorite songs to perform live?

[K]: I like some of the songs off of the new album that’s not out yet. There’s one called “High on Love.” There’s one called “The Heart Song” that’s not on any of the albums. They just have fun musical parts to play. It’s interesting to challenge yourself during the show.

[M]: What’s next for the band?

[K]: The next album will come out, and then I think we’ll take a little break and then continue forward. I think we’re focusing on doing more different types of tours, like another train tour, a tent tour, maybe another tour with Mumford & Sons on a boat. We’re gonna try to do more different types of tours as opposed to just the normal tour process to keep it interesting both for us and for the audience and expand the horizons of where you can hear and see music.

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